Last week was the first real week of teaching in that it was the first week when we had content-driven classes. So Tuesday saw me walking into class for a three-hour seminar on Galileo (to be repeated again on Thursday). The reading was relatively easy – Drake’s translations of Starry Messenger (1610), Letters on Sunspots (1613) and the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615) – so I expected no major problems with that. One of the most difficult things, in my mind at least, is trying to convince students about how novel Galileo’s finisings were. They know about the moons of Jupiter, they know about heliocentrism (unlike the approximately 25% of Americans who apparently don’t), they have perhaps used better telescopes than Galileo, and they see Hubble Space Telescope pictures on a regular basis. We ended up spending the first two hours examining Galileo’s evidence and how it proved difficult to explain using the Ptolemaic model, with brief pauses on Copernicus, Kepler, and Brahe. I ended by tying it all in with Descartes (who we are reading this week) and Newton (next week).
The last hour we spent on the Letter, more as a teaser to the issues about science and religion that we will encounter when we discuss Kant, Paley, Hume, and, of course, Darwin. All in all, it was a relatively successful class, though there was probably a little too much talking from me (perhaps justifiable in that there was a lot of grounding material to be covered for the next few weeks).
Wednesday’s class it totally different – a three hour lecture (mostly) course on Origins, Evolution and Creation. This week I was supposed to cover (albeit briefly) the nature of science & religion and to introduce the students to the Documentary Hypothesis and Genesis (this in preparation for the few weeks we will be spending on young-earth creationism). Sadly, for me at least, I never got round to the latter portion of the class and now have to figure out where to put the material in this week’s lecture on pre-Darwinian thought. The good news, though, was that the class of 45 talked, asked questions, and generally interacted with me … always good especially in a lecture course for (mostly) non-majors.