Spring 2008

From Dilemma to Dialogue: Science, Values and Spiritual Traditions


Arthur G. Zajonc (Section 01)


From Galileo's imprisonment by the Church to the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, establishing the right relationship between science, human values and spiritual convictions has only become more important. The division between knowledge and ethics, science and religion, objective knowledge and subjective experience, reflects a deep divide in our understanding of the human being as debated by scientists, philosophers and theologians. Using contemporary and historical sources, we will explore the complex interaction between science, values and spiritual traditions as they seek to understand reality and resolve ethical dilemmas. We will look for ways to move from dilemma to dialogue and collaboration. Examples of such attempts will include recent collaborative work between cognitive scientists and the Dalai Lama, the feminist critique of science, the scientific studies of the German poet Goethe, and the Hermetic tradition. In addition to readings, films, seminar discussion and analysis, this class will emphasize reflective, experiential and contemplative methods of learning. Limited to 30 students. Second semester. Professor Zajonc.