Friday, June 20, 2008

The Journey from Religion to Science

Summer Session: July 20 - August 10 2008

Summer Session 2008: From Religion to Science

Contemporary society challenges us to understand our world in ways unimaginable a century ago. Scientific and technological advances, although beneficial and intellectually exciting, are also frequently anxiety-provoking, disrupting the placid certainty of the past: our comforting mythologies are regularly challenged by the realities of modern science and the unforeseen capabilities of modern technology. How can we embrace this intellectual excitement without provoking the anxiety created by, to borrow Lippmann's phrase, the "acids of modernity"? How can those of us committed to a fully secular, rational, science-based understanding of the world respond to majority views shaped by different commitments and loyalties? How do we chart a course from the "disenchantment of the world" to the "re-enchantment of the world."

The Center for Inquiry, in its flagship venue in Amherst New York, as well as across the country and abroad, provides educational opportunities that help explain the development of the modern worldview,

particularly the human journey from basing reality on religious beliefs to relying on evidence, inquiry, and evaluation.
The Institute's Summer Session 2008 is a guided tour along this route, raising such questions as, "What are the origins of religion?", "How do we assess the truth claims made by major religions on the basis of their sacred writings?", "Is it possible to be good without God?" and "What is modern science telling us about how we come to know ourselves and the world beyond us?" The courses offered in 2008, organized around the theme From Religion to Science, examine the "future" of the Enlightenment, secular and religious dominion in public policy, the new atheism, and other topics of vital concern for humanists and non-humanists alike.


Instruction at The Institute at the Center for Inquiry is organized into modules, each an intensive exploration of some aspect of the theme. Modules are carefully interwoven to convey the richness of the theme as a totality, but they also serve as stand-alone courses. Participants may take one, two, or three modules depending on their sphere of interest.

Anatomy of Religion (July 20-27)

This module is a critical examination of religious texts, ideas and cosmologies. Join us as we look at the influence of religion on private life, public policy, and moral values. Lines of inquiry include:

  • Mythology of the Bible: cosmologies ancient and modern
  • The sources of Christianity
  • The sources of Islam
  • Biblical Ethics
  • Why people are "religious" - views from psychology, sociology and neuroscience

Instructors: Joyce E. Salisbury, Robert M. Price, Ibn Warraq

The Humanist Perspective: Science and Secularism (July 27 - August 3)

The two prongs of humanism are a commitment to reason above faith and the idea that moral values are fundamentally human values which cannot be determined by appeals to supernatural authority. Module B explores both of these aspects as well as their interconnection. Issues explored include:

  • Origins of the scientific worldview
  • Secularism and political life
  • The unfinished projects of the Enlightenment
  • Contemporary issues in secular studies: multisecularism,
  • desecularization and the "new atheism"
  • Mind, body and brain: Humanism and Personhood

Instructors: Ronald Giere, John Kaag, Ronald A. Lindsay, John Shook

Ethics Without Religion: Being, Doing, and Becoming (August 3 - 10)

This module focuses on the relationship between local and global ideas of community, what it means to lead a "good life and the search for sources of wisdom and practical action in a largely post-religious world. Topics include:

  • Applied secular humanism
  • The good life: Eupraxophy
  • Building local communities and world community
  • The possibility of normative ethics

Instructors: Nathan Bupp, John Shook, Jessica Wahman, Judith B. Walker

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