Religious Studies or History of Science
This assignment relates to Block 4. When you have completed it, please send it to your tutor to arrive no later than 22nd February 2008.
You are asked to answer one question only from the two printed below. Both questions require you to write an essay of no more than 1,200 words.
How far do you think observing a visible religious activity, such as a festival, can help you to understand the part a religion plays in the life of an individual and a community?
Units 14 and 15, together with DVD2, Tracks 14 and 15, provide you with many and varied examples of visible religious activities. In discussing this question you can draw on these or any other examples with which you are familiar. It is up to you whether you take a wide range of visible activities or simply discuss one in great detail. If you wish to focus on one, Unit 15 gives you more than enough to work on in its examination of the Hindu festival of Durga Puja, or, of course, you can find your own example.
The purpose of the question is to test your understanding of the kind of model that scholars might use when they set about studying a religion. Units 14-15, Section 4, devote considerable attention to Ninian Smart’s ‘dimensional model’ and the units return to this on several occasions. In discussing this kind of approach, however, the units also emphasise that many of the claims and experiences associated with religious activity are not so open to investigation. In planning your answer, you will need to give careful thought to the examples you intend to use, ensure that you show what the observation of your examples tells us about their place in the lives of individuals and communities, and, finally, give some consideration to the issue that lies at the heart of the question – how far you think this kind of approach takes us in trying to understand the religious activity you have encountered.
History of Science
Assess the claim that Alfred Russell Wallace is a casualty of our preoccupation with scientific heroes.
What evidence could be drawn on to support or contradict this assertion?
You will need to draw on Block 4, Units 16-17, to consider how notions of the scientific hero were formed in Wallace’s own time and subsequently. This in turn involves assessing what counted as credible scientific achievement in nineteenth-century England and what could compromise that sense of achievement and the corresponding image of heroism. The discussion of ‘science’ and ‘scientists’ in Section 2 and 5, the historical background surrounding scientific achievement in Section 3, and some comparative points made about Charles Darwin and Wallace, should provide ample material for your discussion.
Personal note of substantial irritation:
I am so fucking annoyed with this question that frankly I find it difficult to articulate myself without swearing.
Why on earth do the guidance notes restrict the student to (and I quote) nineteenth-century England?
Wallace wasn’t even English – he was born in Wales and his family ancestry is firmly rooted in Scotland (I’ll give you a clue guys, look at his surname!).
But on a wider issue – was there no scientific community in the rest of Great Britain?
Of course there bloody well was – with the majority of scientific output at this time coming from Scotland rather than England.
Presumably this mis-sighting is all down to some complete and utter ignorant twat at the Open University thinking that England is Great Britain.
I’ve got news for you twat.
The reality is that England is a component rather than the whole.
With – presumably – high-level people at the OU having mindsets like this, what chance does the quality of the rest of the course stand?