The Dialogue Between Science and Religion: A Step Towards Transdisciplinary Behavior

This document is about the learning experiences throughout the subject “The Dialogue between Science and Religion” given at UPAEP (Popular Autonomous University of the State of Puebla).

For the last year, students at UPAEP have received courses about “The Dialogue between Science and Religion” as part of the plan of studies and their integral formation.

This work is divided into 3 parts which are: the context of the experience, a brief description of the subject, and the results of the transdisciplinary project.

Part 1 The context:

UPAEP is a private university located in the city and state of Puebla, Mexico. It was founded in 1973.

There are currently 6500 undergraduate students, 312 students in the Open University system, and 700 graduate students.

In its documents UPAEP is defined as a university of catholic inspiration, founded and directed by laypeople; harmonious with this sense, its educational task is supported in the following institutional values:

  • Respect and appreciation of Truth.
  • Absolute respect to the dignity of the human person.
  • Full exercise of freedom and of its corresponding responsibility.
  • Love and respect.
  • Solidarity.
  • Justice.

Therefore the education that is proposed, attends to the integral formation of human high-quality professionals that could be differenced by being: Responsible, honest and with great ethical sense; social leaders, with spirit of commitment and supportive service; thoughtful, innovative and creative.

The Institutional philosophy of UPAEP is explained in the called document "Nature and Destiny of the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla”, in said document is found all the framework of fundamental concepts in which its educational model is founded.

UPAEP’s educational model is made up of distinct elements which are not by them a direct means towards transdisciplinary work. However, they do represent the first step towards it. This is why we have outlined the elements we consider to be most important.

  • The Institutional Philosophy and its final goals (Ideology, Mission, Vision 2015).
  • The theoretical component: the theory pictures education as being placed in “continuous interactive spaces in terms of relationships”. This covers the temporary state of the model, taking place in the present, in the historical –social reality. It is also aware of the past and forms part of the vision of the future.
  • There are three fundamental resources which interact among themselves and consolidate the essence of what is learnt or taught: “methods, languages, and values.”
  • This seeks to form undergraduates with a human and Christian-like focus and the profile of leader committed to society.
  • It recreates the operative model of the university in order to offer a university that is open to change.
  • It offers guidance to our society, generating streams of thought and contributing to creating knowledge in a diverse social, economic, political, and education areas.
  • It continues to be a model Catholic university run by secular people.
  • It impulses and develops investigation in diverse areas of knowledge.
  • It also encourages and favors appreciation and care about culture in order to promote integral formation.

For all the previous thing and in harmony with it, the area of humanistic formation has declared that its mission is "to promote since the curriculum of the UPAEP the reflection and the promotion of critical judgments, on the part of the community, with an orientation on ethics, in order to that said community can incorporate them in its social and personal life", according to the statement of the own Team of Humanistic Formation in Of 2005.

It is for this reason that the UPAEP promotes humanist formation, for example: the Department of University Integration, University Worship, Department of Leadership (the aforementioned encourage extracurricular activities that promote the formation of students) and of course, the Department of Humanities, particularly with the area of Humanistic Formation.

There are four obligatory humanist formation subjects taken in series for all degree programs: Introduction to University Thought (first semester); Studies of Humanity (second semester); General Ethics (third semester); and Social and Cultural Dynamics (fourth semester).

The subject Dialogue between Science and Religion formally registers with the code 25110, as a subject equivalent to that of Social and Cultural Dynamic. Therefore, the students that pass this virtual course will have the same value as said subject.

It is important to note that the Department of Humanistic Formation attends students of the 33 different academic programs and that the groups are constituted with them, so that in a group the students that study our subjects have contact with diverse ways to think.

In the following part we briefly introduce the subject.

Part 2: The virtual subject “The dialogue between science and religion”

The course is introduced with the following general objective: The student will understand the fundamental characteristics of the possible dialogue between science and religion, and contribute to it through self-discipline.

This is a virtual course using the Learning Manage System Blackboard as a platform which contains the documents necessary for learning and maintaining communication between the advisor and the student, and among the students.

This course has a 48 hour program for independent study and homework to be handed into the advisor.

