Sophomore Seminars

What Is a Human? Scientific and Mythological Approaches to Meaning


Humans have created two ways of looking at the world; namely, the objective scientific view and the subjective mythological perspective. The scientific approach explores the external world—creating truths based on consensus experience. Science has informed and updated our understanding of the cosmos, physics, history, and biology. In the process, previous powerful mythological ideas have also been challenged. Reconciling our mythology and current scientific consensus is a worthwhile pursuit to establish a balanced, congruent personal philosophy of life.

In this sophomore seminar, we will first explore scientific perspectives on the origin and evolution of humans via archeology, genetics, and evolutionary psychology. With this framework secured, we will sample major religious texts such as Genesis, the New Testament, and Eastern texts. Throughout the course, each student will have opportunities to reflect deeply on his or her own personal worldview (past, present, and future) to create a personalized philosophy for life. This course will provide you with an overview of a fascinating subject that can impact progress on your life journey and career.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Vijay Pottathil

"I am a general gastroenterologist and general internist with experience in hospital medicine and emergency medicine. I became interested in religious studies my senior year of high school when I took a philosophy course and was expected to be the resident expert on Eastern philosophy. I took several courses in Religious Studies during my undergraduate studies.  During my first two years of medical school, I taught a course in Eastern philosophy and mythology. Wanting to be able to study Eastern texts in their original language, I took a sabbatical from medical school to study Sanskrit at Harvard Divinity School. My passion for this subject has continued to grow. The psychological benefit of seriously considering one’s personal philosophy has continued to be reaffirmed during my ongoing journey in medicine."