The Greatest Debate: Science and Religion

Professor Larry Shapiro
Department of Philosophy
University of Wisconsin -- Madison
Tues & Thurs, 7-9pm, Grainger 1100

Welcome to The Greatest Debate: Science and Religion.

In this class we will examine points of disagreement between science and religion with respect to issues of tremendous importance to our lives. Topics we will examine include whether we should ever hold beliefs without justification; how we should evaluate claims about miracles; whether minds are physical; how to understand the apparent design of organisms and the fact that the universe seems “fine-tuned” for our existence; how free-will might be possible in a deterministic world; and whether belief in God is necessary for morality.

Texts (available at University Bookstore):

Ian Barbour: When Science Meets Religion

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion


One paper, 8pp., presenting your views on any of the topics we have discussed in class. You must cite the relevant readings. Papers must be emailed to me, in .doc format, by 5pm on July 15.


June 18: Introduction. The relationship between science and religion. Reasons for believing. Slides available here.

June 20: Miracles. Slides available here.

June 25: Professor Thomas Polger from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati on minds, brains, and souls.

June 27: Steven Paulson, radio host of To The Best of Our Knowledge, will discuss and play audio clips from his interviews with scientific and religious authorities.

July 2: Professor Elliott Sober from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin on evolution, intelligent design theory, and fine-tuning.

July 9: Free Will. Slides available here.

July 11: Morality.

Reading materials for the course are available HERE