A scientist in a world of religion

I've said bits of this before, but a month after submitting my last assignment is about right for some more serious reflection.

I'm a scientist whose pretty much worked in science for the last 20 years. I'm not a bench, lab or field scientist (though I've dabbled with all of them), I'm an applied scientist. Sometimes working in my specialty, sometimes working from first principles.

So why do a course in religious controversies... A332 is it's code number.

Why not? Is my first response... My more considered, with that wry smile my friends know and fear, is I'm doing this OU degree for the challenge, the fun and to regain some of that love of learning that it's so easy to lose.

I'd also classify myself as a confident, but not overly strident atheist, frankly I don't care what you believe, I do care if you foist it on others or make people live by your rules.

I'm by inclination and training I'm an analyst, but I'm an extrovert who learns discussion. So the OU is a strange experience, much of it on my own. At this point I should thank my climbing friends and lunch partners, they've been battered this last year as I've finessed arguments, and looked for them to prod for rot.

So, what have I learned - nuance. It's very ready to take a simple reactionary position, based on your perceived position. This course has been excellent in challenging us, it's willing victims, to go behind the headlines - was Ghandi a great man, or a politician with an eye for young ladies; did the Romans think Jesus mad; what impact do multicultural policies have, for the good of society or the bad; what drives people to be suicide bombers and how does ask this affect, at one extreme the individual, and at the other, international politics.

So into this I did go. With a little trepidation, how would an atheist fare? First up I wasn't alone, second up very few people ended up being challenged on what they believe.  The formal OU forums had a curious feel at times when some individuals chose to forget that the art of communication is adapting to your audience, or tried to impose a world view on others. Yes, it went to the moderators... I don't know what formally happened but the individual disappeared for a while and life returned to normal.

The informal forum on Facebook, had I think less issues, we had the odd argument and some strident people turf up, but the shared interest and willingness to learn from each other made it a safe haven as journal papers, TMAs, the EMA and dreaded Harvard referencing got on top of us.

The online communities are characterised by their robust politeness and willingness (odd individuals apart) to recognise that in the OU we all have different backgrounds and that means we have to explain and change how we explain our positions much more than in any other academic discussion.

My course feedback suggested they need to tweak the bits on Dawkins & Darwin. It may have been deliberate to show one side of the argument, but unless you knew or were inclined to check it could easily have been accepted as fact - it's the nuance that is critical. My essay on that bit got my favourite comment ever from a tutor "wow!".

My tutor group was a good mix, of good people, with the bunnies of two groups trying to meet up so we had extra brains. Salford uni on a study is never going to be buzzing, but the debates provided a spark in barren wasteland (trust me, you can't buy coffee!! The tutors bought biscuits).

So, the long wait for the final results had started, somewhere in the country a marker is, probably with a well deserved wine in hand, giggling through my 3000 words. I enjoyed writing them, I just hope they answer the question in a way they appreciate.

So, thanks to the forumites (official & unofficial), my tutor group and tutor. My marks are my fault, but you made it a blast!!! And I now get even more angry at poor reporting, it used to just be science, now its religious did as well!!




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