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Online Learning

Course Number: STP 617
Course Title: Theology & Science
Term: Fall 2014


Dr. Tom Sheahen and Sr. Carla Mae Streeter, OP and


This online course examines the relation between the disciplines and worldviews of modern science and Christian theology with the aim of providing a scientifically informed, theological understanding and appreciation of nature as God’s work of creation.


The course has two overarching goals that are meant to be achieved simultaneously, one intellectual and academic, the other aesthetic and religious.

  • The intellectual goal is to develop a sophisticated way of relating the worldview of modern science with the Christian theological view of creation. This is a matter of understanding science and theology as distinct disciplines that engage the same world of nature in different manners, and then finding the way these two disciplines can be positively related to one another in an integrated and mutually respectful way, with the assistance of philosophy to settle the fundamental questions that underlie both science and theology.
  • The religious goal is to develop and deepen one’s aesthetic awareness and admiration for the order and beauty of creation. Although too often the advance of science has been used to dismiss religious faith in God, in reality, once one can see that supposedly “scientific” objections to God rest upon untenable philosophical foundations, the scientific understanding of the complex and intricate details of nature can foster a deeper appreciation of the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.


  1. In order to achieve both a positive way of relating science and theology and a deeper aesthetic appreciation of creation’s order, beauty and goodness, the course will proceed in three phases or modes, each consisting of four week sessions.
  • The first mode investigates the foundations, methodologies, and ways of relating these two disciplines, including the crucial role philosophy (natural, epistemological and metaphysical) has in mediating their relation. It also includes beginning the process of deepening one’s appreciation of the beauty and order of the workings of nature as the glorious work of the Creator.
  • The second mode is historical, tracing the development of modern science out of the Christian synthesis of reason and faith (Athens & Jerusalem) in order to dispel common myths about their supposed conflict and opposition, as well as to work through the gradual shifts in cosmology from one framed in terms of a literal reading of the Bible to one built upon the discoveries of science.
  • Working through this development toward today’s secular worldview prepares for the third and final mode of the course, the treatment of how the findings of modern science can lend support for Christian theology, such as how evolution and the Christian doctrine of creation can be reconciled or how God can be conceived as working through nature. By discussing these contemporary issues upon the principles and historical understanding learned in course, the student should be well prepared for the pastoral work of showing how a robust and properly theological vision of creation can incorporate the greater understanding of nature’s ways and wonders achieved by contemporary science.
  1. Discussion methodology

All students read all required readings. Each week, each student will be assigned one of the readings for analysis and asked to post by Thursday in the following format. One sentence only is necessary for each category below:

      PURPOSE: What in your view is the author’s burning question in this chapter or article?

      POINT: How does the author attempt to answer the question?

      PRESUPPOSITIONS: What does the author presuppose about you, the reader?

      PRAXIS VALUE: What difference might the author’s point make in our individual or communal lives?

After the student writes these four sentences, he or she may expand on his or her responses in the discussion with the group. Auditors are welcome to enter the discussion. Professors will enter the discussion as they are able between Thursday and the following Monday. (See the end of the syllabus for evaluation of online discussion.)


A. Students will demonstrate the following from philosophy:

  1. an understanding of the legitimate autonomy, method and limitations of the scientific understanding of nature;
  2. an understanding of the role philosophy (philosophy of nature, epistemology, and metaphysics) has in mediating the relation between theology and science;
  3. critical thinking skills to evaluate religious and scientific worldviews and the misuses of religious beliefs and scientific understandings (e.g., fundamentalism and reductionism);

B. Students will demonstrate the following from theology:

  1. an awareness of the historical developments in the relation between science and religion, including the role the Christian worldview and the Church (officially and by its members) had in the emergence and development of science; and
  2. an understanding of the proper and false ways of correlating science and theology;
  3. an understanding of a theological cosmology (theology of nature) that agrees with but is not reducible to the scientific understanding of nature as evolving in its physical structure and life forms;
  4. an understanding of the importance and meaning of the Christian doctrine of creation along with a deeper aesthetic appreciation of nature as a manifestation of God’s glory;
  5. an understanding of God’s active relation with the world that is properly theological (based on revelation and tradition) and supportive of natural causality studied by science;
  6. an understanding of the contemporary theology of creation for the purpose of answering objections to the Christian faith based on the misuse of scientific understandings.



