AP/PHIL4280 3.0 M: Science, Nature and God

Offered by: PHIL


Winter 2020






Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

This course investigates the extent to which the available scientific evidence supports the materialist view of the world over the theistic one. The approach is contemporary and it involves the systematic formulation and evaluation of arguments in the tradition of empirically-informed analytic philosophy.Prerequisites: At least 9 credits in Philosophy, or at least 6 credits in Philosophy and the permission of the instructor. (Prior to enrolling in the course, students must have completed at least 30 university credits).

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Dr. Alexandru Manafu  - I prefer live communication over email. If you must email me, then do it from the same email address that's associated with your Moodle/ York account.
Office Location:  S414A Ross Building
Office Hours:  For information about office hours please check the course’s Moodle page or what’s displayed on my office door.

    Expanded Course Description

This course investigates the extent to which the available scientific evidence supports the materialist view of the world over the theistic one. The questions addressed include: Does the scientific evidence concerning the origin and nature of the Universe, or of life and biological species better support scientific naturalism, or theism? Do the current cosmological models eliminate the need of a transcendent cause of the Universe? Is the Universe fine-tuned for life? Does life exhibit “irreducible complexity”, as the proponents of Intelligent Design have claimed? Do claims of miracles or anomalous psychological processes, as well as religious or mystical experiences (including near-death experiences) pose a theistic challenge to scientific naturalism? Do scientific explanations of religious experience and behaviour pose a naturalistic threat to theism? Are miracles compatible with the laws of nature, particularly with the law of conservation of energy? Is the scientific enterprise committed to, or even compatible with, scientific naturalism? The readings are from the philosophy of science (philosophy of physics, biology, and cognitive science), as well as from scientifically-informed philosophy of religion.

    Required Course Text / Readings

A selection of readings that will be made available on Moodle

    Weighting of Course

Participation: 10%

10 critical comments on the readings, each worth 1%: 10%

Presentation: 10%

Paper draft: 20%

Final paper: 50%


Participation involves sharing personal viewpoints, bringing up questions, answering to questions, making connections, making observations, and in general being active in the seminar.


Before each seminar session, you will have the opportunity to write a critical comment on the readings for that week. Your comments must engage deeply with the readings; in devising them, you are expected to use your philosophical creativity. You should devote a considerable amount of time creating these comments. Each submitted comment is worth 1%, which will be awarded to all and only to those submissions that are reasonably well prepared and that meet a reasonably high standard of scholarship. Zero marks or fraction marks are also possible. No late critical comments will be accepted.


Late penalty for papers: 10% of the value of the paper/ each 24 hours.


NOTE: The grading scheme will be respected strictly. I do not typically go back and revise the grades of students, nor do I allow students to do extra work to boost their marks. The main reason for this is my commitment to treat all students equally.

    Organization of the Course


    Course Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand and explain the following ideas and interpret their relevance for the naturalism-theism debate: Big-Bang, singularity, multiverse, fine-tuning, irreducible complexity, intelligent design, religious experience and behaviour, miracles and laws of nature, miracles and conservation of energy, etc.
  • Analyze, summarize, and critically evaluate scientifically-informed arguments relevant to the naturalism-theism debate, as well as the relevant empirical evidence from cosmology, biology and cognitive science.
  • Articulate your own philosophical standpoints and arguments concerning the scientific evidence relevant to naturalism and theism, as well as express them cogently, both orally and in writing.
  • Recognize the empirical and philosophical assumptions present in your own beliefs about naturalism and theism, as well as in the beliefs of others; be able to reflect critically on these assumptions, and engage constructively with opposing viewpoints.
    Relevant Links / Resources