Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer
In the fall of 2016, Professor Walker Cosgrove sat in on an astronomy lecture for one of Professor Channon Visscher’s classes. From that visit, an exciting new course was born, one that combined both the sciences and humanities.
Astronomy 341, or Cosmologies as it is better known, is finishing up its first semester. Taught by both Visscher and Cosgrove, this seminar-based course digs into the mysteries of the cosmos from two different perspectives: science and humanities.
“I think having his [Cosgrove’s] expertise and perspective is an added benefit for students and for me in the course,” Visscher said. “Especially when discussing ideas of origins and cosmology, and how humans have tried to understand their place in the cosmos throughout history.”
According to the course description, this class will “explore how creation stories have captured the human imagination throughout history: how different cultures have understood or perceived the origins of the cosmos, its large-scale structure and meaning, and our own place in the universe.”
“I think one can learn a lot about any era, and its worldview, when considering their musings on the origins of all things,” Cosgrove said. “What is interesting about the area of study is considering how humans have thought about the origin of the cosmos from the mythopoetic accounts in ancient Mesopotamia to the more modern, scientific accounts of Einstein and Hubble.”
Mixing historical outlooks, scientific ideas, and current changes in the cosmos brings about many things to discuss in this class. This fall semester, there are eight students in this class and with the amount of discussion that takes place, a small class is not necessarily a bad thing.
“One aspect that I really enjoy is that there is always something new to explore or discover,” Visscher said. “Whether that’s seeing Pluto’s surface up close for the first time, or the first detection of gravitational waves from two neutron stars colliding with each other.”
As this is the first time this class is being taught, it comes with its fair share of difficulties. Co-teaching a class brings about new difficulties, but due to similar interests and senses of humor, Cosgrove says that he and Visscher work well together.
“A difficulty for us and for the students will be trying to be open to new ideas and interpretations on some very tough topics that could challenge our faith and the ways we’ve been raised to think about these things,” said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove said that he and Visscher both would like to see a regularly offered course “dealing with issues that cut across both the sciences and humanities, having it team-taught by various professors in those divisions.”
While Cosmology is open to all majors and minors, participants must complete CORE 140, CORE 150, and a lab-based science requirement prior to taking this class. These classes help form a basis for the in-depth discussions, historical background and scientific understanding.