Input by Professors: What are the Terms for Comparison: “Religion and Science” or “Theology and Science”?


  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Introduction (Person 1 posts the four sentences)
  • John Paul II, "Address at the Vatican Observatory, June 1, 1988" (Person 2 posts the four sentences)
  • Denis Edwards, How God Acts (Person 3 Forward, and Person 4 Preface, post the four sentences)


  • Familiarize yourself with the way the course looks on the Learning Management System, called Populi.
  • Post a Picture and Personal Description in your Personal Discussion Forum
  • What are your initial impressions coming into the course about the relationship between theology & science?
  • Begin keeping a journal in the personal forum on the reflections questions below.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Often we wonder, “What is becoming of Christian Life in this secular, postmodern age?” What is your own answer to this and related questions? What do you think is the contemporary relationship between religion and science? What do you think it should be? State your initial impression regarding both areas of conflict and areas of compatibility between theology and science.


Input by Professors: Commonalities and Differences between the Disciplines of Science and Theology; Various Models for Relating Science and Theology


  • Ernst Mayr, "What is Science?" (Person 1)
  • Ernst Mayr, "How Does Science Explain the Natural World?” (Person 2)
  • Avery Dulles, "Science and Theology" (Person 3)
  • Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, Preface and Introduction (Person 4 analyze either one)


  • Find Examples from the Web that Typify the Different Models of the Science-Theology Relation

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Ian Barbour distinguishes 4 ways of characterizing the relationship between science and religion: conflict, independence, dialog, integration. Each of his chapters covers a specific topic from these 4 viewpoints. Do you find this structure to be a useful way of looking at the issues?


Input by Professors: Whether Modern Science Conflicts with Christian Faith


  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, chapter 1. (Person 1)
  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, chapter 2 (Person 2)
  • Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Chapters 1 - 2 (Person 3), Chapter 3 (Person 4)


  • Enter in your personal discussion forum a response to at least one of the questions below.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Scientific Materialism is a philosophy that seems to say that if something isn't covered by science, it doesn't exist; nothing other than matter exists, etc. How is this philosophy different from science? Why is scientific materialism a frequent viewpoint among scientists?   
  • Stephen Barr points out the presence of dogmas in the belief system of scientific materialism. In what ways are such dogmas similar or parallel to the dogmas of religion, and in what ways do they differ?
  • What is the difference between Natural Theology and Theology of Nature?
  • What does contingency mean? As applied to creation? As applied to present-day life?


Input by Professors: The Need for Natural Philosophy, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Greek Philosophy, and Christian Faith


  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 1 (Person 1)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 2 (Person 2)
  • Michael A. Hoonhout, “Thomas Aquinas and the Need for a Contemporary Theological Cosmology” (Person 3 and 4)
  • Recommended: 2002 report of the "International Theological Commission"


