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Homework for Friday, September 11

September 10, 2015


Thanks for a wonderful discussion today about assumptions and inferences. Throughout the semester we all need to keep in mind what our biases are as we evaluate certain historical documents and concepts. We should always challenge ourselves to consider other perspectives that might be informed by different backgrounds and experiences.

As promised, I ask you tonight to consider another scenario – this one having to do with geography and religion. First though I want to (re)introduce you to a word that you will hear often the rest of the semester: cosmogony (or cosmogeny).

Cosmogony: any theory regarding the origin of the cosmos or of sentient beings. The study of the origin and development of the universe or of any particular system in the universe.

Some historians would argue that humans have developed religion as another way (along with technology, engineering, and government, for instance) to control their environment. Like the creation of technologies, the evolution of religion in ancient times was often a reaction to humans’ environment. Tonight I ask you to consider the following in that context. Given the set of geographical and climatic conditions below, what type of religion would a society most likely develop. Focus your answers on the following questions. Your answers should come in the form of bullet points that you can share with your classmates. Again I ask you to not collaborate tonight on this work.

1. What is the origin of the world and the nature of the deity or deities?
2. What is the nature of humans?
3. What is the nature of the relationship between god(s) and humans?
4. What types of religious hierarchy and ceremony exist?
5. What is the role of religion in public life?

As I mentioned in class, I am assigning each of you to one of four different scenarios. Please work on this by yourself tonight and then you will be given an opportunity to compare your answers with those classmates who worked on the same scenarios. Your assignments are below. Enjoy!!!

A: A warm river plain fed by the streams from rugged mountains, with vast, swift, and unexpected fluctuations of water volume.
Students: Belay, Ghorbani, Karppi, Martin

B: A warm river valley fed by rain-soaked highland hills; the rain comes in regular and gentle cycles.
Students: Cicero, Heath, Kevill, Merrill

C: A  cool taiga; coniferous forests; short summers; poor thin soils
Students: Cooper, Holliday, Khana-Yamaoto, Silverstein-Rivera

D: Semi-arid plain with limited vegetation and prone to droughts; hot days and cool nights with long summers.
Students: Dunbar, Holsten, Kim

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