The curriculum consists of the following 4 modules:

CURRICULUM

  1. FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS
    • SCIENCE
      • Introduction to the theory of knowledge.
      • Brief history of the development of the sciences.
      • The scientific method. The origin and the present.
    • RELIGION
      • Religion as an anthropological phenomenon.
      • Brief history of the development of religions.
      • A description of the current main religions.
  1. WHEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION HAVE MET.
    • THE FOUR TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
    • CONFLICT
      • Historical cases
    • INDEPENDENCE
      • Historical cases.
    • DILOGUE
      • Historical cases
    • INTEGRATION
      • Historical cases
  1. ACTUAL AREAS OF THE SCIENCE AND RELIGION DIALOGUE
    • COSMOLOGY AND CREATION
    • PHYSICS AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
    • CREATION AND EVOLUTION
    • NEUROSCIENCES AND THE HUMAN BEING
    • GOD AND NATURE
  1. HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE SCIENCE AND RELIGION DIALOGUE
    • THE DEMANDS OF HIGHER EDUCATION FOR THE XXI CENTURY
    • INSERTION OF THE TEACHING AND LEARNING PROCESSES OF THE SCIENCE AND RELIGION DIALOGUE
    • CONSTRUCTION OF AN EDUCATIONAL PROJECT IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION

Each module is comprised of lectures, readings and activities whose objective is to achieve learning in the students in the following manner:

Know
This includes a brief introduction in which the topics and subtopics of the module,
the class dynamic, and homework expectations are all introduced.

Reflect
This refers to the module’s preparatory activity, so that the student can identify the notions s/he may have regarding the current topic. At the end of the module, one can observe the progress in knowledge and compare these answers with those of the last point, i.e., “What did you learn?” In this section, from two to five questions are given to the students, which should then be returned to the instructor at a determined date.

Learn
This is the information that the instructor will transmit in order to broaden knowledge about a topic. This contains the theoretical documentation of the module. At the end of the readings, an activity related to the concepts could be suggested.

Live it.
This refers to the assimilation of the transmitted information reflected in an activity that permits the student to realize its utility in his/her daily life. In this section the students are invited to participate in a discussion forum.

Apply it.
This refers to the application that the topic could have through the real life case study in a local or global environment. In this section we put readings taken from news sources at the students’ disposition, from which they could apply what they have learned.

What did you learn?
The knowledge of the module is evaluated through a self-evaluation (using multimedia tools is recommended). We also use written reports in order to understand students’ thoughts.

For the means of this work, the key of this subject is that it is directed towards the experience of having inter-disciplinary groups of students from diverse majors such as medicine, law, psychology, cybernetic engineering, etc.

The group of students that are currently taking this subject is made up of students from: medicine, psychology, computer engineering, publicity design and production, journalism, marketing, economy, business administration, international relations, and law.

Transdisciplinary project.

This semester we have innovated the subject’s program by proposing a final work that promotes team work, collaborative learning, and above all a transdisciplinary focus.

The proposed work was the following:

Development of a Research Project and a transdisciplinary dissemination.

General objective: To promote the transdisciplinary work among students from diverse areas. This work is focused on a theme between science and religion. The objective is also to demonstrate that this transdisciplinary focus is not only possible but also desirable.

Specific objective:

  • Foster an open attitude, transdisciplinary thought and academic work from students.
  • FFoster collaborative learning.
  • F Foster team work.

Strategy:

The students will get together in groups no larger than 5, each student belonging to a particular and distinct area.

Each will choose a theme to tackle with an initial transdisciplinary focus. In other words, each student will participate according to their own area of knowledge and experience with the relevant concepts of this theme. Afterwards, they will make a project to make their findings known in a transdisciplinary way. In this part, the members of the team will make an effort to communicate and summarize among themselves in order to tackle the theme by trying to find common points of view from each of their areas when it comes to concepts, methodology, and common effects.

