Theological and Religious Perspectives on Bioethics
Site: Harvard Medical School
Course Directors: Michael Balboni and Tracy Balboni
Historically, health care has been associated with religious communities and shaped by some of the values that emerge from these traditions. Many people who interface with the scientific medical community have been influenced by a number of these traditions and the mixed set of values embraced within them. This course is not comprehensive in the sense that all religious and theological traditions are equally represented. There is, nevertheless, in this course recognition of the rich religious diversity that characterizes human life by engaging voices that have developed outside of North America. The insights from these resources can contribute to a better understanding and engagement with representatives from these traditions particularly in clinical spaces.
Site: Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Course Director: Ahmed Ragab and Sophia Roosth
From the seventeenth century to today, science fiction has reflected the aspirations of scientific innovation and anticipated new discoveries. It has reflected rhetorical practices by which science melds present contexts with futurism, extrapolation, and promissory logics. Authors have engaged with ethical problems, fears about innovations gone awry, and pessimism about the prospects of technological development, all while critiquing views on gender, race, and sexuality, and subverting colonial ambitions while engaging postcolonial aspirations. At the same time, science fiction has engaged religious and spiritual views, both interacting with religious imaginaries and engaging with the role of religion in society and in relation to science. In this course, we trace science fiction through history. We analyze how it has understood science and technology, war and colonialism, sex, race and gender, health and disease. We investigate how it has interacted with religion and influenced social and cultural attitudes. We will read major works in science fiction and understand how they live with and within us. Topics include: time travel, utopias and dystopias, race, gender, and sexuality, religion and culture, embodiment and disembodiment, posthumanism). In addition to novels and short stories, lectures will incorporate film, television, graphic novels, music videos, and other science fictional subgenres. The course will be accompanied by a film series of major science fiction films and guest speakers (film series attendance is optional).
Site: Harvard Divinity School
How did pious Muslims get sick? Rooted in the prophet's experiences with medicine and healing, Muslim pietistic literature developed cosmologies in which physical suffering and medical interventions interacted with religious obligations and spiritual health. In this context, health and sickness developed as social categories implicated in, and influenced by the production of pious selfhood in its gendered, racialized and socioeconomically located manifestations. Here, the prophet, the Imams and their companions stood as examples, not only of legally mandated behavior, but as pietistic models of propriety conditioning new meanings of piety and observance. At the same time, and in being connected to the physical experiences of health and disease, these modes of pietistic observance were particularly embodied and physically manifested.This course traces the development of prophetic medical literature and religious and medical writings around health and disease to look at the production of pious patienthood from the medieval into the modern period. We will ask about the legacy of the prophet, the imams and their companions, the making of embodied piety from the medieval into the modern period. The course will commence with a comprehensive introduction to Hadith sciences, and to the study of sira. It will then move to discussing the production of Muslim piety with a focus on embodied experiences on illness and health. Students can choose between two tracks: Hadith/Sira track; and Medicine track. Each track includes a number of additional readings focusing on either the hadith or medical aspects. Students have the opportunity to change their track or to take both tracks without additional assignments. The Hadith track can serve as an introduction to Hadith and Muslim scriptures.
Site: Harvard Divinity School
In the Buddhist view, compassion involves a response to suffering that is fully engaged while remaining free of judgment and imbued with the wisdom of unconditional caring for self and other. This ideal, however, can pose challenges to those in professional caregiving roles who strive to balance giving compassion, sustainability in the midst of suffering, and applying these to one's own spiritual growth. In this course, we will explore the Buddhist view of compassion and will draw on traditional texts, contemplative approaches, and applied contemporary methods in counseling and clinical practice based in compassion theory to consider skillful means in compassionate care. We will also discuss the process of relational compassion (intersubjectivity) in direct clinical care, as well as its place in Buddhist ethics, and will consider contemporary research into compassion meditation, as well as notions of compassion fatigue, self-compassion, compassion aversion, and various approaches to compassion training. The seminar will consist of readings, lectures, meditation practices, counseling practice with peers, and case studies.
Religion, Well-Being, and Public Health
Site: Harvard School of Public Health
Course Directors: Tyler VanderWeele
The course will give an overview of the current state of research on the relationship between religion and health. Over the past three decades, the research literature documenting this relationship has grown dramatically. Religious participation has been shown to have protective effects on all - cause mortality, mental health, cardiovascular health, cancer survival, and many other health and well-being outcomes. The course will review the research that has been done in this area, discuss some of the measurement and methodological challenges faced by this research, and explore future research directions in religion and health as well as questions of relevance to public health. Specific topics will include religion participation and longevity, religion and mental health, religious communities and health, and religion and spirituality in end of life care. Attention will be given throughout to questions of measurement, study design, and methodology, and the challenges in conducting rigorous research in this area.
