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God and the Natural Sciences (HPSC20020)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codeHPSC20020
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Recent popular debates over the relationship between science and religion have too often denegrated into shouted polemics between religious fundamentalists and new atheists. Yet many of the really important historical, philosophical and theological questions call for more careful scholarly attention. This subject examines the complex relationship between religion and the natural sciences. Historically, religious concerns guided the science of Kepler, Newton and many other pioneers of the Scientific Revolution. For them, studying the universe demonstrated the attributes of God. This view was eventually replaced by radically different ones: to some science and religion are necessarily antagonistic, to others they belong to separate realms, while others still see a mutually illuminating consonance between the two. We examine this shift, the reasoning (good and bad) behind it and its residues, and the way these views have shaped contemporary debates over God and the natural sciences. In the second half of the subject, we explore some of the metaphysical, theological and existential questions arising from Darwinian evolutionary and modern cosmology, before offering some final reflections on the relationship between the 'personal God' of religious experience and the 'philosophers God' posited to explain facts about the natural world.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • arrive at a deeper understanding of the complex historical relationship between religion, theology and the natural sciences, particularly in the early modern period and the nineteenth century;
  • develop an increased ability to systematically think about philosophical questions raised by modern science and religion;
  • acquire a deeper understanding of some of the contemporary philosophical debates in cosmology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience;
  • acquire experience of thinking systematically about difficult intellectual problems of an abstract nature;
  • develop the ability to conduct independent research, speaking and writing clearly and reading carefully;
  • acquire experience with methods of critical analysis and argument, leading to improved general reasoning and analytical skills

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home



  • Two take-home 1000 word written assignments, due in week 7 and week 12 (25% each)
  • A 2000 word final essay, due in the end od semester examination period (50%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted in order to pass this subject.
  • Students must present two questions in class based on the reading to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.
Regular participation in tutorials is required.

Dates & times

  • Semester 1
    Principal coordinatorKristian Camilleri
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours35 hours - 2 x1 hour lectures each week and 1 x 1-hour tutorial for 11 weeks
    Total time commitment170 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

Time commitment details

170 hours

Further information

Last updated: 14 August 2019