Fall 2012

Christianity & Evolution


Diane L. Dix (Section 01)
Andrew C. Dole (Section 01)


The recent and ongoing controversies over "Intelligent Design" and the teaching of evolution represent the tip of a large and rather interesting iceberg.  Christian opposition to evolution is not new, but neither does it represent the universal report of the tradition.  In fact, prior to the early twentieth-century emergence of the fundamentalist movement in the United States, attempts to reconcile Christianity and an evolutionary understanding of human beings were prominent among Christian intellectuals.  This course will explore the pre-history and history of the relationship between Christianity and theories of evolution.  Over the course of the semester we will explore the classical "design argument" for the existence of God, as articulated by William Paley in the early nineteenth century, attempting to understand both the content of the argument and its religious importance; pre-Darwinian attempts to construct a developmental and yet Christianity-friendly understanding of the world; Darwin’s theory of evolution and its initially positive reception in Christian circles; the Scopes Trial of 1925 and its historical context; and texts drawn from proponents and opponents of the contemporary Intelligent Design movement.  Finally, we will turn briefly to recent attempts to explain religion itself using evolutionary theories.

 This course will focus on developing a number of competencies central to liberal studies:  understanding the positions articulated in texts and the chains of reasoning advanced in their support;  engaging, with charity, the thought of others whose fundamental convictions differ significantly from one’s own; constructive dialogue across the same sort of differences; and expository writing.  Classroom time will be spent primarily in discussion of the assigned texts and the issues they raise, with a minimal amount of lecturing by the instructor.  Writing assignments will be relatively frequent and relatively short, and will receive substantial commentary from the instructor.  Students will also be required to make short (ca. 10-minute) presentations to the class on material drawn from the assigned texts.

Fall semester.  Professor A. Dole. 


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2021