Science and Religion: Views from History

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Science and Religion: Views from History

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Religion, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    Science and religion are nowadays often seen as conflicting forces. Many scientists adamantly insist that religious belief has no place in a scientific worldview and attitude, while some religious believers vigorously dispute the truth claims of science. Is there an inevitable opposition between the two? History can shed revealing light on this important issue.

    The ‘conflict thesis’ about the relationship between science and religion actually did not emerge until the nineteenth century. During much of European history, educated people were rather convinced that the opposite of the conflict thesis was true. Science and religion were seen to go together harmoniously instead of essentially subverting and thwarting each other.

    • How could this vision of harmony and concord prevail for such a long time?
    • When and where did tensions between science and religion arise and how were they resolved?
    • Why did the idea of a fundamental conflict between science and religion arise?
    • How was this development related to the changing social roles of science, scientists, and religion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

    These questions form the leitmotif of this Honours course.
    The main focus will be on the Christian religion, but attention will also be given to Islam.


    • a series of meetings on key topics in the relationship between science and religion from the Late Middle Ages to the present, preceded by
    • a general introduction, and concluded by
    • oral presentations by students on a subject of their own choosing related to the question of the science-religion interface, which will form the basis for a written essay.
    • an excursion to Teylers Museum in Haarlem including a lecture about Teylers museum and the theme of the course.


    • Participation in discussions, including contributions on Blackboard (30%)
    • Individual oral presentation (10%)
    • Written essay (60 %)


Course Disclaimer

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