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APO 565
Course Title: Reading Science in the Light of Faith

Biology and the Human Body

Term: Fall 2017

Dr. Stacy A. Trasancos, PhD

strasancos@holyapostles.edu

774.287.9171

1. COURSE DESCRIPTION

This online course teaches the non-scientist student how to articulate developments in current research in biological or biochemical fields—with particular emphasis on evolutionary biology, genetics, or neuroscience as it relates to the human body—by reading scientific papers. Then the course teaches how to classify the conclusions in the scientific papers as neutral, contradictory, or consistent with the tenets of Catholic faith, particularly as it relates to St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body.

2. ENVISIONED LEARNING OUTCOMES

Unit One: The Nuts and Bolts of Scientific Papers

Unit Two: Sorting Science in the Light of Faith

Unit Three: Pastoral Publishing of the Faith and Science Dialogue

3. COURSE SCHEDULE (From Fall 2016 Course)

Unit One: The Nuts and Bolts of Scientific Papers

Week 1: Introduction

Lecture: Welcome and Information

Assignment: The Preliminaries

Week 2: How Scientific Work is Done

Lecture

Assignment

Week 3: How Scientific Papers Are Organized

Lecture

Assignment

Bonus

Week 4: How to Summarize a Scientific Paper

Lecture

Assignment

Week 5: Digging Into the Literature

Lecture

Assignment

Unit Two: Sorting Science in the Light of Faith

Week 6: When Science Contradicts Doctrine

Reading Assignment

Assignment

Week 7: Identifying Legitimate Opinions

Reading Assignment

Assignment

Week 8: When Science is Consistent With Doctrine

Lecture

Assignment

For next week:

Week 9: How to Articulate an Opinion of a Paper

Email me:

Assignment

For Week 10:

Week 10: Assessment of a Scientific Paper

Email communication:

Assignment

Weeks 11 - 14:

Unit Three: Pastoral Publishing of the Faith and Science Dialogue

Week 11: Finding Sources for Field of Research Paper

Email communication:

Assignment

Weeks 12 - 14:

Week 12: Submit Outline of Field of Research Paper

Assignment

Weeks 13 - 14:

Week 13: Reviewing and Editing Field of Research Paper

Assignment

Weeks 14:

Week 14: Finalizing Field of Research Paper

Assignment

Beyond:

4. COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Methodology

Using online meetings, course management software, and written communication, the seminarian will be guided through the evaluation of a single scientific paper from a refereed journal and then a broader field of research. The two evaluations will be edited and (optionally) published on a website designed to share the fruits of the course. The purpose for publication is to give the seminarian tangible pastoral experience leading the laity through modern challenges in science. Publication provides a real-life, built-in assessment process—a course presentation beyond the course.

The next best thing to doing lab work is reading what scientists report in their scientific papers in refereed journals, so this course begins with instruction and guidance on reading scientific papers. The first 5-week segment, “Unit One: The Nuts and Bolts of Scientific Papers,” teaches 1) how scientific work is generally done per the scientific method in laboratories, 2) how scientific papers are organized once a set of experiments yields data that can be analyzed into proposed conclusions to share with the scientific community, 3) how to read and summarize a published scientific paper in a refereed journal, and 4) how to dig into the scientific record to gain historical context about the development of a specific area of research. During the first segment, weekly quizzes will be given and reviewed to reinforce the material and develop literature research skills.

Once the science is summarized, it can be assessed in the light of faith. The second 5-week segment, “Unit Two: Sorting Science in the Light of Faith,” teaches 1) how to assess whether provisional scientific conclusions directly contradict dogmatic tenets of the Catholic faith, particularly St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body, 2) how to identify questions where legitimate opinions may be explored and defended, 3) and how to see when scientific conclusions, provisional though they are, are consistent with what has been divinely revealed about the Creation of the physical realm. Emphasis in this segment is on the way to communicate “science in the light of faith” without subjecting faith to science.

Weekly quizzes will also be given during the beginning of the second segment. At the end of the second segment, a paper will be due that interprets the scientific content in the light of faith for the pastoral purpose of guiding the laity. This paper will undergo an editing process for publication on a website dedicated to the courses. The paper will first be edited by peer review among two students in the class, thereby giving students further exposure to exploring scientific topics, and then the paper will be edited by an expert competent to review science and faith writing, thereby mimicking the scientific refereed journal publication process. The final paper will be graded, but the editing process is meant to ensure success and excellence.

The third 5-week segment, “Unit Three: Pastoral Publishing of the Faith and Science Dialogue,” will be a guided study of a particular topic (i.e. a collection of scientific papers) chosen by the student within boundaries in the biological or biochemical fields with particular emphasis on evolutionary biology, genetics, or neuroscience as it relates to the human body.

