Survey of Western Civilization II

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Course Length:
15 weeks

I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. --Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina

All our dignity consists…of thought…. So let us work on thinking well. --Pascal, Pensées


Required Texts:

  1. Preston Jones, A Survey of Western Civilization since the Renaissance (2007)
  2. Francis S. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2006)
  3. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio: On the Relationship between Faith and Reason (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1998)


Class Purpose:

The object of this class is to promote an understanding of the development and influence of Western society, thought and achievement. It also aims to promote intellectual and moral reflection and an awareness of the historical context of current events. The class will spend some time focusing on the philosophical work of Adam Smith and John Paul II; and several classes will be devoted to discussing the supposed conflict between Christian faith and science.


Class Grade:

Students’ grades will be based on their performance on 6 quizzes (4% each), 4 exams (12% each), a final exam (20%), and demeanor (10%), for a total possible perfect score of 102/100. Demeanor = attendance, punctuality, preparedness for class, and all that goes along with a student who “has it together.”

Most quizzes will be announced ahead of time, but some probably will not. Do not assume that there is no such thing as quizzes in consecutive classes.

  • Checkups: There will be frequent and brief checkups to ensure that students are keeping up with the syllabus. Students who do well on these checkups will be rewarded with a high grade in the “demeanor” category noted above (providing the students perform well in other areas as well). Students who do not do well on the checkups will be penalized.
  • Cell phones: If a student’s cell phone goes off in class, except in the case of an emergency, the student’s final grade will be reduced by one full letter (e.g. from “B+” to “C+”)1
  • Laptops: No laptops in class, excepting an unusual circumstance explained and agreed to by the professor.2
  • Academic Corruption: Plagiarism and other forms of academic corruption are destructive of the educational enterprise and cannot be taken lightly. Students who plagiarize or cheat will automatically fail the course and will be reported to the academic dean.
  • Make-Up Policy: In the rare event that a student will need to miss an examination for a legitimate reason (e.g. an unavoidable school-related project, a genuine emergency), the student will be allowed to make up the exam. The student should assume that the make-up examination will be more difficult than the original one. Ensure well ahead of time that no one arranges travel plans that will make it impossible for you to take exams on the assigned days.
  • Disabilities: Students with documented disabilities who need academic accommodations should make an appointment with the Director of Student Support Services to begin the accommodation process. They also are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor as soon as possible. Students without documented disabilities who feel they may have difficulty with this course are also encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor to discuss what steps need to be taken to be successful.
  • Fall Break and Thanksgiving Break: Friday, October 17 and Tuesday, November 25 are regular class days. Students should not make travel plans for Fall Break or Thanksgiving Break until after their regularly-scheduled classes have ended.
  • The Final Examination: The final examination is comprehensive. Students must sit for the final exam at the specified time. The only exceptions are death or serious illness of a member of the student's immediate family, or illness of the student as certified by the university nurse or other responsible person.


Class Schedule

Students are expected to the basic who, what, when, where, so, etc., of the items in the Jones text in bold. Otherwise, students are expected to know the answers to the questions listed below.

  • Aug. 27 Class introduction
  • Aug. 29 The Renaissance (Jones 6-9)
  • Sept. 1 Labor Day.
  • Sept. 3 The Reformation (Jones, 10-12)


  • Sept. 5 Protestantism and personal faith (Collins, 11-31)
    • What role did faith play in Collins’ childhood?
    • What position did Collins take toward belief in God when he was a college student?
    • What caused Collins to declare, “Life makes sense”?
    • What does Collins say “struck [him] profoundly”?
    • What book does Collins say had a great impact on him?
    • What does Collins mean by the “moral law”?
    • What, for Collins, is “interesting” about altruism?
    • Why does Collins say that science by itself could not “resolve the question of God”?
  • Sept. 8 The Age of Discovery (Jones 13-16)
  • Sept. 10 Europe and Islam; the “Wars of Religion” (Jones, 16-18)
  • Sept. 12 Absolutism (Jones, 19-22)
  • Sept. 15 Exam #1
  • Sept. 17 Revolution in England (Jones, 22-24)
  • Sept. 19 The first world wars (Jones, 28-34)
  • Sept. 22 The Scientific Revolution (Jones, 36-39)