  • Enter in your personal discussion forum a response to at least one of the questions below.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • The response of the Church fathers to Greek philosophy in general, and to the acquiring of natural knowledge of nature in particular, varied widely, ranging from quite positive to quite hostile. Explain the range of responses, and give the reasons offered for each kind of response. Is only one of these responses (negative or positive) the proper approach to natural knowledge, or is their biblical support for both views regarding nature (‘the world”) and to philosophical endeavors (the ‘wisdom of the world’). Justify your position with theological evidence.
  • Which position of the patristic fathers do you most identify with, and why? Which do you find least attractive or tenable, and why?
  • Two important developments in the Middle Ages were the reintroduction of Aristotelian philosophy (including his physics and metaphysics), and the condemnation in 1277 by the bishop of Paris of errors drawn from Aristotle’s natural philosophy. How did the introduction of Aristotelian philosophy change the Church’s understanding of nature and the explication of Christian theology? [Another way of asking the same question is: what are the differences between a neo-Platonic philosophy of nature and a theology using neo-Platonic terms and an Aristotelian philosophy of nature and a theology using Aristotelian terms?] Since this appropriation led to a condemnation of 1277 of many false errors concerning creation, was it a mistake to adopt such a philosophical system? Why or why not?
  • The excerpts from Mayr’s book This is Biology gave a contemporary account of how modern science studies and understands the natural world. In his account at times Mayr contrasted modern science with its precursors, natural philosophy and the religious attribution of natural events to the actions of the gods. In light of these two chapters from God and Nature, how would you reassess Mayr’s account? How would you explain the difference between natural philosophy and modern science differently? How does the ‘bigger picture’ of knowing the Christian critical appropriation of natural philosophy help one to better understand the relationship between the Christian religion (teaching and praxis) with modern science (its acquired learning and praxis)?
  • What elements of the patristic and medieval approaches to natural knowledge of creation and to their use of it in supporting and defending Christian teaching and praxis are still viable today? In your engagement with your contemporaries concerning theology and science, what would you appropriate from them, and how would you update or modify what you appropriate? What would you insist needs to be discarded, and why?


Input by Professors: Rational and Religious Appreciation of Natural Order; Beauty;


  • Edwards, Chapter 1, Characteristics of the Universe Revealed by the Sciences (Person 1)
  • Edwards, Chapter 2, Divine Action in the Christ Event (Person 2)
  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, chapter 3 (Person 3)
  • Theodoret of Cyrus, On Divine Providence, Discourses 1-5 (Person 4, choose one discourse)


  • Post a reflection in your personal discussion forum on creation as the beautiful work of God by responding to at least one of the questions below.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Based on the readings from Edwards and Theodoret, what would you say are the natures and features of beauty (the beautiful)? What are the objective criteria for discerning beauty in the natural world from: a) a scientific viewpoint, and b) a theological viewpoint? What, if any, are the differences between them? Are there features or things in creation that only one discipline might find beautiful? [Note that the focus of this question is not upon divine glory, about which science could have nothing to say, but upon the beauty found in nature, which both science and theology have something to say, albeit from different perspectives.]
  • The capacity to wonder is crucial to both the scientific and theological endeavors. Yet ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ Does the investment of time and effort in the scientific or theological disciplines necessarily lead to a lessening in the child-like capacity to wonder, to still marvel at and appreciate the simplest of truths or discoveries? When this happens, how is one’s science or theology effected? How does one counteract this tendency, so that one can acquire the educated mind of the learned and yet retain the wondering eyes of the child?
  • This week’s reading represents quite a shift in approach and perspective compared to the earlier readings regarding the philosophical and historical issues in the science-theology relation. How does this work fit in with what we have read previously? Has it added to your understanding of the science-theology relation in a new way, and if so, how exactly?
  • It is sometimes said that the spirituality of each person gravitates and responds to one of the transcendentals (being, truth, goodness, beauty) more strongly than to the other three; we each see God primarily through the lens of one transcendental in particular. While contemporary authors are right to show the interconnectedness of the transcendentals, which of the four makes the strongest personal impact upon your spiritual life? How important is the transcendental of beauty in your spiritual life—how much does it impact your conception of and relation to the mystery of God? Or, how does greater reflection upon and aesthetic engagement with the transcendental of beauty affect your prayer life? Where does Christ Jesus fit in?


Input by Professors: Ockham, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo; Cosmology Shift #1: From Terracentric to Heliocentric Cosmology


  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 3 (Person 1)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 4 (Person 2)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 8, pp. 212-228 (Person 3)
  • John Paul II, Pope. “Lessons of the Galileo Case.” Origins (Washington, D.C.: National Catholic News Service) vol.22, #22 (11/12/92): 370-75. (Person 4)


  • Begin (through the timeline engine) your group’s “Timeline on the history of the relation and interaction between science and Christian theology.”

