Spring 2004

Dr. James W. Jones

Office hours: MW 10:00-12:00

Ph. 732-932-9623 [Please use this phone number and not email to contact Dr. Jones]



Purpose.  The purpose of this seminar is to explore the relationship between some of the findings of contemporary neuroscience research and traditional religious views of the self. Students will be exposed to three different models of human selfhood from three different religious traditions – Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism -  and several controversial areas in contemporary neuroscience


G. Peterson, Minding God: Theology and the Cognitive Sciences

W. Brown, N. Murphy, N. Maloney, Whatever Happened to the Soul?

A.Newberg, E. D’Aquilli, V. Rause,  Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the

Biology of Belief.

All additional readings are on electronic reserve thru the Rutgers Library System under the instructor’s name

Weekly Papers. To facilitate discussion, at the beginning of each unit, starting with the second, each student is to bring a one page reaction paper to class. The first paragraph should summarize what you see as the most important points of the assigned reading and the second paragraph should offer a critical evaluation of the reading in a way that raises some questions or issues for discussion. Papers will be graded and returned to you. All the papers are to be saved and handed in together on the last day of class.

Term papers & presentations. Each student is required to write an 8-10 page paper on the implications of some aspect of contemporary neuroscience for a particular religious tradition. You may choose both the aspect of neuroscience and the religious tradition you write about. Each paper must contain at least the following three elements: (1) it must start with a paragraph or two clearly stating what aspect of neuroscience and what religious tradition you are discussing; (2) it must clearly describe the religious claims and neuropsychological findings you are focusing on; (3) it must then contain your own analysis and reflections comparing and contrasting the relevant religious and scientific claims. A first draft of this essay is due the beginning of class on the Monday after spring break (3/22). No extensions will be given. Papers with comments will be returned to you. During the final two weeks of class each student will present his conclusions regarding the implications of contemporary neuroscience. On the last day of class (5/3), students are to hand in both the final version of this essay taking account of the instructor’s feedback on the first draft and the comments during the class presentation and the first draft with the instructor’s comments.

Note: No extensions will be given on any of the written assignments.

Class participation. Since this is a seminar, there will be a minimum of lectures after the first unit and so class participation will be the major determinant of the final grade. No one will receive a passing grade who does not make a regular contribution to the class discussion.

Note: All cell phones, pagers, etc. must be turned off in class. Anyone whose device goes off during class will be asked to leave for the remainder of that period.

                                               Course Outline

1/21/ Introduction

1/26/-1/28 Thinking about science and religion

Reading: Peterson, Minding God, Chapter 1

In addition, students who have not previously had a course with Dr. Jones that discussed the issue of religious and scientific knowledge should look at J. W. Jones, The Texture of Knowledge, which is also available on electronic reserve under the course 840:222, Issues in Religious Thought. [Note no reaction paper is due for this unit]

2/2-2/4 Models of Self in Hinduism

Reading: “There is nothing that is not Spirit” from the Upanishads

[Note: first reaction paper due at the beginning of class 2/2]

2/9-2/11 Models of Self in Christianity

Reading: Whatever happened to the Soul?, chapters 7, 8, 10.

2/16-2/18  Models of Self in Buddhism

Reading: J. Strong. The Buddhist Experience, chapters 3.2-3.3

                Consciousness at the Crossroads, articles by A. Wallace

2/23 – 2/25 Models of Self in Contemporary Neuroscience: Reductionism

Reading: Peterson, Minding God, Chapters 2 & 4

                D. Dennett, Consciousness Explained, “qualia disqualified”

                Whatever Happened to the Soul, chapter 1

3/1-3/3 Models of Self in Contemporary Neuroscience: Scientific Dualism

Readings: W. Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind, Chapters 20-21

                  K. Popper & J. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain, chapter E-7, “The Self-

                              conscious mind and the brain.”

                  D. Chambers, “Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness”                                   

3/8 – 3/10, 3/22-3/24 Non-Reductive Physicalism

Reading: Peterson, Minding God, Chapter 3

              Whatever happened to the Soul, chapter 6

               R. Sperry, “Search for beliefs to live by consistent with science.”

               J. Jones, “Can Neuroscience Provide a Complete account of human nature?”

Note no class 3/15- 317; first draft of final essays due 3/22 at the start of class.

3/29- 3/31 Free-will, Volition, and Responsibility

Reading: Whatever happened to the Soul?, chapters 4, 5.

               M. Velmans, “How could conscious experiences affect brains?”

4/5-4/7, 4/12-4/14Neuro-imaging and Religious experience

Reading: Peterson, Minding God, Chapter 5

               Newberg ,  D’Aquilli,  Rause, Why God Won’t Go Away, chapters 1-3, 6-9.

               V.S. Ramachandra, Phantoms in the Brain, chapter 9.

4/19,4/21,4/26,4/28 – student presentations

5/3 last day of class. In a folder, students are to hand in both the first draft and the final draft of their essays, and all their reaction papers with grades and comments fastened together. No extensions will be given