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    Beginning with the contemporary debates regarding creationism, alternative medicine, and witchcraft (Wicca), the paper examines the relation between the modern sciences and the worlds of Kabbalah, alchemy, and apocalyptic religion from which they emerged.

    In our own day, science enjoys enormous prestige and is clearly distinguished from both religion and magic. But it was not always so. The great founder of modern science, Isaac Newton, dabbled in alchemy and wrote commentaries on the Bible of a kind we would now regard as crazy. So how did science emerge from a world of mysticism and magic?
    The paper tries to answer this question by examining two early modern thinkers: Giordano Bruno, who was put to death by the Roman Inquisition, and Galileo Galilei, who escaped the same fate by renouncing his scientific views.

    About this paper

    Paper title Religion, Science, and Magic
    Subject Religious Studies
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period(s) Summer School (Distance learning)
    Summer School (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    18 200-level RELS or RELX points
    RELS 217
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Theology

    May not be credited alongside RELS 217.


    Professor Greg Dawes:

    Teaching staff
    Lecturer: Professor Greg Dawes
    Paper Structure

    The paper is worth 18 points, which is equivalent to 12 hours of work each week. Outside of classes, 9 hours a week should be devoted to your own study and assignment preparation.

    Weekly Exercises in Class: 15%
    Essay Outline 5%
    Essay: 25%
    Final Examination: 55%

    Teaching Arrangements

    On campus there will be two lectures and one tutorial each week.
    Distance students will have access to recorded lectures and an online discussion forum.


    There is a coursebook for the paper. PDF copies of the coursebook and associated readings will be made available on Blackboard. There is no other textbook required.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes
    Students who successfully complete this paper will be able to
    • Understand the premodern distinction between religion, science and magic
    • Understand the emergence of our modern conceptions of religion and magic and our modern attitudes towards magic
    • Understand the echoes of these historical changes in our contemporary popular culture


    Summer School

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system

    Summer School

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 14:00-15:50 2-7
    Wednesday 14:00-15:50 2-7
    Thursday 14:00-15:50 2-7
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