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • What advances in science and technology were important factors in the time leading up to the controversy between the Ptolemaic system and the Heliocentric system?
  • The Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent occurred in the 16th century. How did those events alter the playing field during the time of Galileo?
  • What big mistake was made by church authorities? What big mistake was made by Galileo?
  • In what ways did the rise of science threaten the prevailing orthodoxy of Christianity?


Input by Professors: Newton and Laplace; Cosmology Shift #2: From “Heavens and Earth” to “Universe”


  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, chapter 8, pages 228-35 (Person 1 and 4)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapters 9 (Person 2)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapter 10 (Person 3)


  • Enter into your personal discussion forum a response to at least one of the questions below.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Newton is arguably the greatest figure in early modern science, putting a definitive stamp upon the character of modern physics and the scientific worldview that would last until the 20th century. What is the overall view of nature—the basic constitution of matter and energy—that develops from this time, and how does it differ from the Aristotelian and medieval views? How is that difference in part attributable to physics becoming the exemplary science and mathematical measurement becoming a key investigative tool for understanding nature?
  • What divine-like attributes are given to Nature in Newtonian physics? What are the reasons why Nature was understood this way? At the time, this ‘theological’ conception of Nature is readily attributed to God the Creator, yet how does it contain the latent potential to distance nature from God, so that it not only comes to be viewed as entirely secular, but as requiring that God not act in it in order for its integrity to be preserved? Does this scientific understanding of nature begin to change the meaning of the Christian faith, especially the understanding of God as the Creator, or does it rather reflect a change that had already occurred in Christian belief at the time? Is it significant that Newton had departed from orthodox (creedal) Christian faith and was more or less an Arian?
  • Laplace represents an early example of science correcting earlier formulations, in this case how he was able to find natural causal explanations for the discrepancies noted by Newton between actual observations of the planets and the motion predicted by his theory. (Kepler correcting Copernicus on planetary orbits being elliptical and not circular is another example). The net result was that a natural phenomenon first attributed to a supernatural cause (God or the angels) came to be understood as fully explicable by natural causes. How does Laplace’s achievement further characterize the Newtonian view of nature? What assumptions about the nature and power of science emerge from the success of Laplace to find a natural explanation for an earlier conundrum? What lasting impact will it have upon the future relationship between science and theology?
  • Previously, in Pope John Paul II’s Letter to the Vatican Observatory, we read that: “Only a dynamic relationship between theology and science can reveal those limits which support the integrity of either discipline, so that theology does not profess a pseudo-science and science does not become an unconscious theology.” Explain how Laplace’s success, in purging from the science of astronomy any reference to a “God hypothesis”, can be understood as an historical example of this point of JPII. That is, does Laplace’s achievement represent a scientific dismissal of a “pseudo-theology”, or rather, has it led science to an “unconscious theology”? Or are both true? Has this discrediting of the so-called “God-of-the-gaps” theory been, overall, more of a positive development in the relation between science and theology, or a negative one?


Input by Professors: Geology and Darwin; Cosmology Shift #3: From the Biblical Narrative to Secular Time


  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, chapters 12 and 13 (geology) (Person 1)
  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, Chapter 4 (Person 2 and 4)
  • Lindberg & Numbers, God and Nature, Chapters 14-15 (Darwin) (Person 3)
  • Optional lightweight reading: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott. Freely available online at


