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Science and Religion

Maastricht Summer School
Netherlands, Maastricht
Maastricht Summer School Netherlands, Bonnefantenstraat 2, 6211 KL Maastricht, The Netherlands
Tuition fee €599 per programme

Reduced application fee for the 2021 edition of Maastricht Online Campus due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

More information



For the past 2500 years, European culture has been characterized by a simultaneous and competitive forthcoming of two major traditions of knowledge: religion and science. During the largest and first era of this historical period, religious thought dominated the intellectual pursue of knowledge. Over the last 3 or 4 centuries however, this role has become significantly less important as a result of continuous scientific successes that explained the world without making use of any theological reasoning at all. This progress predicted that eventually, religious thought would have been removed completely from all the academic fields of investigation and that, after three of four hundred years of scientific growth, this change of perspective would have become a fully accepted one. However, any observation of the intellectual state of affairs clearly shows that both the scientific and philosophical realities in Europe are different. Theology still plays a more or less considerable role as a partner, a critic and an adversary of the (natural) sciences when it comes to the scholarly debate of many important topics.

This is why this course wants to look at some key elements of the historical development of the relationship between science and religion in Europe and why it seeks to analyze and evaluate the dispute between these traditions of knowledge from a philosophical point of view. This relationship will be explored by addressing a number of central problems within the natural and the human sciences that represent the most well-known ‘areas of conflict’ (physics, cosmology, biology) and it will be studied by clarifying the ways in which the scientific and theological positions deal and dealt with them. The main question here will be whether philosophy can contribute to the elucidation, interpretation and understanding of this still ongoing debate between two central and highly influential knowledge systems that so often and categorically have been considered to be mutually exclusive.
Some of the studied scientific topics of debate will be: evolution theory, genetics, theory of relativity, quantum theory, Big bang theory, emergence theory, complexity and probability theory, chaos theory, information theory and artificial intelligence. A few of the theological schools of thought and points of view under discussion will be: atheism, deism, intelligent design and creationism, ‘religious experience’ theory, process theology. These outlooks will be studied by means of philosophical ‘instruments’ that come from epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and logic. They will allow us to construct an overall framework, based on the parameters of ‘conflict’, ‘independence’, ‘dialogue’ and ‘integration’, that helps us to study and evaluate the question at hand from a hopefully objective and well-balanced point of view.

• First. After the conclusion of this course students will be able to understand from a historical and philosophical perspective that European scientific thought isn’t always as ‘independent’ from non-scientific (read: ‘religious’) influences as it wishes and claims to be.
• Second. After the conclusion of this course students will be able to make clear why and how the scientific ‘autonomy statement’ in fact finds itself embedded in an ongoing metaphysical/religious debate that as such contributes to its identity as well.
• Third. After the conclusion of this course students will be able to critically develop and express in a philosophical way their own position regarding the science – religion debate as it still can be found in the European (or American) academic context.

Skill development

• To think critically about the science and religion debate according to some specifically philosophical lines of thought.
• To write about the philosophical thought process and its possible outcomes in a clear, well-accounted for, objective and balanced way.

This is an introductory level course, although some basic knowledge of the natural sciences is desirable. Students with Science and Humanities majors (Bachelor students enrolled in a science, social sciences or humanities programme) are best suited.

Course Duration and Dates
This is a two week course running from the 19th of July until the 30th of July, 2021. This course is planned to take place on-campus in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Due to COVID-19, we cannot guarantee that this scenario will be possible however. We will make a decision based on the latest government regulations on the 1st of May, 2021 and inform all applicants whether the course will take place on-campus or, need be, online.

The number of credits earned after successfully concluding this course is the equivalent of 3 ECTS according to Maastricht University’s guidelines. For further information see the MSS terms and conditions.

Teaching methods
▪ Readings, assignments, discussions.

Assessment methods
▪ Participation in class discussions + Portfolio + Paper


John Hedley Brooke: ‘Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives’, Cambridge, 2014

Thomas Dixon: ‘Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction’, Oxford, 2008

Fraser N. Watts: ‘Why the Science and Religion Dialogue Matters: Voices from the International Society of Science and Religion’, Templeton Foundation Press, 2007

Apply now! Summer Term 2020/21
Application deadline
30 Jun 2021 23:59:59
Europe/Amsterdam time
Studies commence
Jul 19, 2021

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States

Apply now! Summer Term 2020/21
Application deadline
30 Jun 2021 23:59:59
Europe/Amsterdam time
Studies commence
Jul 19, 2021

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States