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University of Edinburgh

Philosophy, Science and Religion: Religion and Science

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


Philosophy, Science and Religion mark three of the most fundamental modes of thinking about the world and our place in it. Are these modes incompatible? Put another way: is the intellectually responsible thing to do to ‘pick sides’ and identify with one of these approaches at the exclusion of others? Or, are they complementary or mutually supportive? As is typical of questions of such magnitude, the devil is in the details. For example, it is important to work out what is really distinctive about each of these ways of inquiring about the world. In order to gain some clarity here, we’ll be investigating what some of the current leading thinkers in philosophy, science and religion are actually doing.

This course, entitled ‘Religion and Science’, is the third of three related courses in our Philosophy, Science and Religion Online series. The course will address five themes, each presented by an expert in the area.

1. Science, Religion, and the Origin of the Universe (Professor Tim Maudlin, NYU )
2. Buddhism and Science (Professor Graham Priest, CUNY)
3. Evolution and Design (Dr Kevin Scharp, St Andrews)
4. Sin Suffering and Salvation: Evolutions Thorny Issues (Dr Bethany Sollereder, Oxford)
5. Human Uniqueness in Science, Theology, and Ethics (Professor David Clough, Chester)

The first and second courses in the Philosophy, Science and Religion series, 'Science and Philosophy' and 'Philosophy and Religion' were launched in 2017 and you can sign up to these at any time. It is not necessary to have completed these courses to follow this course. However, completing all three courses will give you a broader understanding of this fascinating topic. Look for:

• Philosophy, Science and Religion I: Science and Philosophy -
• Philosophy, Science and Religion II: Philosophy and Religion -

Upon successful completion of all three courses, students will:

(1) Understand the main parameters at stake in the current debate between science and religion.
(2) Have some familiarity with the relevant areas of science that feature in the debate—including cosmology, evolution, and the neurosciences—and will have begun to engage with them conceptually.
(3) Have encountered key philosophical approaches to the interface between science and religion, and will have had the opportunity to engage them in practice.
(4) Have embarked constructively in cross-disciplinary conversations.
(5) Have demonstrated an openness to personal growth through a commitment to dialogue across intellectual and spiritual boundaries.

You can also follow us on Twitter at and you can follow the hashtag #psrmooc


  • Introduction to the Course
  • Science, Religion and the Origins of the Universe
    • In this module Tim Maudlin, Professor of the Foundations of Physics at New York University (NYU) discusses stories and theories of the origins of the cosmos from the perspectives of various religions, philosophy, and Science. He then explains what our physics tells us and compares this to the origins stories.
    • In this module Graham Priest, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York (CUNY) outlines the background and basic ideas of Buddhism. After considering whether Buddhism is compatible with science, he goes on to explain how some aspects of Buddhist thought are relevant to contemporary logic and science.
    • In this module Kevin Scharp, Reader in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews introduces one of the most common arguments for Intelligent Design and considers whether it is a genuine scientific competitor to, or can even be made compatible with, evolutionary theory. He then presents the Fine-Tuning Argument for the existence of God and its criticisms.
    • In this module Bethany Sollereder, Postdoctoral Fellow in Science and Religion at the University of Oxford considers questions that arise in Christian Theology as a result of accepting evolutionary theory.
    • In this module David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at Chester University investigates three ways in which the question of human uniqueness prompt questions at the interface of theology and science. It asks ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’, ‘Where did we come from?’ and ‘Are we just animals?’ before going on to consider the ethical implications of a theological approach that engages these questions seriously.

Taught by

Dr J Adam Carter, Dr Orestis Palermos, Dr Mark Harris, Dr Mog Stapleton and Professor Duncan Pritchard

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4.3 rating, based on 44 reviews

Start your review of Philosophy, Science and Religion: Religion and Science

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I learned many things through this course. The minor tachnical difficulty I had - when clicking on the right box in tests - was promptly corrected by support staff. As for criticism - I will focus on one single subject: the lecture on No Self in Buddhism....
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I do not think this final part of the series of three courses was as good as the earlier two parts. My main criticism is the unbalanced choice of lecturers and their perspective. The lecturer on Buddhism was (I think) not a Buddhist but a Philosopher...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    By far the weakest of the "Philosophy, Science and Religion" series of courses. The over-long Buddhism module was interesting in itself but I was mystified as to why, out of more than 10,000 plus religions currently being practiced worldwide, this one...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I enjoyed the course but that is a little bit subjective perspective since I'm a PhD student of Philosophy with a special interest in the Philosophy of Religion and Eastern Philosophies. I was just lacking a little bit more perspective of other religions...
  • A Kumaran

    A Kumaran completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    One of the nice courses in Philosophy, exploring and exposing the learner to the confluence of Religion and Science. The lectures exposed a wide variety of topics that apparently are odds between religious faith and scientific rationalism. The topics range from Creation of the World (Creationism vs Evolutionary Theory), Our status in the Universe (Are we alone), Logic (Western vs Buddhist Logic), Status of humans in the created order (Human vs Animals), Suffering, etc.