  • Continue the timeline, and respond to at least one question below. Select the topic of your major project.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • What does the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin do for the science of biology? How does it not just advance the field, but revolutionize it? Upon what scientific advances in understanding our world is the theory dependent—i.e., what has to be learned about nature and the earth before the theory has the framework and support it needs to be conceived and accepted as tenable? How also does it depend upon advances in the practice of science itself—how does the theory’s conception, reception and promulgation indicate how the scientific effort in the 19th century had changed from the 17th and 18th centuries?
  • In the period following the publication of The Origin of Species what are the various interpretations developed regarding the overall meaning and significance of the theory of evolution for the Christian religion? What exactly are the reasons—scientific, philosophical, religious—underlying each of these positions? Are there other motivations or concerns at work in the way the theory is accepted or rejected? In the end, which assessment of the significance of Darwin’s theory for Christianity and culture is in your view most tenable, and why?
  • Does the theory of evolution truly undercut the design argument of William Paley? Why or why not? Does the theory of evolution fundamentally change the Christian understanding of God as the Creator of living things, or does it simply deprive Christian believers of a certain theological conception of the Creator? What exactly can no longer be said about the ways of the Creator after Darwin? Can you think of theological reasons, based upon the character of God revealed in the Scriptures and encountered in grace and Christian community—that would help a person to understand why God would create the diversity of life through the mechanisms of natural selection and adaptation to the environment?


Input by Professors: Einstein and Hubble; Quantum Mechanics and Godel's Theorem; Cosmology Shift #4: From a Static Universe to a Developing One


  • Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Part II (Chs. 4 - 8) Read only
  • Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, Ch. 1 Read only
  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Ch. 20, section 1: The Overthrow of Determinism (Person 1)
  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Ch. 22, section 2: What Godel Showed (Person 2)
  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Appendix C, “Godel's Theorem” (Person 3)
  • R. J. Spitzer,S.J., New Proofs for the Existence of God, ch.1 (located within course site – Person 4)


  • Continue the timeline; outline your project; and respond to at least one question below in your personal discussion forum.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • At the end of the 19th century, certain notions about space, time and matter were generally accepted as true. What were those? How did they give an advantage to scientific materialism?
  • What changed at the beginning of the 20th century that upset the prevailing beliefs about nature? What role did physics have in promoting a new look at philosophical positions that had prevailed since the enlightenment?
  • Why was Einstein derided contemptuously by some prominent scientists? Explain how that led to a very major change in the 20th century world.
  • Why was the philosophy of logical positivism accepted widely? How did the contribution of logician Godel change the perception?


Input by Professors: How to Explain Order in the Universe?; Is there Purpose in the Universe and Does its Presence Point to an Intelligent Creator?


  • Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, Ch. 2 (Person 1)
  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Part III (chapters 9 - 13) (Person 2)
  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, Chapter 5 (Person 3)
  • Ch. 1 of Cardinal SchÖnborn’s book, Chance or Purpose (Person 4)


  • Continue to work in your personal forum on the theology of creation responding to at least one question below; continue with group timeline project.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • There are several different interpretations of the word “design.” Describe some of those, and point out the differences between them.
  • Haught examines design in nature and says “theology . . . must allow that the Bible and other religious teachings cannot add anything to our store of scientific knowledge. However, scientists … must concede that evolutionary theory … cannot provide answers to religious or theological questions....” Explain how this is relevant to integrating Christianity and evolution. Comment on its relevance to contemporary Church teaching, e.g., Pope John Paul II's letters.
  • The controversies over the impact of the theory of evolution for Christian faith which began soon after the publication of The Origin of Species remain with us today. On the one hand, there are ideologically atheistic biologists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett who base their total rejection of God and religion to a great degree upon the success of Darwin’s theory to attribute to natural means what religion originally attributed to supernatural (i.e., divine) causes. On the other hand, there are those like Michael Denton, William Dembski and others who have recently proposed the theory of “intelligent design,” a contemporary form of Paley’s argument from nature’s evident design to the Creator, based upon weaknesses in contemporary biology to account for the emergence of “irreducible complexity.” Discuss one of the contemporary positions (either of these two or others) regarding the significance of the theory of evolution for Christian faith, drawing from extrinsic sources as needed (web materials, printed articles, etc.). Please summarize the argument, evaluate and critique it, and show how it compares to earlier controversies discussed in the assigned readings.
  • Why is an “imperfect” design more likely to be God's creation than a “perfect” design?


