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COLLEGE STATION, TX - The Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) is offering a course this
fall that is somewhat different from its typical topics of anatomy
and physiology. Dr. W.R. Klemm, Professor of
Neuroscience at the CVM, is teaching Neuroscience and Religion as
an upper-division undergraduate BIMS elective.
"We will explore how neuroscience and religion should inform and
enrich each other," Klemm said. Although the course will be based
in reading assignments from his textbook, titled "Core Ideas in
Neuroscience," those principles will be accompanied by religious
and philosophic perspectives. For example, when discussing
evolution of the nervous system, the students will also consider
the Biblical book of Genesis and other creation stories. The lesson
about action potentials-the cellular process that transmits
information within and between neurons-will also include a
discussion of Descartes and dualism between mind and brain.
"Many people struggle with the conflicts between evolution and
religion," Klemm said. "As a neuroscientist, I know that the human
mind has a material basis, and that may cause even more cognitive
dissonance for people." In other words, if physical processes in
the brain give rise to the concept we call the mind, what does that
mean for free will, the concept of self, and even the soul?
"Many polls show that most scientists are atheists," Klemm said.
"I think that is unfortunate to say the least."
One of Klemm's goals for the course is to show students that
science and theology don't have to contradict each other. "I am
hoping that the students learn to be more introspective, open
minded, and mature about their spirituality," Klemm said. "I fully
expect this course will change the beliefs of everyone involved,
and that includes me."
When asked why they wanted to take the class, students cited
curiosity, the opportunity to challenge themselves, and a general
interest in the two subjects of science and religion. Several noted
the uniqueness of the combination of topics, with one student
commenting that she enrolled to get a different perspective on
both. Finally, some students just went with a reason one doesn't
often hear: "I just thought it would be fun."
The course, which is limited to 20 students to facilitate
discussion and interaction, filled the same day it was announced.
These students are mostly Biomedical Science (BIMS) majors, but
four are majoring in something else-anthropology and psychology,
for example-and pursuing the religious studies minor.
The course satisfies the university standards for a "writing
(W)" certification. Klemm requires students to write, comment on,
and lead class discussions of their essays and summaries of
research papers in both fields that integrate neuroscience and
religion. Writing can develop student abilities to organize and
clarify their thinking, and Klemm critiques every essay to help
students develop communication skills.
"I was so delighted when Dr. Klemm contacted me and told me he
was going to offer a course in neuroscience and religion," said Dr.
Donnalee Dox, Director of the Texas A&M Religious Studies
Program in the College of Liberal Arts. "The relationship between
science and religion is an up and coming field, and I'm very
excited about this class."
Dox spoke to the students for a few minutes during the first
class session about how to study religion in an academic setting,
noting the different approaches researchers can take. Speaking to
the BIMS majors in the class, she noted that the study of religion
has more grey areas than they might be used to in some of their
other courses, and advised trying to accept those ambiguities.
Klemm and Dox have also submitted a pre-proposal to the
Templeton Foundation to enhance the course and to develop an
academic discipline around the theme of "Belief Neuroscience," with
an emphasis on why humans believe things-religious and
otherwise-even with incomplete evidence.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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