RVI2175 - Religion, Science and Technology
Examination arrangement: Assignment
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Technologies both free and enslave us. They seem magical in the sense that we often have very little idea how they work. They also have deep implications about what we value and even what we value ultimately. Although the use of technology can be said to define what it means to be human (for example, in our use of tools), the present-day global focus on the consumption of technology has become so important and valued that it may even constitute a religion. Some of us hold onto the myth that we can be saved by technology, while some hold onto the myth that technology will ultimately destroy us. As such, the course will delve into methodological and theoretical questions from the study of religion, in particular, to pose the argument that religion is primarily about how we as humans relate to and value these transcendent technologies.
This course thus looks into the implications that the adoption of universal scientific and technological models has for us as global subjects. It will examine the historical interaction between science and world religions. Students will also be pushed to think about the transnational consumption and circulation of religious, scientific, and technological goods. We will explore both the historical and modern use of religion, science, and technology to modulate human cognition (technologies of the self).
The course will also turn these questions around in an attempt to integrate empirically grounded scientific research of the human condition with humanistic approaches. We will examine how models from biology (such as evolution, ethology, and the endocrinology of emotions) and the mind sciences (neuroscience, philosophy, cybernetics, evolutionary psychology, among others) are applied broadly to explaining and understanding culture, and specifically to explaining and understanding science and religion. With regard to culture, we will examine the consumption of sex, food, and information and the ways in which they are technologically mediated around the world (through Internet, film and other media, fast food, marketing, universities, etc ). With regard to science and religion, we will explore arguments about their biological and cognitive foundations.
Among the pertinent questions we will ask are: What does it mean to be human? Is modern consumer culture a religion? What is its history? How have different global religions understood and employed science? How have technologies changed the human relationship with our environment and our relations with other animals? What are the possible consequences of such technology for life on our planet? Do theories from cognitive science and biology assist us in making sense of human practices such as religion? What are those theories? Are there ritual origins for the use of technology among humans?
According to the course curriculum, a candidate who passes this course is expected to have the following learning outcome (defined as knowledge and skills):
The candidate has attained
- a broad understanding of the historical relationship between religion, science and technology
- knowledge of attitudes toward science and technology from within specific global religions
- insight into recent research pertaining to the questions above
The candidate has acquired skills to:
- analyse the relationship between technology and value systems such as religion in different parts of the world
- analyse the construction of the following categories in specific global contexts: religion, nature, sex, technology and science
- analyse the relationships between such categories (technology and nature, etc ) in various media, such as film and Internet
- apply tools from the mind sciences to cultural and religious studies
- ability to update his/her own knowledge of the disciplines research questions
Learning methods and activities
The teaching consists of lectures and seminars. The lectures and seminars aim at outlining broad frameworks for thinking about the issues that are treated in the course readings. In order to take the exam the students have to attend at least 80 % of the teaching, and pass three assessment thresholds, subject to the lecturers evaluation. The obligatory course requirements can only be approved in the semester when the course is taught, but are valid in this and the subsequent term. The exam consists of a written assignment (8000 words).
- 80 % participation
Exam registration requires that class registration is approved in the same semester, or that compulsory activities are approved in a previous semester.
Recommended previous knowledge
Skills equivalent to one year of university studies, including basic courses in religious studies.
Required previous knowledge
The required reading list will be available at the beginning of the semester.
Examination arrangement: Assignment
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