Input by Professors: Is the Universe Ordered for the Emergence of Intelligent Creatures like Human Beings?


  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Part IV (chapters 14-17) (Person 1)
  • Barbour, When Science Meets Religion, Chapter 6 (Person 2)
  • Edwards, Chapter 3 Creation as Divine Self-Bestowal (Person 3)
  • Edwards, Chapter 4 Special Divine Acts (Person 4)


  • Move timeline to completion and continue final project. Respond to at least one question below in your personal forum.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • What is an “anthropic coincidence”? Give two examples.
  • Distinguish between the “Weak Anthropic Principle” and the “Strong Anthropic Principle.”
  • What is a “self-organizing” process?
  • What is the role of information in advancing evolution?
  • What is “the multiverse” hypothesis? Why is it preferred by some as an explanation? What serious defects in plausibility accompany it?
  • What is meant by divine self-bestowal? Is God an interventionist?


Input by Professors: How to understand a non-interventionist God theologically and scientifically


  • Edwards, Chapter 5, Miracles and the Laws of Nature (Person 1)
  • Edwards, Chapter 6, The Divine Act of Resurrection (Person 2)
  • Edwards, Chapter 7, God’s Redeeming Act: Deifying Transformation (Person 3)
  • Edwards, Chapter 8, God’s Redeeming Act: Evolution, Original Sin (Person 4)


Reflection questions for personal forum: (Choose one for your forum. These will also be key to the “point” of your summary discussions!)

  • Explain how God can do remarkable things using secondary causes instead of disposing of them and intervening directly.
  • Why and how is the resurrection a free act of God from within creation that gives creation its deepest meaning?
  • Explain why deifying transformation of the human being does not mean becoming God.
  • Explain the scapegoat mechanism and what it might mean in terms of evolution.


Input by Professors: Understanding Divine Causality in the Natural World; Process vs. Traditional Metaphysics; What does “big” mean?


  • Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Chapters 18 – 20 (Person 1 and 4 work collaboratively)
  • Edwards, Chapter 9, Final Fulfillment: The Deifying Transformation (Person 2)
  • Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, Chapter 3 (Person 3)
  • Haught, Chapter 4 (Person 4)


  • Your individual major project should be very near completion by now; the final version is to be posted next week. Respond to at least one question below in your personal forum.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Why must the universe be “big” in both time and space?
  • What about animals and the final deifying transformation? Are they included?
  • Why did the notion of determinism, so dominant in the 19th century, go away?
  • Haught draws attention to higher dimensions, such as information. How does the presence of information change reality into more than just arrangements of matter?

Week 14 (November 24): THE DIRECTION OF EVOLUTION: EITHER/OR VS. BOTH/AND? (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Input by Professors: How taking a higher, multi-level view renders obsolete some faith-science conflicts; perceiving unity in evolution as God draws man toward the future.


  • Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, Chapter. 5 – 6 (Person 1)
  • Haught, Making Sense of Evolution, Chs. 7-8 (Person 2), Chapters 9-10 (Person 3)
  • Edwards, Chapter 10 Prayers of Intercession (Person 4)
  • Skim: Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Chapters 21, 22, 23, 26 and Haught Chapter 11.


  • Student presentations due and posted in each student’s personal forum. Respond to at least one question below in your personal forum.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Is the computer a useful model for the way humans think? How do humans differ from lower life forms?
  • With Haught's “layered explanations,” what sort of unity does he bring to the treatment of God and evolution? Does intercessory prayer “work?” Why?
  • What is the drama of evolution? How can we recognize that it has a direction?
  • What does being “whole” mean? What is the role of Christ in establishing wholeness?



  • Live Student Presentation(s) via WebEx, week of December 2; date and time to be determined.

