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Abstracts of Recent Sophomore Essay Award Winners

Fall 2014


The Marriage Of Natural Philosophy And Theology In Hildegard Of Bingen’s Causea Et Curae And Physica -
Rachel Baer ‘17  

Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine abbess who was also one of the most prolific writers of the twelfth century, made contributions to multiple fields.  While her religious texts are her most popular works, Hildegard’s medical treatises, Causae et Curae and Physica, are also valuable documents.  Both pieces were written during Europe’s twelfth-century Renaissance, a vibrant time when the growing availability of translated Greek texts engendered the spread of knowledge and various perspectives.  One of the products of this fruitful period was monastic medicine.  This novel way of thinking about health and disease was a compelling combination of religious medicine, which ascribed sickness to sin, and classical literary medicine, which attributed illness to an imbalance in the four humors of Greek natural philosophy.  By incorporating these two different types of thought, monastic medicine was able to create a more comprehensive explanation of bodily sickness that resulted in a form of medical holism.  Hildegard of Bingen’s medical texts are reflective of this groundbreaking integration of diverse ideas about medicine during the twelfth century.  With their use of both Greek natural philosophy and theology in descriptions of disease and treatment, Physica and Causae et Curae demonstrate how seemingly conflicting viewpoints can function well together as an explanatory model for medicine.   


The Climate Debate: How the political, media, and public debates have hindered action taken to address climate change - Austin Grubb ‘17  

Despite the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree climate change is occurring, has been caused by humans, and that inaction presents great risks to the public, no action on climate change has taken place in the U.S. I will argue that this is due to the political and media debate surrounding climate change, which has hindered action to address the problem by confusing the public about the realities of climate change, including the risks to the public. A network of fossil fuel companies and contrarian scientists, as well as conservative groups, media, and politicians has created this “debate.” Their message has evolved from asserting that climate change does not exist to stating that humans have not cause climate change, and lastly claiming that anthropogenic climate change does not pose any risks to the public. This has led to a high polarization of the issue, to the extent that party and ideological affiliation is the largest indicator of an individual’s beliefs on climate change. For instance, liberal individuals and Democrats are far more likely to believe in anthropogenic climate change than conservative individuals and Republicans. There has been no overarching climate legislation passed that would set policies and regulations to deal with the problem. This is in part due to the confusion the false debate around climate change has created.


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