A103 TMA06

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.

Religious Studies

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?

Guidance note:
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?

Guidance note
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?


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10 Responses to A103 TMA06

  1. cha0tic says:

    “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?”

    Not very far. Now how do I pad that out to 1200 words? 🙂

    Also I had no idea who Alfred R. Wallace was. 20 minutes reading later. Wow. What a life. I’ve learned something new today. Thankyou.

  2. Citronella says:

    I am actually more worried about the “or”.

    What have “religious studies” to do with “history of science”?

    Unless, that is, you are in the US and having this creationism vs. evolutionism fight I don’t even want to think about.

  3. Harry says:

    Yes a particularly unconsidered way of phrasing a question. Especially given the high proportion of Scottish scientists and engineers that appeared in British history.

    Interestingly though Brennig I can’t think off the top of my head of any Welsh scientists. Obviously Wales has contributed much culturally and politically to the Union but I can’t think of any scientists. Can any one enlighten me?


  4. Brennig says:

    Aye H, and on this very sunny Dewi Sant I’ll just chuck the one in: Sir William Grove who, in 1843 developed the idea of and built the first hydrogen fuel cell (the technology which put Gemini and Apollo rockets in to space and on to the moon).

    There’s this guy who works where I do who’s just won something called the Nobel Prize for Science for stem cell research, but I try and avoid eye contact in the corridor – wouldn’t want him to feel embarrassed in my presence… 🙂

  5. Ems says:

    They spelt ‘Russell’ wrong, too – it should only have one ‘l’.
    The course materials and the assignment book is literally riddled with errors… which I find very annoying, not to mention uninspiring – if they can’t get it right, why should we bother?!

  6. JezzaBelle says:

    Well, even riddled with errors, I managed to get 80% on a subject I knew very little about before reading the OU resources! It can’t be all bad!

  7. Brennig says:

    I think Jezza, that’s precisely the point. We are marked against the coursework which contains many errors. So our mark by return will be good against the coursework but, is also likely to be errored.

    As the set work contains such a high number of obvious errors is it statistically improbable that the marking is error free.

  8. Brennig says:

    A public answer to a private email from a non-broadband internet user…

    Should the podcast go in to detailed discussion of OU-related activities, it would be reflected in the podcast notes. I hope that deals with your question?

  9. Bry says:

    I agree about the worryingly low standards. I am currently doing A103 (Feb start) and really haven’t been putting in as much work as I should, (what with a full-time job, a house move and an attempt to learn to drive to deal with) and yet I have so far had two marks in the 80’s. That wouldn’t worry me so much if my best mark so far hadn’t been for the section of the course where I didn’t get time to look at the course materials before answering the question. I really feel that my tutor isn’t rigorous enough. I later spotted a couple of errors that my tutor evidently missed when marking… It does set me wondering how the tutors are selected and how carefully their marking is scrutinised…

  10. Bry says:

    On the other hand, I should mention that I was equally worried by the low standards of the university I attended last year, part of the University of London. My peers appeared to regard plaigarism (something I have always thought of as a mortal sin) as perfectly acceptable and easily gotten away with. It is not a problem that is restricted to the OU, I’m guessing their standards are the norm for universities, it is just that low standards are now widespread.