December 23, 2003

Pollack, Robert
[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

The topics this class is attempting to address (origin of the universe, nature of reality, nature of consciousness, etc.) are so huge individually that a comparative discussion in the course of one semester is bound to have shortcomings. That said, there were many interesting readings, and Pollack's lectures are worth the price of admission. This course has two professors: Pollack does the Western science and religion sections & Joe Loizzo does the Eastern sections. Pollack is incredibly articulate, and makes even the most obstruse readings seem simple. He comes to class well prepared, and his lectures have structured arguments. This guy is really smart, and has fascinating ways of justifing his religious beliefs with his scientific ones. Loizzo is clearly a less experienced teacher, and did not always succeed in bringing across his ideas. He also focused mainly on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which I found far less interesting than the East Asian Buddhism and Taoism with which I was already familiar. I could have done without all the 10th century Buddhist influenced, Hindu influenced, Indian philosophy, of which there was a lot and from which I got very little. Perhaps others found these readings more enlightening though.
This was the first time the course has been taught (fall '03), and it will doubtless be much better next time around. But it got me thinking about interesting stuff and was well worth taking. The papers were very open ended, and could be based on only the reading from class if you wanted. I did much better on both papers than I expected.

Workload:

5 page midterm & 8-10 page final paper. 100 pages of reading a week. But Pollack said if he teaches the course again there will be less reading and more writing.