Spirituality and Healing in Medicine
Course Directors: John Peteet, Gloria White-Hammond
This course provides students with a framework for understanding the spiritual dimension of lives of patients and of spiritual issues they will confront in the practice of medicine. These include patients’ struggles with questions of faith, spiritual approaches to life threatening illnesses, as well as the physicians’ personal commitments that underlie professionalism. Faculty will offer models for approaching these challenges, lead discussions using clinical examples, and facilitate opportunities for extra-classroom experiences, such as working with a hospital chaplain or with spiritual or faith-based programs of healing. Invited presentations from physicians of differing medical specialties, faiths and world views will explore the implications for your medical practice of various religious and secular traditions, and the role of the clinician in responding to spiritual needs. Guest physicians and faculty will also serve as resources for students as they develop their own presentations to the class.
Insights from Narratives of Illness
Site: Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Course Director: Jerome Groopman
A physician occupies a unique perch, regularly witnessing life's great mysteries: the miracle of birth, the perplexing moment of death, and the struggle to find meaning in suffering. It is no wonder that narratives of illness have been of interest to both physician and non-physician writers. This seminar will examine and interrogate both literary and journalistic dimensions of medical writing. The investigation will be chronological, beginning with ?classic? narratives by Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Kafka, and then moving on to more contemporary authors such as William Carlos Williams, Richard Selzer, Oliver Sacks, Susan Sontag, and Philip Roth. Controversial and contentious subjects are sought in these writings: the imbalance of power between physician and patient; how different religions frame the genesis and outcome of disease; the role of quackery, avarice, and ego in molding doctors' behavior; whether character changes for better or worse when people face their mortality; what is normal and what is abnormal behavior based on culture, neuroscience, and individual versus group norms. The presentation of illness in journalism will be studied in selected readings from the New York Times and Boston Globe's Science sections, as well as periodicals like the New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Harper's, and The Atlantic. The members of the seminar will analyze how the media accurately present the science of medicine or play to 'pop culture.' The seminar will study not only mainstream medical journalists, but so called alternative medical writers such as Andrew Weil also. Patients with different diseases will be invited to speak to the members of the seminar about their experiences. Students will try their hands at different forms of medical writing, such as an editorial on physician-assisted suicide that would appear in a newspaper and a short story that describes a personal or family experience with illness and the medical system.
Site: Harvard Divinity School
Course Director: Ahmed Ragab
The study of science and religion has been traditionally dominated by theoretical discussions centered around the possibility of reconciling Science (capital S: often referring to Western Science) and Religion (capital R, often referring to specific traditions as understood through Western lens). In the process, science is presented as monolithic and ahistorical, and religion as equally fixed and unidimensional. This mode of investigation often fails to engage with questions of race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic status, and is oblivious to the history of colonialism and to the concerns of indigenous populations. In this course, we deploy a critical lens in understanding and discussing different questions at the intersection of science and religion. Using a series of case studies, and engaging with a number of theoretical and methodological approaches derived from religious studies, history and philosophy of science and STS (Science, Technology and Society studies), postcolonial, critical race and queer theory, the course investigates the production of meanings and the making of intellectual, epistemic and political authority at the intersection of scientific and religious cultures.The course is a research workshop with a focus on training and professionalization and an emphasis on methods tools in academic writing and research. Students work on specific projects throughout the semester from topic selection, question formation, to research and writing to produce a piece of academic writing such as research papers, conference papers, articles, book reviews, prospectus, syllabi, etc. Jointly offered in the Harvard Divinity School as HDS 3346.
Site: Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Course Director: Rebecca Fortgang
Can meditation cure depression? Over the last century, Buddhism has increasingly influenced western psychology and the practice of psychotherapy. With the development of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction therapy in the 1970s, the integration of Buddhist principles in psychotherapy was first formalized in a unified treatment. Since then, multiple evidence-based treatments have fused eastern and western traditions for healing the mind. Meditation in particular has gained tremendous traction and empirical evidence supporting its many benefits, psychological and otherwise, leading even the more skeptical to acknowledge its value. This course covers historical and modern influences of eastern religion on western psychotherapy, including the modern science of meditation and the integration of these practices into current forms of psychotherapy and positive psychology. Students will have the opportunity to use these practices themselves for a first-hand understanding of how they work.