HONR 219V Religion, Science, and Freedom
Tuesday, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Dr. Imad Ahmad, Lecturer in Honors
Jesus is reported to have said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” “What is truth?” asked Pilate. Today there are many who believe that either religion or science has a monopoly on the truth and one or the other leads to freedom. At the same time, as Lincoln noted, “There has never been a good definition of the word liberty.” In this course we shall look at the interaction among these three concepts in a variety of historical periods and from the perspective of a number of disciplines including dramatic literature, philosophy, and economics. In what ways does religion advance or impede freedom and to what extent is religion benefitted or hurt by freedom? In what ways does science advance or impede freedom and to what extent is science benefitted or hurt by freedom? In what ways do the metaphors taken from religion and from science affect our freedom both in terms of our perceptions of the limits of our freedom of will and in the degree of oppression in the political structures arising from the attempts to purify or socially engineer the societies in which we live?
We shall look at literary representations of the issues, historical analyses, and philosophical discourses. Classes will divide time more or less equally between lecture and discussion. Students must complete all required reading before each class to which it applies. This will maximize discussion time and permit lectures to develop rather than merely repeat material in the reading. Quizzes or other devices to test whether students have done the reading should be expected. There will be an hourly exam and a final. The grade will be assigned on the basis of classroom participation (25%), hour exam (15%), a final exam (30%) and a term paper (30%). At least one informal gathering outside of class hours will be arranged. Students will select some issue or historical event for their paper and discuss the subject in depth from the vantage of the themes of the course.
We will consider definitions of religion, science, and freedom. We will discuss the relationship between truth and freedom. We will view a video of Antigone.
Selected tentative reading list:
Aristotle, Politics; Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
John Locke, An Essay Concerning the True End of Civil Government
Frederic Bastiat, The Law; Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
Wali ad-Din Ibn Khaldun, The Muqqadamah: An Introduction to History
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Bertold Brecht, Galileo; Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
Class 8. Freedom, Religion, and the Market: Part 1 3/29/05
Dr. Ahmad introduces basic economic concepts and lectures on the relationship of religion and freedom from an economic perspective with special emphasis on Islam.
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book IV “Of Systems of Political Economy,” chs. 1-2. http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, "Islamic Social Thought," in Religion, Economics and Social Thought, in W. Block and I. Hexham, eds. (Vancouver: Fraser Inst.) pp. 465-491.
John Locke, An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government. Ch. 5.
Wali ad-Din Ibn Khaldun, The Muqqadamah: An Introduction to History, Franz Rosenthal, trans. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press) vol. I, pp. 89-93, 258-261; vol. II, pp. 89-137, 270-297.
Class 9. Freedom, Religion, and the Market: Part 2 4/5/05
We discuss the relationship of religion and freedom from an economic perspective with special emphasis on Christianity. We outline the main features of Catholic social thought as contained in contained in various papal encyclicals (all of which are available on the Internet) and the pastoral letter of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) on the U.S. economy and we consider Weber’s views on Protestantism and the rise of capitalism.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, trans. By Thomas Nugent (New York: Hufner), Book XX. http://www.constitution.org/cm/sol_20.htm.
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Scribner & Sons, 1976), chs. 2, 3, and 5, pp. 47-93, 155-183.
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Scribner & Sons, 1976), ch. 4, pp. 95-154.
NCCB, "Economic Justice for All" (1986).
Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (1891).
Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno (1931).
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra (1961).
Pacem in Terris (1963).
Pope Paul VI, Progressio populorum (1967).
Pope Pau; VI, Octogesimo adveniens (1971).
Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987).
Class 10. The Two Sides of the Enlightenment 4/12/05
Like the “Force” in Star Wars, the enlightenment has its bright and its dark sides. The materialist philosophy has acquired some aspects of a religious force in human affairs. We examine secularism as a sort of religion and how it has influenced modern life.
Karen Armstrong, The History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (New York: Knopf, 1994), pp. 293-376.
Class 11. Darwinism, Scientism, Genetics, and Free Speech 4/19/05
We shall compare the actual history of the Scopes trial against the mythology that survived it. We consider the consequences of substituting materialist values for spiritual ones. We look at the American scientists and social activists of the eugenics movement, whom the Nazis credited as their antecedents. We also look at the abuse of power by a scientist in the Lysenko affair.
Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization. (NY: Brentano's Press 1922) pp. 80-123.
Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind (Bantam 1982).
Ronald Numbers, Darwinism Comes to America (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press 1998), pp. 76-91.
Sheldon Norman Grebstein, ed., Monkey Trial: The State of Tennessee vs. John Thomas Scopes (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1960).
Kenneth R. Miller, Finding Darwin's God (Cliff Street Books 1999).
Steven Selden, Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America (Advances in Contemporary Educational Thought Series 1999) 52-53.
[PAPERS ARE DUE ON APRIL 19th]
Class 12. Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Chaos Theory: Their Implications for Truth and Freedom 4/26/05
We examine the use and misuse of metaphors from science. Did Einstein prove that "everything is relative?" or did he show the implications of the fact that the speed of light is a constant? Does quantum mechanics imply that knowledge is impossible or does it simply refute the view of a mindlessly deterministic universe? Do the various insights of chaos theory on the limits of the predictability of complex systems mean that economic planning is impossible or does it spell the end of social engineering?
F. A. Hayek, "The Theory of Complex Phenomena," in Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago 1967), pp. 22-42.
James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Viking Penguin 1987).
Class 13. The Twentieth Century Conflicts / Purpose of Law Revisited 5/3/05
We search for reasons that physicists lead the uprising against the communist Chinese authorities that climaxed at Tienneman Square. We revisit the question of the nature of law (scientific, human, and divine) in the light of the material covered previously.
H. Lyman Miller, Science and Liberal Dissent in Post-Mao China: The Politics of Knowledge (Univ. of Washington Press 1996) pp. 17-29, 136-182, 219-222.
Frederic Bastiat, The Law. (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education 1984).
F. A. Hayek, "Rules, Perception and Intelligibility," in Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago 1967), pp. 43-65.
Class 14. The Purpose and Limits of Government 5/10/05
We examine the nature of human government.
Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience," in Waldo R. Browne, (NY: Huebich).
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, George Lawrence, trans. (New York: HarperCollins, 2000), Vol. I, “The Idea of Rights in the United States” (pp. 237-240), “Respect for Law in the United States” (240-241), “Tyranny of the Majority” (250-253), “Effect of the Omnipotence of the Majority on the Arbitrary Power of American Officials” (253-254), “The Greatest Danger to the American Republic Comes from the Tyranny of the Majority” (259-261), “Absence of Administrative Centralization” (262-263). Vol. II, Part I Chapter 2 “Concerning the Principal Source of Beliefs Among Democratic Peoples” (pp. 433-436), Chapter 5 “How Religion in the United States Makes Use of Democratic Instincts” (442-449), Part II, Chapter 8 “How the Americans Combat Individualism by the Doctrine of Self-Interest Properly Understood” (525-528), Chapter 9 “How the Americans Apply the Doctrine of Self-Interest Properly Understood to Religion” (528-530).