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PP 209 OC Essay Instructions
Contrary to previous incarnations of the course, there is now one and only one essay topic: write an argumentative/evaluative essay addressing Stephen Law’s “The evil-god challenge” (see forthcoming attachment). Is Law’s argument a good one? If so, why; if not, why not? You must explain the argument before evaluating it (i.e., don’t take for granted that your reader is familiar with the argument). You must also compare/contrast Law’s argument with Rowe’s discussion of the argument from evil. For this latter requirement you MUST refer to (at least) our course materials: extra sources on the argument from evil are only permitted in addition to, not in place of, references to the specific sources of our Course Package. Drawing in other material from the course is also welcome but not required.
Mandatory Quotations: Each essay must contain at least three quotations: at least two from Law’s essay, at least one from Rowe’s discussion of the argument from evil (see above). Your page references for these quotations will be double-checked (please use the original page numbers, not the page numbering of the Course Package or the .pdf). Any of failing to provide the minimum number of quotations, or failing to provide page numbers for all of your quotations, or failing to provide the correct page numbers for all of your quotations, will be grounds for a grade penalty up to and including a mark of zero on the essay.
Due Dates and Late Penalties: There are two due dates, although you only submit your essay once. The first due date is Wednesday November 16 (11:59 PM); the second due date is Wednesday November 30 (11:59 PM). If you submit your essay by the first due date it will be returned to you with comments; essays submitted after the first due date but not after the second due date will be marked with no penalty, but will not be commented upon. Essays submitted after the second due date will be penalized 2.5 percent per day (or 1 percent of your overall course grade per day), including Saturdays and Sundays.
Length and Electronic Format for Dropbox Submission: Your essay (not including your list of sources or bibliography, should there be one; see below) should be a minimum of 1500 words, and no longer than 2000 words (please note that quotations count toward your word count). Shorter essays will be penalized by how much they fall short; longer essays will not be penalized, but material after 2000 words won’t be marked. The essays must be submitted to the electronic Dropbox that is part of our MyLS site in one of the following formats: MS Word, WordPerfect, Postscript, Acrobat PDF, HTML, RTF, or Plain Text (no zipped or otherwise compressed files, please; notice .odt is NOT among the permissible formats). Essays not submitted in the correct format or which are otherwise unopenable will not be accepted (and so, for example, if you submit an unopenable file on Wednesday, and then submit an openable version on Thursday, your essay will be considered submitted on Thursday, not Wednesday).
Style: Please write in full sentences with proper use of paragraphs, punctuation, etc. Although the style should be formal, you may refer to yourself (e.g., “My thesis is … “, “I disagree with …”, etc.; as with anything, too many instances of “me” “myself” and “I” are to be avoided, but that doesn’t mean you can never use them). While I don’t do anything as rigid as take off a mark for each typo and grammatical error, the quality of the writing is an important factor in the assigning of your grade: as a rule of thumb, only overall well-written essays will have much chance of getting an A- or higher; essays that are poorly written will typically fall into the C range or lower.
Text Format: Regarding spacing, font, font size, etc., I’m really not too picky about these things anymore: now that essays are submitted electronically, their length (word count) can be checked rather easily, and this removes the primary motivation for standardized formatting. My personal preference is for 12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins, left justification of main body. But if you prefer different formatting settings (e.g., 11 point font, 1.5 spacing, full justification), that’s probably not going to be a problem (I say “probably” because there are certain things you could do that would significantly detract from the readability of your essay: for example, a ridiculously large font, using block caps, underlining everything, making your text red or some other unpleasant-to-read colour, etc.).
Quotes and paraphrases: If your only sources are the Law essay and our Course Package then you only need to provide accurate page references for your quotations (minimum of three: see above), and there is no need for a bibliography/list of references. If, however, you use any sources in addition to these, then you must follow one of the approved citation methods (e.g., MLA, Turabian, APA, etc.), and provide a list of references at the end of your paper including all your additional sources (you needn’t include either the Course Package or Law’s essay; these shall be taken to be included automatically). See the following link at our library http://library.wlu.ca/help/tutorials/how-cite for helpful information on how to cite (scroll down to see options for Youtube, .pdf, or audio presentation of the material). See the following document from Memorial University for how to make a bibliography in MLA style: http://www.library.mun.ca/guides/howto/mla.php. Similar documents can surely be found via Google on how to use any of the citation methods.
Finally, make sure not to overdo the quotations: I am much more interested in seeing your words and ideas than a pastiche of other people’s words. At the threshold of 30% quoted material I will begin taking substantial marks off, with the penalty being even more substantial for even greater proportions of quoted material. At the bottom end of things, a 1500 word essay should have less than 450 words of quoted material; at the other extreme, a 2000 word essay should have less than 600 words of quoted material.
Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct: An additional document intended to discourage plagiarism has been provided (see the News area). Here I will simply say that all essays are automatically fed through a similarity-checker, and then read very carefully by someone with years of experiencing finding plagiarism (i.e., me). I take plagiarism very seriously and very personally, and find plagiarized (including purchased) papers on a regular basis (typically multiple cases each term). For anyone contemplating plagiarism for whatever reason (pressure from other courses is the most common reason cited), I can assure you the risk is not worth it: submitting an original essay you’re not happy with, and perhaps getting a mark you’re not happy with, is always better than getting an F in the course and having your name put on a registry with the Dean’s Office.
Course goal:
The goal of this course is to introduce students to the philosophy of religion, with particular emphasis on the contemporary state of that subject. Students who successfully complete the course should gain a good general understanding of some of the main topics currently considered important in the contemporary philosophy of religion, and be sufficiently informed to participate in discussions on those topics. Additionally, students who complete the course with a high grade, such as an “A,” will be well-prepared to pursue more advanced research in the philosophy of religion at either the undergraduate or graduate level.
Learning outcomes:
By the end of this course, successful students will able to do the following:

explain many of the basic concepts central to the philosophy of religion (e.g., theism, atheism, natural theology), both the differences between these terms (e.g., the difference between atheism and agnosticism), and the distinctions contained in the terms themselves (e.g., the difference between positive and negative atheism).
summarize the major arguments for the existence of God, including contemporary formulations of the cosmological and design arguments, as well as criticisms raised against these arguments.
paraphrase the reasoning of both sides in the debate over whether arguments are even necessary for reasonable belief in the existence of God.
summarize some of the major reasons used to support evolutionary theory, as well as some of the more common arguments used against evolution today.
explain how the arguments from evil and nonbelief are supposed to show that God most probably doesn’t exist, as well as how some religious philosophers criticize those arguments. Since these are the topics covered by the essay, successful students will be able to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of at least one of these arguments, both the points in its favour and the points used against it.
explain how the books of the New Testament can be examined from a historical perspective.
summarize some of the arguments raised in favour of the reasonableness of believing in the resurrection of Jesus, as well as objections raised both against those arguments and for the unreasonableness of belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

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