Faculty: James Patterson
How Do We Know What We Know?
This course will explore how our understanding of the natural world has developed throughout history. We will begin with an overview of pre-classical and classical understanding of nature, placing considerable emphasis on Greek natural philosophy, emphasizing Aristotle and Ptolemy. We will then explore how modern ideas emerged and replaced those earlier ideas, particularly during the Renaissance.
Examples will include, but not be limited to: development of the heliocentric model of the solar system, Newtonian mechanics and the break from Aristotle, discovery of the cell and DNA, Darwinian evolution, development of atomic and molecular theory, development of quantum theory, cosmology and the Big Bang theory. One important aspect of the course will be a discussion of how models aid our understanding of the natural world. We will also discuss current frontiers in science, including recent work at the Large Hadron Collider and the ramifications for string theory, climate modeling, and other topics to be chosen by the students. A portion of the final class period will discuss the "conflict" between science and religion and how we can be practicing members of the Church and also practicing scientists by recognizing that science and religion are fundamentally concerned with different questions.
Faculty: Patrick Steffen
Why Stress? Understanding Stress, Health, and the Plan of Salvation
In John 16:33, the Lord said “…in the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Life is stressful, particularly college life, and recognizing this fact is the first step towards healthy adaptation. The second step is to identify your personal stressors and then implement effective coping strategies that work in your life. The goals of this course are to teach the basic physiology underlying stress and the psychological factors that contribute to stress, and then experiment with stress directly. Students will conduct an experiment on their own stress physiology, learning how to collect objective physiological data, such as heart rate, using inexpensive technology and smart phone apps. Students will then write brief reports of their experiment and share their experiences with the class. Together we will better recognize that stress is part of the Plan of Salvation, and that we can cope with God’s help.
Faculty: Kristine Hansen
What is the Relationship of Rhetoric to Truth?
Latter-day Saints believe in revealed truth. We believe that we should guide our lives as much as possible by truth. Yet we realize that in many ways we operate by the light of the best knowledge we can get-which might not be completely true. We know that many voices try to persuade us to believe something is true, but how much can we trust those voices? The question of the relationship between rhetoric (the art of persuasion) and truth is one that was first raised in ancient Athens and continues to occupy us today: Should we believe what politicians say? Should we believe advertisements? Should we believe what our teachers tell us? Should we believe scientists and doctors?
Faculty: Mark Purves
Can Christianity Solve the Problem of Evil and Suffering?: A Beautifully Messy Theodicy
This course explores the question through a reading of The Brothers Karamazov, the final and most significant novels of Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Few works of art rival Dostoevsky’s literary theodicy: a justification of God’s existence and goodness in view of the existence of evil. Discussing a novel that emphasizes the importance of ordinary acts of goodness and the power of choice, students will draw on their own religious experiences to make sense of Dostoevsky’s novel – an understanding of which will prepare them for the challenges their testimonies will meet in the future.
Faculty: Richard Gill and Christopher Oscarson
Why Human Adolescence?
One of the great mysteries of human biology is why the ages between 12-21 produce individuals who are impulsive, irrational, peer-centric, and who avoid parental intervention. Using insights from classic texts, modern Young Adult fiction, film, and biology, we will explore the characteristics, consequences, perception, and evolution that define adolescence. Students in this course will come to understand and articulate questions surrounding the phenomenon of adolescence with grounding in a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This introduction will enable them to raise critical questions about the development of the individual, the development of peer attachment, and the development of adult relationships with parents and family from multiple perspectives.
Faculty: Joey Franklin
To Thine Own Self Be Who? Creative Writing and Self-Discovery
The Apostle Paul once exhorted the Corinthian saints with this charge: “Examine Yourselves.” Fifteen hundred years later, the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne based his life’s work on one question: “What do I know?” and in Act 1, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius tells the Danish prince: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” But who is this mysterious “self,” and how do we examine it, explore what it knows, and in the end, be true to what we discover? Such questions will take a lifetime to address, and each of us must come up with our own answers, but here in this course we will develop some creative and critical skills to start that process. Taking cues from some fantastic writers of creative nonfiction, we will write creatively about ourselves in relation to family, nature, art and society, and each of us will come away with a better understanding of not only who we are, but why, and what that means for us while we are here at BYU.