The themes are the following:

    • Cosmos
    • Origin of the universe
    • Anthropic principle
    • Evolution
    • Body and soul
    • Soul, mind, and brain

 

  • Science
  • Inter and transdisciplinary work
  • Bioethics

Any other theme proposed by the students and approved by the advisor

 

The experience and results of the best works are outlined in the paper

 

Part 3: Proposal for Previous Work and Experiences

In the Spring 2007 period, the following students enrolled. Their majors are the following:

NAME OF STUDENT

 

PROGRAM

 

ALLENDE GUERRERO ADRIAN JAHIR

Advertising

 

CASTILLO FLORES ADRIANA

Journalism

 

CASTREJON BAILON VLADIMIR

Medicine

 

CASTRO GUTIERREZ MARIA MAYELA

Institutional Management

GONZALEZ CAMACHO MARIO

Agriculture

 

HERNANDEZ EGUIBAR MARIA ISABEL

Institutional Management

HERNANDEZ PEREZ ITZIMBA

Medicine

 

HIRALES TAMEZ OMARA GABRIELA

Medicine

 

JULIAN PERAL DANIELA

 

Medicine

 

MIGONI AGUILAR GRAZIELA

Advertising

 

MONTORO VELAZQUEZ CLAUDIA

Institutional Management

MORALES ALCAZAR RUBI CORAL

Journalism

 

MORALES CARBALLO MARIA DEL CORAL

Journalism

 

RAMIREZ MENDEZ DULCE ARELY

Graphic Design

RODRIGUEZ TOLEDO DALIA

Medicine

 

HERNANDEZ LOPEZ NESTOR RUBEN

Law

 

ORTIZ LOPEZ ERIC

Business Management

 

 

We proceeded to form groups of three or tour people trying to avoid having people form the same major together, this was a motivation for multidiciplinarity in other words that members of different fields of study become involved in the final team Project.

Specific instructions on transdiciplinarity, as a condition for the final Project were given in the sole classroom session which was held.

We expect a Project which involves transdiciplinarity, due to the fact that approach to the topics must be carried out in this manner.

The final results and the conclusions of the course will be ready for the final exhibition of the project.

Previous experiences have shown us that there is impressive creativity in students when they attempt to relate Dialogue between Science and Religion and their major areas of study. Three fragments of final projects corresponding to university students of different majors between the ages of 19 and 20 appear as follows.

First essay written by a medical student:

Medicine, Bioethics and Interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinarity is the need to be able to understand the world in a global manner, in order to be able to solve problems in a global manner and to be able to think of a reality which unstructured in stagnant specializations and without communicating amongst themselves makes us lose sight of the relationships of the world, the relationships of man with the world because “man does not exist in an isolated manner, nor do things happen to us in an isolated manner.”

It is that loss of the universal view of knowledge, along with a search for solutions to problems which require more urgent responses; responses which are not partial, but total, such as the environment, peace or medical ethics. Interdisciplinary sciences evolve as a need of our times.

It is the only way in which we can once again take up knowledge where nature will be totally respected, where a human being will recuperate his universal vision. “Among our contemporaries, interdisciplinary vindication is nothing more than lost integrity.”

But how can we speak of interdisciplinarity of science, if in the passing of history this concept of universality which existed in the era of the Greeks or medieval times has been lost. At present, to once again have a concept of universality is, to have a concept of interdisciplinarity, and to have a concept of interdisciplinarity is to recuperate the global consciousness of the world.

Therefore, we can see that “interdisciplinarity is actually the association of “information” procured by various disciplines in their final act, of a nature so complex that it is undoubtedly to whom it owes its “dark” side from the point of view of pure scientific demands, which are generally satisfied where a certain homogeneity of the field of the exercise of knowledge is acquired.”….

From the point of view of theory, we can begin to glimpse an adequate definition for interdisciplinarity, but, the most interesting thing about it is that it does not lie in its eminently pragmatic character; the interaction of information which the acting sciences supply in an interdisciplinary process has a common set of problems to be solved and a common objective to be reached as a means of joining them together.

“Therefore, let us not conceive interdisciplinarity as an abstract objective, but more as a continuous movement unleashed by the needs of scientific research; a movement to which a well-defined framework of imaginative and audacious synthesis is occasionally granted”.

To have the imagination and audacity to bring together disciplines which may seem opposite; thinking of a common objective and goal is the task of interdisciplinarity. The limits can only be set by scientists’ own limits to being open and accepting the work of another scientist due to the egocentrism which would lead to vain and sterile discussions about which discipline is more or less important.

To establish limits is, in this case, to allow all sciences, depending on the established objective, to be important in conjunction. To establish an adequate definition of interdisciplinarity is to provide an apt framework so that all science involved in a task may have the appropriate statute with which to carry out their work.