Reflection questions for personal forum:

  • Haught explains that scientific materialism is incoherent it its attribution of morality and ethics to evolutionary adaptation. Explain why that position is in conflict with itself.
  • Where did man's religious inclination come from?
  • How does the concept of resurrection fit into the framework of evolution?
  • How is the viewpoint of Teilhard de Chardin both Christian and compatible with Darwinian science?
  • What does it mean to say that “God is calling us forward from the future?”
  • How can Darwin's theory of evolution be considered a “gift” to Christian theology?
  • Summarize the circularity of the materialists' position. What cornerstone belief does it require? What is omitted in that belief system?
  • What does trans-humanism mean? How is that associated with Christianity?


The following tasks and assignments are designed for online learning—i.e., for learning that is both individually paced and a collaborative enterprise, as well as taking advantage of the resources available on the web. Assessment of learning and grade evaluation will be based upon the successful completion of these assignments.

The grading scale for the class activities is as follows:

35 % –– Weekly posting in group discussion forums

20 % –– Individual Assignments: postings in personal discussion forum

20 % –– Collaborative Project: historical timeline of the relation of science and theology

25 % –– Final Essay or Project

  1. First, in order to demonstrate that the students have read and absorbed the weekly readings and presentations, all students, even those auditing, are expected to participate regularly in the group discussion forum. This will be the site where the group raises and answers questions and for critical reasoning through the issues in relating the worldviews of science and theology.
  2. Second, in order to create a place in which to share each student’s growing appreciation of the way that our world, scientifically understood and seen with the eyes of faith, is the work of the wise and good Creator, each student is to contribute to a personal discussion forum. This will include basic principles and insights, significant quotes the student wants to remember, and a personal collection of dates and events for the timeline. Students should endeavor to answer each week one or more of the reflection questions listed below as the Spirit moves them.
  3. Third, the students will work collaboratively to produce a historical timeline which organizes important dates, figures, insights, and events in the emergence of modern science and the process by which its findings were seen in connection with, gradually separated from, and often later reintegrated with the Christian theological view of creation. Students will work collaboratively to create the Timeline (a useful timeline generator can be found at from the notes each has collected within his or her personal forum.
  4. Fourth, each student will write and present an essay/project focused on one of the following questions based on the content in the course:
    1. What is your personal theology of science? Explain.
    2. If you were asked to create an adult series entitled Faith and Science, how would you design it?
    3. If you were asked to create a series for high school students, how would you design it?
    4. The essay is not more than 7 double-spaced pages with either footnotes or endnotes (not counting bibliography or endnotes) following the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Style Sheet available online at


  • Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003) ISBN-10: 0268021988 or ISBN-13: 978-0268021986. List price $ 20
  • Ian G. Barbour, When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? (New York: HarperOne, 2000) ISBN-10: 006060381X or ISBN-13: 978-0060603816. List price $ 11.43
  • Edwards, Denis, How God Acts: Creation, Redemption, and Special Divine Action. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010) ISBN 978-0-8006-9700-6. List Price $24.81.
  • John F. Haught, Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010) ISBN-10: 066423285X or ISBN-13: 978-0664232856 List price $20
  • David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, eds., God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986) ISBN-10: 0520056922 or ISBN-13: 978-0520056923. List price $30.54

The following excerpted texts will be available in the course template:

  • Pope John Paul II, “Address at the Vatican Observatory, June 1, 1988,” in John Paul II on Science and Religion: Reflections on the New View from Rome, ed. by Robert Russell, et al (Vatican Observatory Publications, 1990), pp. M1-M14.
  • Ernst Mayr, “What is Science?” & “How Does Science Explain the Natural World?”
  • Avery Dulles, “Science and Theology,” in Russell, et al., John Paul II on Science and Religion, 9-18.
  • Michael A. Hoonhout, “Thomas Aquinas and the Need for a Contemporary Theological Cosmology”