  • Sept. 24 Reflecting on the Scientific Revolution (Collins, 153-158, 57-84)
  • 8Who, according to Collins, “resented” Galileo?
    • What according to one critic, did Galileo’s discovery “cast suspicion on”?
    • What, according to Augustine, is a “disgraceful and dangerous thing”?
    • What did Galileo not feel “obliged” to do?
    • What, according to Collins, can’t be sustained for long in the world of science?
    • What, according to Collins, “did much harm, both to science and to the church”?
    • To what major conclusion did Hubble’s discovery lead?
    • What is the “currently unanswered question”?
    • What, according to Collins, does the Big Bang “cry out” for?
    • What does Collins mean when he says that we are made of stardust?
    • What is the “anthropic principle”?
    • Why does Collins say that “our universe is wildly improbable”?


  • Sept. 26 Prof. is at a conference on economics at Hillsdale College
  • Sept. 29 The Enlightenment (Jones, 40-43)
  • Oct. 1 Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments: class discussion (in Jones, 140-147)
    • According to Smith, how do we go about feeling what others feel?
    • Why do we “make parade of our riches”?
    • What were Louis XIV’s “frivolous accomplishments”?
    • Who, to succeed, must acquire “superior knowledge” and “superior industry”?
    • What are the “avenging furies”?


  • Oct. 3 Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments: class discussion (in Jones, 148-154)
    • Smith writes that while our own happiness is our primary concern, it is of little concern to others. Why does he bring this up? What is his point?
    • Smith writes that people want to be praised and to be praiseworthy. What is the difference?
    • What kind of praise “can give no solid joy”?
    • What does Smith mean by “self-command”?
  • Oct. 6 Reflecting on the legacy of Enlightenment rationalism (Collins, 33-54)
    • What, according to Collins, is an “unavoidable part of belief”?
    • What sense did a Christmas carol evince in Collins when he was young?
    • What is Lewis’ point about “desire”?
    • How does Collins answer the question, “How can miracles be reconciled to a scientific worldview?”
    • Why is Collins reluctant to refer to the blooming of a flower as a “miracle”?


  • Oct. 8 “Enlightened Despotism” and the Industrial Revolution (Jones, 44-48)
  • Oct. 10 Exam #2
  • Oct. 13 The French Revolution (Jones, 52-57)
  • Oct. 15 Prof. is speaking at Roberts Wesleyan College
  • Oct. 17 The failure and legacy of the French Revolution (Jones, 58-62)
  • Oct. 20 Napoleonic Europe (Jones, 63-65)
  • Oct. 22 Nationalism, conservatism and liberalism (Jones, 68-71, 74-75)
  • Oct. 24 The Second Industrial Revolution (Jones, 79-82)
  • Oct. 27 New outlooks (Jones, 82-86)
  • Oct. 29 Exam #3


  • Oct. 31 Interlude: considering creation (Collins, 85-107, 124-142)
    • What is the basic point of Paley’s argument from design?
    • Collins writes that the universe is approximately how old?
    • About how old is the earth?
    • How did self-replicating organisms arise?
    • Why doesn’t the Second Law of Thermodynamics pose a problem for evolution?
    • What is the problem with “God of the gaps” arguments?
    • Why are fossils hard to come by?
    • What does Collins mean by “transitional forms” in the fossil record?
    • According to Collins, “no serious biologist” doubts what?
    • At the level of DNA, humans are what percentage identical?
    • What “provides powerful support for Darwin’s theory of evolution”?
    • Each person carries about how many genetic DNA mutations?
    • Why does Collins say that the distinction between micro and macroevolution is “arbitrary”?
    • Humans and chimpanzees are about what percentage identical at the level of DNA?
    • Collins quotes another scientist who says that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of _________ ”
    • What do scientists mean by the word “theory”?