Faculty: Todd Fisher and Michael Call
What are the Odds? Probability in Math and the Humanities
From Renaissance debates about free will to modern neurological experiments, human beings have long wrestled with notions of randomness, determinism, fate, and chance. To what extent is the world around us predictable? How about our own actions and decisions? In this course, we will examine different and evolving ways of thinking about these issues through two sometimes distant fields of human inquiry: mathematics and the humanities. The invention of probability math in the seventeenth century sparked a revolution in economics, politics, and even theology, and the field’s later developments (including the emergence of chaos theory) continue to impact the way that we view the world and our place in it. How have writers, artists, and composers reflected (or even at times opposed) this shifting perspective? Out of the seeming chaos of a course that combines mathematicians like Descartes and Poincaré with Surrealist poetry and aleatory music, order will emerge, providing a richer appreciation of human thought and creativity.
Faculty: Aaron Eastley
Who Speaks for the “Other”? British Fantasy and Multicultural Morality
The big question of who should speak for the “Other” (and how) is an issue that has generated fierce debate in the literary field. Within the theoretical field of Subaltern Studies it is generally agreed that all people, regardless of status derived from wealth, gender, race, faith, and so on, should be empowered as much as possible to artistically represent their own lived experiences. But critics are fiercely divided on the role that ought to be played by sympathetic outsiders.
This course seeks to consider how three very well-known British writers of the 20th century have, through the ostensibly otherworldly genre of fantasy, had a profound impact on the thinking of recent generations of readers. We will look at The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, and the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling, including film adaptations of these classics. We will discuss the subject position of the authors relative to the debates of Subaltern Studies, and the potential functionality of fantasy as an unlikely but uniquely potent social/political/moral force. Our aim will be to consider how Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling have influenced especially racial thinking through their representations of such varied creatures as elves and dwarves, Wild Men and orcs, talking beasts and Calormens, house elves and giants and mermaids and werewolves.
Faculty: Paul Jenkins and Darrin Doud
The Mathematics of Secrecy
Ancient secret codes, modern computer encryption, and perfect secrecy: In this course we will learn about the mathematics of cryptography. We’ll look at codes and ciphers in literature and in Brigham Young’s letters, and study classical cryptosystems, elementary number theory, public and private key cryptography, RSA, quantum cryptography, and how to keep credit card numbers safe on the Internet. No advanced mathematics prerequisites needed, just curiosity and a love of puzzles. OV GLOI ENHII UBX MONN NPHAV LBM GB XIP HVQ YAPHC TONOGHAU KAHQP PVEAUDGOBV.
Faculty: R. Steven Turley
Quantum Weirdness: Exploring the Nature of Reality
Nature in the realm of things the size of atoms and nuclei behaves very differently than what we’re used to on the scale of people-sized things. Objects have properties that are probabilistic rather than definite: An electron can go through two different slits at the same time; the magnetic field associated with a particle can be detected as pointing either up or down, particles with their anti-particle pairs can be created from a vacuum and then later annihilate each other in a flash of gamma rays. Some think the ideas of quantum mechanics can only be understood using high-level math. We will explore the ideas and implications of quantum mechanics using nothing more than high school algebra. In the process we’ll consider such far reaching ideas as: What does it mean to know something? Is there such a thing as objective reality? What does the omniscience of God mean? How can we live in a predictable world if it’s governed at its most fundamental level by uncertain events? What is the nature of matter at its most fundamental level?
Faculty: Heather Belnap-Jensen
Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History: How Have Women Changed the Modern World?
Over 40 years ago, noted historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich made the passing comment that “well-behaved women seldom make history”—an observation that was meant to point out that ordinary women’s lives have been overlooked. Over the years, this slogan has come to mean quite the opposite—that women who have advanced important social, political, and cultural causes are the ones who have refused conventional ideas of female propriety.
This course will study key women in modern history who have effected important social, cultural, and political change. Beginning with the women of the French Revolution, moving through the suffragette, New Woman, and Civil Rights movements, and ending with a discussion of women in the contemporary scene, we will ask how women have responded to and shaped debates regarding individual agency, citizenship, roles and spheres of influence, and other issues central to the human experience in the last 200 years or so. Writings, artworks, and other creative products by and about women, along with representations of women in media, will form the basis of this course as we visit museums and special collections to view art and documents. Then, we’ll end with our culminating activity, a “Dead Dames Debate.”