Review Comment

[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

May 11, 2004

Loizzo, Joseph
[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This is the second class I have taken with Loizzo--there will not be a third. He's a nice guy, and he can be amusing at times, but for my money I want a teacher who can deliver a clear lecture and/or facilitate a class discussion. Loizzo does neither. He sputters and rambles and has trouble getting to the point. There were some interesting readings but going to class was a huge waste of time. I got nothing out of this course that I wouldn't have gotten by doing the readings on my own.

Also, don't be fooled by the title, you won't really learn about the science of religious experience. In fact the few readings that actually had anything to do with science came at the tail end of the course, and after so much foreplay they didn't live up to expectations. The subtitle "The Nature and Culture of Contemplative States" is more accurate.

On the up side--I'm not sure if he's actually a practicing Buddhist, but he's certainly compassionate when it comes to final grades. So if you like easy classes...

Workload:

Reading: 50-80 pages a week. 5 page midterm paper, 12-15 page final paper.

January 20, 2004

Pollack, Robert
[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This course is co-taught by Pollack and Joe Loizzo. I agree with the below review, Pollack's lectures were good and clear, however, he wasn't really interested in student input (although on the first day, he made it sound like he was excited about the diversity of student backgrounds and potential discussion - don't be misled!). He and Loizzo just wanted to argue with each other in front of an audience.

The course is mainly philosophical and religious texts. I was hoping it would explore the political and social clashes of science and religion throughout history, but there is pretty much NONE of this. If you want to study this sort of stuff, don't take this course. If you like philosophical and religious debate about huge questions such as "What is the nature of consciousness?" and "Is there life after death?" you will probably love it.

Workload:

One short paper and one long paper on whatever you like. Lots of reading, only some of which is truly essential.

January 20, 2004

Loizzo, Joseph
[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This course is co-taught by Loizzo and Robert Pollack. I found Loizzo to be the worse of the two professors. For a Buddhist, he had quite the ego! It often seemed as though he were trying to convert everyone to Buddhism. It's OK to be excited and happy with your religion, but I didn't sign up for this course to get preached at.

Loizzo gets VERY defensive when challenged. it's difficult to say anything in response to his lectures, because he just wants to tell you you are wrong and shoot down your ideas. (He is quite interested in hearing Pollack critique his arguments, though. Pollack and Loizzo, in general, take each other seriously and do not take student contributions seriously at all. They interpret student comments during class not as contributions to the discussions, but as requests for clarification of their much more important ideas.) His religion=good/peaceful while secular society=bad/violent bias is really clear and really disgusting.

Overall, the course is mainly philosophical and religious texts. I was hoping it would explore the political and social clashes of science and religion throughout history, but there is pretty much NONE of this. If you want to study this sort of stuff, don't take this course. If you like philosophical and religious debate about huge questions such as "What is the nature of consciousness?" and "Is there life after death?" you will probably love it.

Workload:

1 short paper and 1 long paper on whatever you want to write about. Lots of reading, only some of which is essential.

December 23, 2003

Pollack, Robert
[RELI V2660] Science & Religion East & West

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

The topics this class is attempting to address (origin of the universe, nature of reality, nature of consciousness, etc.) are so huge individually that a comparative discussion in the course of one semester is bound to have shortcomings. That said, there were many interesting readings, and Pollack's lectures are worth the price of admission. This course has two professors: Pollack does the Western science and religion sections & Joe Loizzo does the Eastern sections. Pollack is incredibly articulate, and makes even the most obstruse readings seem simple. He comes to class well prepared, and his lectures have structured arguments. This guy is really smart, and has fascinating ways of justifing his religious beliefs with his scientific ones. Loizzo is clearly a less experienced teacher, and did not always succeed in bringing across his ideas. He also focused mainly on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, which I found far less interesting than the East Asian Buddhism and Taoism with which I was already familiar. I could have done without all the 10th century Buddhist influenced, Hindu influenced, Indian philosophy, of which there was a lot and from which I got very little. Perhaps others found these readings more enlightening though.
This was the first time the course has been taught (fall '03), and it will doubtless be much better next time around. But it got me thinking about interesting stuff and was well worth taking. The papers were very open ended, and could be based on only the reading from class if you wanted. I did much better on both papers than I expected.

Workload:

5 page midterm & 8-10 page final paper. 100 pages of reading a week. But Pollack said if he teaches the course again there will be less reading and more writing.

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