The final research project will also be prepared for publication. The paper will present the scientific context and current conclusions of the active area of research and provide a detailed analysis of how the research should be understood in the light of faith. The paper will be reviewed and edited before publication. Thus, the seminarian will go from a) comprehending scientific developments to b) appraising them in the light of faith to c) communicating his synthesis to the faithful. Publishing online is optional, but strongly encouraged. For those who do not wish to publish, the opportunity to further help with editing will be available.

It could be argued that a seminarian does not have the time or ability to read research papers produced at the doctoral and postdoctoral academic levels, but to navigate the science in the greater light of faith, one must be able to first follow the science as it develops in current times, which is more important than acquiring a textbook knowledge of entire fields. Reading a scientific paper does not require a doctorate in science because the papers are written in an orderly and concise way. The skill requires a discipline to comprehend words with precise technical meanings. Seminarians are particularly well-suited for this exercise because they already read the organized theological documents of the Church and the structured, logically rigorous questions and answers of St. Thomas Aquinas. Teaching seminarians to read scientific papers is a matter of teaching them how to transfer their skills to a new type of document.

Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei that “faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.” This quote represents the spirit of the course. The education and work of a scientist today is exceedingly specialized. Scientists are not taught philosophy or theology, and often do not know much about the history of their own fields or the details of research beyond their specialties. Therefore, a seminarian or priest (or philosopher or theologian) can “broaden the horizons of reason” and “shed greater light” on scientific investigation. Such a visionary not only pastorally guides the faithful in navigating science; he ultimately aids the scientific community by interpreting science in a broader context and helping to guide its progress.

5. REQUIRED READINGS and RESOURCES:

6. SUGGESTED READINGS and RESOURCES:

Optional Resources:

Examples of papers and assessments:

Biochemical

Evolutionary Biology

Metabolism

Genetics/Neuroscience

7. EVALUATION

Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl).

GRADING SCALE:

A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

4. GRADING RUBRIC FOR TESTS AND DISCUSSION POSTINGS

F

D

C

B

A

CONTENT

Absence of Understanding

Posting shows no awareness of the concepts addressed in the topic by shifting off-topic

Misunderstanding

Posting demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic through an inability to re-explain them

Adequate Understanding

Posting demonstrates an adequate understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic by a re-explanation of them

Solid understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic and uses that understanding effectively in the examples it provides

Insightful understanding

Posting demonstrates an understanding of the basic concepts of the topic through the use of examples and by making connections to other concepts

WRITING & EXPRESSION

Incomplete writing

Posting is only partially written or fails to address the topic

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Posting touches only on the surface of the topic and proceeds to talk about something else; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Posting is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment;  satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors

Solid writing with something interesting to say

Posting is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples;  level-appropriate syntax and diction;  mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error

command-level writing, making a clear impression

Posting is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development ; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage

RESEARCH

Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Grading Rubric for Papers

F

D

C

B

A

F

CONTENT

Absence of Understanding

Analysis shows no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Analysis seems to misunderstand some basic concepts of the discipline or lacks ability to articulate them.

Inadequate understanding

Analysis is sometimes unclear in understanding or articulating concepts of the discipline.

Adequate understanding

Analysis demonstrates an understanding of basic concepts of the discipline but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Analysis demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Analysis clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the discipline as they relate to the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.

RESEARCH

Missing Research

Paper shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.

Excellent critical research and documentation

Critically selected and relevant scholarly sources demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; sources skillfully incorporated into paper at all necessary points; all citations follow standard bibliographic format.

WRITING & EXPRESSION

Incomplete writing

Analysis is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Analysis fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Episodic writing, a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Analysis noticeably neglects or misinterprets the topic; simplistic or repetitive treatment, only partially-internalized; weak organization and development, some meandering; simple sentences, below-level diction; distracting errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Analysis is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Analysis is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Analysis is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.

8. DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY

Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.

9. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY

Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.

10. ATTENDANCE POLICY

Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.

11. INCOMPLETE POLICY

An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

12. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR


Stacy A. Trasancos is a wife and homeschooling mother of seven. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from Penn State University and a MA in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She teaches chemistry and physics for 
Kolbe Academy online homeschool program. She teaches “Reading Science in the Light of Faith” at Holy Apostles College & Seminary and “The Theology of Science" at Seton Hall University. She is author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. Her new book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science (Ave Maria Press) comes out October 2016. She works from her family’s 100-year old restored lodge in the Adirondack mountains, where her husband, children, and two German Shepherds remain top priority. Her website can be found here.