Fun Reading: Flatland by Edwin Abbott, freely available online at


  • Barrow, John D. and Tipler, Frank J. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Beauregard, Mario, and O’Leary, Denyse. The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul. New York: HarperOne, 2008.
  • Behe, Michael J. The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. New York: Free Press (Simon and Schuster), 2007.
  • Birge, Mary Katherine; Henning, Brian G.; Stoicoiu, Rodica M.M.; and Taylor, Ryan. Genesis Evolution and the Search for a Reasoned Fath. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2011.
  • Boyle, Elizabeth Michael. Science as Sacred Metaphor: An Evolving Revelation. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2006.
  • Brown, Warren S.; Muphy, Nancey; and Malony, H. Newton. Whatever Happened to the Soul: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998.
  • Cannato, Judy. Radical Amazement: Contemplative Lessons from Black Holes, Supernovas, and Other Wonders of the Universe. Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2006.
  • Clayton, Philip and Peacocke, Arthur. In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.
  • Dudley, MD, Glenn G. Infinity and the Brain: A unified Theory of Mind, Matter, And God. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2002.
  • Garcia-Rivera, Alejandro. The Garden of God: A Theological Cosmology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.
  • Haught, John F. Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2007.
  • Haught, John F. Is Nature Enough? London: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Haught, John F. God and the New Atheism. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
  • Haught, John F. God After Darwin. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.
  • Haught, John F. Deeper Than Darwin. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2003.
  • Korsmeyer, Jerry D. Evolution and Eden: Balancing Original Sin And Contemporary Science. Mahwah: Paulist, 1998.
  • Moltmann, Jürgen. Science and Wisdom. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003 (translation).
  • Peacocke, Arthur. Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith? Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Press, 2004.
  • Polkinghorne, John. The Way the World Is: The Christian Perspective of a Scientist. Louisville, Westminster John Knox, 2007 (1983).
  • ----- Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Schönborn, Christoph Cardinal. Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2007.
  • Schroeder, Gerald L. The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom. New York: Broadway Books (Bantam Doubleday Dell), 1998.
  • ----- The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth. New York: Touchstone (Simon and Schuster), 2001.
  • Shackleford, John M. Faith Seeking Understanding: Approaching God Through Science. New York/Mahwah: Paulist, 2007.
  • Spitzer, Robert J., S.J., New Proofs for the Existence of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
  • Tippett, Krista. Einstein’s God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit. New York: Penguin, 2010.


(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for the Major Papers and Discussion Board (DB) Postings

0 pts. – Paper
0 pts. – DB Posting;

3 pts. – Paper
2 pts. – DB Posting;

6 pts. – Paper
4 pts. – DB Posting;

9 pts. – Paper
6 pts. – DB Posting;

12 pts. – Paper
8 pts. – DB Posting;

15 pts. – Paper
10 pts. – DB Posting;



Absence of Understanding

Analysis shows no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Analysis seems to misunderstand some basic concepts of the discipline or lacks ability to articulate them.

Inadequate understanding

Analysis is sometimes unclear in understanding or articulating concepts of the discipline.

Adequate understanding

Analysis demonstrates an understanding of basic concepts of the discipline but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Analysis demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Analysis clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the discipline as they relate to the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.



Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.



Incomplete writing

Analysis is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Analysis fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Episodic writing, a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Analysis noticeably neglects or misinterprets the topic; simplistic or repetitive treatment, only partially-internalized; weak organization and development, some meandering; simple sentences, below-level diction; distracting errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Analysis is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Analysis is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Analysis is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.


COMMUNITY INTERACTION (50-word response)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post, e.g., “Excellent post! You really have thought of something there.”

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting.

Weak response

Response summarizes original posting to which it responds.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.



Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own. At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


Dr. Tom Sheahen is the Director of the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST), an organization devoted to exploring the mutual compatibility of faith and science.

The website gives more details of the ITEST programs. Dr. Sheahen is a physicist who was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, among other places. He is the author of the textbook Introduction to High Temperature Superconductivity. He taught “Issues in Religion and Science” as a visiting professor at John Carroll University.

Sr. Carla Mae is a professor emerita at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO. Her biographical information may be found on her personal faculty page of the Aquinas Institute of Theology website.

(860) 632-3010