    My sincere thanks to the University of Edinburgh for putting such a course together, and to the fantastic selection of lecturers! I enjoyed the course tremendously, and look forward to other related areas of philosophy to explore.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Enjoyed the course. Felt the various elements of it might have been a little more connected. The link between Buddhism and Prof Clough's Christian-based invitation: "You may (are allowed) not to kill animals for food", for instance is clear enough but not pointed out. As a humanist atheist I wrote an essay saying I believed our grandchildren will be horrified that we killed animals, but that I am not yet ready to go down that road. Then I watched Clough's lecture on the subject on the subject and am finding denial much harder. So my conclusion is that what the course lacked in cohesion it made up in impact.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was the most disappointing of the three courses. I had expected that the arguments from the previous two courses would be brought in to focus here but, unfortunately, the material presented was weak and marginal at best. If anyone from the Templeton Foundation ever bothers to read the conversation forums they might realise that it will require stronger arguments than this to persuade anyone that their particular form of Christianity has equal epistemological status to science.

    Chris Morris
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    1.The course is taught by lecturers from different universities 2. Objective and unobtrusive presentation of materials and personal position of the lecturer is excellent .3. I have already completed three of your courses and I notice an amazing ethical component to students, thank you.4. The course is up-to-date, this is evident from links to feature films and books. 5. I don't speak English,but even with a translator, most of the material is understandable. Thank you to everyone who is involved in the work of this course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course met my expectations of being intellectually stimulated, and of having my knowledge and understanding of the interplay between the scientific methods of exploring the world and of explaining it, and of the religious views of the same subject...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Before I continue I should ask must I answer the test questions guided by already enthroned answers by teachers that know few or nothing about the Catholic point of view (Mayoritary in my country). I´m one of them so trolls from wherever, insulters, envious...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent. I am a PhD in the field, and I think it is an amazing course. I recommend it to anyone interested in debates around religion and science.
  • Anonymous
    I am very happy that I have done this interesting course, i learn a lot about Philosophy science and religions things that I didn’t know but I discover it thorough this course. All professors been very helpful and they show as very interesting things...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    First off, I'd like to thank all the professors participating in this course- sharing your knowledge for the masses. On a personal note, I have thoroughly enjoyed this course and it has given me precisely what I was aiming for within taking this course...
  • Hamish Russell completed this course.

    I was somewhat disappointed with the way that religious "truth" appeared to be given an equivalent status to that of scientific investigation - particularly in the lectures given by Christian practitioners. Further, If the course was meant to be an...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent course! The contents cover the main points of difficulty in the relationship between traditional Christian belief and contemporary science. teachers don't shy away from really serious problems, giving good presentations of problems. Nor do they...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Definitely my favorite of the three PS+R series. The lecturers opened up fresh perspectives on issues I'd already read and thought about, and the material was at the right level for this module. Whereas the previous two varied between accessible overviews and specialist research, the balance was achieved here by a more judicious pairing of scholars with engaging examples and ideas. I felt this course raced by, compared to some of the previous two, and the content engages. The one proviso is that the Buddhist material ranges too far into advanced speculation and theory.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is the third in a series of courses that explores the relationships between religion, philosophy and science. A wide range of experts take part in the delivery of the course material and it covers a wide range of topics where these three disciplines intersect. In an age where religion is so prevalent politically, where scientism and pseudoscience are at odds in social media and philosophy seems to have taken the back seat, this course provides a meaningful perspective for moving forward in the years ahead. I highly recommend it for just about anyone.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    In half a dozen instances I've found courses offered by the University of Edinburgh to be exceptionally enriching. This course is another example. Its lecturers are great communicators, treating their subjects comprehensively yet lightly. In each subject I was exposed to unexpected elements that I'd not encountered in other reading and that broadened my understanding and appreciation. I am grateful for the challenges of doing the coursework and for all the preparation by those at the university that goes into developing such stimulating online learning.
  • Jorge Antonio E Souza Carvalheira

    Jorge Antonio E Souza Carvalheira completed this course, spending 20 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Tive a honra de fazer esse maravilhoso curso,o qual aprimorou meus conhecimentos,todos os professores são capacitados em ensinar em uma forma bastante compreensiva e acessível,apesar do alto nível de conhecimento ,foi me proporcionado a ter um conhecimento amplo sobre as religiões.
    Espero continuar fazendo outros cursos nessa área e crescer e disponibilizar para transmitir essa real aprendizagem. OBRIGADO PROFESSORES.
    Como fazer poderei receber o Certificado,pois, já conclui esse maravilhoso curso.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent course, enjoyed different perspectives especially on eastern religions. Surprised the Bible seemed to be taken at face value. Surely today we know better. The contradictions and inconsistencies are to numerous to mention here. This course certainly is stimulating and thought provoking. Would like to see discussion on God and Time included somewhere, to address questions like is God inside or outside of time, if he created time and is outside of time then how could God answer your prayers ?

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