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Upon first glance, religion and science may seem mutually exclusive. Religion often addresses moral and spiritual questions while science explores the world's physical reality. But in a new Religious Studies class offered next semester, "Science and the Sacred," students will learn what religion and science have in common. William Grassie, a visiting professor from Temple University, will teach the course, which fulfills the College of Arts and Sciences society distribution requirement. Maximum enrollment for the class is 60 students. Dividing the course into four parts, Grassie will first provide an introduction to philosophical issues. During the second section of the course, students will conduct a comparative study of cosmology, evolution and metaphysics. They will try to understand different interpretations of evolution. In the third part of the course, students will consider how gender, culture and class influence the philosophies and practices of science and religion. "The practice of science is highly political and social," Grassie said. "Our biases influence the selection of which projects get funding and what work is published. "Cultural studies of science have raised a lot of indignation and disbelief among scientists," he added. "But it has been taken for granted in religious studies and the social sciences that the identity of the observer and his assumptions play a role." In the last part of the course, students will look to future trends in science, society and the perception of the self and the sacred. One aspect of this section will include extensive discussion about the impact people have on the environment and society. Throughout the semester Grassie said guest speakers will address issues covered in the course such as genetics and theories of creation. "The most obvious thing that people think is that science has outdone religion," Religious Studies Department Chairperson Ann Matter said. "That science has given better answers for something like creation than religion has, and that therefore religion is a dead duck. "But that idea doesn't show an understanding of what religion is," Matter added. "It is a belief about what is true and is deeply embedded in our culture. So in that sense it has a lot in common with science." Matter said science poses several ethical questions that can be addressed by using a system of beliefs that follow religion or science. Some of the questions include when life begins, and how long doctors should prolong a life. "Humans have become an evolutionary force," Grassie added. "Whether it's through bioengineering or the changing of the composition of the atmosphere, there is no natural selection anymore. We are the authors of life."

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