In this way we can say that “the interdisciplinary approximation consists, above all, of a reciprocal exchange of scientific results and a mutual development of the diverse disciplines composed of the new discipline which emerges from the exchange itself.”

Bioethics

Whenever you hear this named, and you don’t know the exact definition of this word, you are misled by the letters and think that it is the study of biology related to ethics, but the truth is that the definition of this word is: “Bioethics is the systematic study of human behavior in the realm of the sciences of life and health”.

Your first impression of the definition is right, it was born in the United States and it was Potter who, in his writings, detected the danger the survival of the whole ecosystem faced due to the fracture between the two sources of knowledge: scientific and humanistic sources. The only possible means of solution before the imminent catastrophe was to build a bridge between the two cultures, the scientific and humanistic-moral cultures.

In the transition from Medical Ethics to Bioethics there are tour stages: the Hippocratic - medical ethics, the medical morality of theological inspiration, the contribution of modern philosophy and the reflection on human rights.

Bioethics, then, should be a rational ethics which, from the starting point of the description of the scientific, biological and medical data, rationally analyzes the lawfulness of human participation on mankind.

The emergence of this science is justified due to the advances suffered by our society and the increase in the number of experiments performed in which the respect for life has been minimum or even nonexistent.

Regarding my major and all that I have learnt about ethics in science, I think that man has lost the capability to have respect for nature and has selfishly thought he could control it and has even played God, without taking into account that no matter what we do, we will only be servants to ourselves. Therefore you should think that to do good to nature is to do good to ourselves. Alejandra Ramírez.

Another illustrative example is the work of another medical student who decided to approach the topic of Soul, Mind and Brain, from which I take the following fragments:

Soul, Mind and Brain

Introduction:

  • The search for the relationship between soul and brain is an excellent starting point to begin a dialogue between science and religion.
  • In recent years, there has been an intention of bringing these two concepts together, so that the existence and the adoption of a concept do not definitely oppose one to the other.
  • A concept is mentioned in which the expression of a true soul by means of the brain and its diverse functions has been admitted.

 Purpose:

  • To carry out a small introduction to illnesses which affect the cognitive capacity of an individual and his personality
  • To relate them with the intended role, the concept of soul should play these years.
  • To try to analyze how compatible one is to the other. Is the soul lost when consciousness is lost?

Víctor Manuel Martínez Gil.

Or better, the work of a publicist to favor of the Dialog between Science and Religion:

Campaign in favor of the dialogue between Science and Religion

Our objective is to implement a publicity campaign fostering and impelling the dialogue between scientists and religious people, thus establishing a dialogue between them in order to obtain feedback for both disciplines.

The promise that we offer through this campaign is to persuade both scientists and religious people, that by means of the dialogue between both areas, elements to promote advances between science and religion can emerge thus complementing each of these disciplines.

The means we will use for our publicity campaign will be the printed word. We will use announcements in scientific and religious magazines. The reason we will use this means is mainly because both scientists and religious people constantly read and stay informed. Announcements in these magazines would be an easy way to reach them.

For a long time science and religion have studied and researched common topics, of course each one giving a different explanation and each one defending its theories, stating and assuring that its truth is the one being lived at present.

If most of the times science and religion have topics for study in common, why not have a dialogue between them where they could express their points of view, but not in the same way they have done it so far, and not in the way they are applied now, but a dialogue where each one could share its research and respectfully, little by little they could become closer to reality, not dividing ideas, but making them one to be able to obtain results closer to that reality.

If this could be applied and carried out, I think that not only societies but the whole world would make huge progress and our reality could become clearer.

Our questionings about reality, our existence, our origins as well as an enormous number of questions that science and religion have devoted themselves to researching, would achieve answers closer to reality that so far for many is uncertain.

We think that the relationship between them would be an excellent way to be able to discover a reality very close to the truth.
Daniela Cedillo Fuentes.

Some conclusions:

Previous experiences have demonstrated to us that the nature of the subject “The Dialogue between Science and Religion” is in fact a step forward regarding the progress towards transdisciplinarity.

The students’ enrichment has been evident in the anonymous evaluation done from the experience of institutional learning.

All this impels the members of CECIR to continue with the efforts of diffusion and formation of university students in such a passionate field as is the encounter of Science and Religion.

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