Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Christian Ethics Quotations - Revision Postcards

Well the exam season is under way, and my Year 12 Religious Studies class have already taken their AS exam. They seemed pretty happy with the questions that came up, no evil AQA surprises as far as I could tell. Good luck to everybody out there, whether you're taking exams or sweating on your students' results!

I've put together a set of revision postcards illustrating some of the key Christian quotations that GCSE RS students should incorporate into their exams to support their views and access the higher grades.

You can download them on the TES here or via Google Docs here. You will need an account with the TES or Google to view them.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Hard Determinism Revision Fact Sheet

Photo credit: fodor
My last school liked to break topics down into key facts that students could use memory techniques to learn. This year, I've been trying out a memory journey or loci method to help my Year 12s learn key criticisms of the argument from religious experience. Hopefully I'll post a bit more on this in the next week or so, when I see how well it's worked.

In the meantime, below is a fact sheet on hard determinism that I used last year, broken down into 20 key facts that you could use the loci method or the peg system to help you remember. The facts are below, or posted to google docs here (you will need a google account to access them).

Update: I've realised that the original 20 bullet point fact sheet I've uploaded, was partly culled from a page on the Tutor2u website here. Not something I worried about when I was putting together a fact sheet for a dozen-or-so students in class last year, but I've contacted the website to check they're happy for this post to remain.

1.    Philosophical Determinism is the theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to exclude the possibility of free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do.

2.   Universal Causation is the belief that everything in the universe including all human actions and choices has a cause. Thus all events are causally determined and theoretically predictable; you just need to know the effect of the causes. 

3.   The Illusion of Moral Choice is a result of our ignorance of what causes these choices, leading us to believe they have no cause. 

4.   John Locke used an analogy in which a sleeping man is locked in a darkened room. On awakening he decides he will remain in the room, unaware that the room is locked. In reality the man has no freedom to choose, he cannot get out of the room. However, his ignorance of his true condition has led him to believe that he does have the freedom to choose to remain in the room. 

5.   David Hume (actually a soft determinist) commented that we can observe patterns in the physical world that can also be found in the decisions we make. Our decisions thus, just like the physical world, are causally determined. Theoretically then, we could know the future if we were knowledgeable of all the causes in the universe and their effects. 

6.   Benedict Spinoza said “In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to will this or that by a cause, which has been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on until infinity.” 

7.   Adolf Hitler is no more culpable for his actions than the good-doing Christian church-goer, according to hard determinism. We cannot be held morally responsible for our actions if they are causally determined and not a result of our own moral choice.  

8.   Psychological Determinism is the view human behaviour, thoughts and feelings are the inevitable outcome of complex psychological laws describing cause and effect relationships in human behaviour. Thus all decisions and actions can theoretically be predicted. There are many influencing factors on human behaviour: Hereditary, Environment, Society, Culture. 

9.   Clarence Darrow successfully defended two youths guilty of murder by focusing his argument on their lack of moral responsibility. Darrow argued that their actions were influenced by a combination of heredity and social conditioning. 

10. Ivan Pavlov found that dogs could be conditioned to respond in a particular way to an external stimulus. Pavlov believed that conditioned reflexes could explain the behaviour of psychotic people. For example those who withdrew from the world may associate all stimuli with possible injury or threat.  

11. Skinner’s theory of Operant Conditioning suggests that changes in behaviour are the result of an individual’s response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment. A response produces a consequence, and when a particular stimulus-response pattern is reinforced (rewarded) the individual is conditioned to respond.  

12. Theological determinism is the belief that the causal chain can be traced back to an uncaused causer (Cosmological argument, Aquinas), and this is God. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, we cannot have free-will and our actions must be pre-determined by him.  

13. St. Paul believed that God chooses who will be saved. We shouldn’t question God’s right to choose since none of us deserve to be saved. Humans are free to choose how to live their lives but their final destination is determined by God alone. 

14. St. Augustine believed in pre-destination, the belief that only those elected by God can achieve salvation. God has foreknowledge of our choices and the decisions we will make. This does not mean man doesn’t make decisions freely; rather it emphasizes God’s omnipotence. 

15. Jean Calvin argued that that the destination of each human being is determined by God on the basis of his foreknowledge of everyone’s character and life. He said that there was nothing anybody could do to change their destiny. According to Calvin, there is no free will. Calvin therefore takes a hard determinist approach. 

16. Scientific determinism tells us that for every physical event there is a physical cause, and this causal chain can be traced back to the moment of the Big Bang. If we consider the mind to be material activity in the brain i.e. chemical impulses, then our thoughts and decisions are also pre-determined. We can explore the causes of human behaviour through the many different branches of science, for example Psychology, Sociology, Physiology and Anthropology. 

17. Isaac Newston revolutionised physics with his proposition that all bodies are governed by the three laws of motion. Newton’s universe was predictable, like an intricate clockwork toy. 

18. Laplace believed that if it were possible at any one time to know both the position and the speed of all the particles in the universe at any one time, it would be possible to know their position at any other time in the past, present or future. This implies we can, theoretically, predict the future even though it might not be possible in reality. 

19. Heisenburg Uncertainty Theory challenges scientific determinism. It says that it is not possible to measure both the position and speed of a particle at the same time due to the effect of photons which has a significant effect on a subatomic level. However just because we cannot measure both does not mean they cannot both be known.

20. Chaos Theory suggests that in the material world events occur randomly and by chance. This theory is also known as the “butterfly effect” as it suggests that the slightest movement of a butterfly’s wings in Beijing could cause a hurricane in New York some time later.