  • Nov. 3 Interlude: considering creation (Collins, 171-195)
    • YEC is an acronym for what?
    • How do YECs respond to the evidence for evolution in genetic studies?
    • What modern fields of science would “collapse” if a YEC view were taken?
    • What does Collins say about Augustine’s approach to Genesis?
    • How does the YEC point of view basically make God out to be a “great deceiver”?
    • Why does Collins say that ID theory “was not born from the scientific tradition”?
    • According to leading ID theorists, who or what is the “intelligent designer”?
    • How does ID fail in “fundamental” ways to be scientific?
    • What mistake did ID make?
    • What things in human anatomy suggest something other than pure “intelligent” design?
    • What makes ID bad theology?


  • Nov. 5 Interlude: considering creation (Collins, 197-211)
    • What is “BioLogos”?
    • What is “theistic evolution”?
    • What does Collins not believe?
    • In the passage cited by Collins, how does Lewis describe the fall?


  • Nov. 7 Interlude: considering creation (Jones, 157-163)
    • Why does it seem unwise to brush aside the scientific consensus about evolutionary theory?
    • How, according to Jones, has thinking about the fall read much into the biblical account that isn’t there?
    • What, in Jones’ view, does being made in the image of God mean?
    • How does Jones think of God as a creator?
    • Why, according to Jones, is our separation from Christian tradition a problem?


  • Nov. 10 Imperialism and the prelude to the First World War (Jones, 87-90)
  • Nov. 12 The First World War (96-98)
  • Nov. 14 The First World War (98-99)
  • Nov. 17 The End of the war and its consequences (Jones, 100-102)
  • Nov. 19 The Russian Revolution and its aftermath (Jones, 103-109)
  • Nov. 21 The Road to the Second World War (Jones, 111-115)
  • Nov. 24 Exam #4
  • Nov. 26 Thanksgiving
  • Nov. 28 The Second World War (Jones, 115-119)
  • Dec. 1 The end of the war and the early Cold War (Jones, 119-126)
  • Dec. 3 The Cold War (Jones 127-129)
  • Dec. 5 The End of the Cold War (Jones 129-132)


  • Dec. 8 Fides et Ratio: class discussion (John Paul II, 9-36)
    • What are the “fundamental questions”?
    • What is “one of the noblest of human tasks”?
    • How does the Church view philosophy?
    • What is the problem with the “widespread distrust of the human being’s capacity for knowledge”?
    • What are two ways of knowing the truth about the world and God?
    • “God comes to us” in what ways and things?
    • What is “the theme of philosophy and theology alike”?
    • What is “distinctive in the biblical text”?
    • What three rules must reason follow to be “fully true to itself”?
    • How does John Paul II summarize the “human condition”?


  • Dec. 10 Fides et Ratio: class discussion (John Paul II, 37-64, 94-99)
    • What does John Paul II say resides in the “far reaches of the human heart”?
    • What is a basic characteristic of something that true?
    • How may one define human beings?
    • What role does friendship play in the search for truth?
    • How did early Christians respond to philosophy?
    • What position did St. Justin and Clement of Alexandria take?
    • How does John Paul describe Augustine’s relationship with Platonism (i.e. the philosophy of Plato)?
    • Why has the Church proposed Aquinas as “a master of thought”?
    • What is the “philosophy of nothingness”?
    • What are the two aspects of Christian philosophy?
    • What is ancilla theologae (i.e. theology’s assistant)?


  • Dec. 12 Discussion of the final
  • Dec. 16 (Tuesday) Final Exam, 1:30-3:30

1 Because the ubiquitous cell phone makes us stupid. 2 Because the desire to surf the Net (or whatever) often overpowers the desire to be a good student; and because it’s good for some places in the world to be unplugged.