Tag Archives: philosophy

Reflections on Teaching Workshop

This week I’m attending a summer teaching workshop at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Today, we discussed learning objectives and student assessments. One theme that seemed to run through both of these discussions is the concept of measurability. When writing learning objectives for a demo lesson (to be given later in the week), we were instructed to make sure that the objectives could be measured in some way. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, one may write a learning objective for a given “level” of knowledge that uses a measurable verb. For example, consider the following learning objective:

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to restate the Intermediate Value Theorem.

This learning objective is not objectionable (at least I don’t think it is!) because it uses the measurable verb restate. One can measure to what extent the learning objective has been met by measuring to what extent the theorem has been correctly restated. Often in these conversations, measurable verbs are contrasted with the paradigm example of a non-measurable verb: understanding.

I found this discussion of measurable verbs, and particularly the relegation of understanding, really striking. It reminds me of Heidegger’s distinction between exact thinking and rigorous thinking:

Exact thinking is never the most rigorous thinking, if rigor receives its essence otherwise from the mode of strenuousness with which knowledge always maintains the relation to what is essential in what is. Exact thinking ties itself down solely in calculation with what is and serves this exclusively.

In the context of learning objectives, I think what Heidegger is getting at is this: what we really care about understanding, thoughtfulness, reflection, etc.–what Heidegger calls rigorous thinking. These are qualities that separate humans from everything else (other animals, computers, and inanimate objects). But understanding is not measurable, and thus, we cannot assess whether our students actually understand anything. So, instead, we assess things that are measurable, like whether they can restate, apply, or prove a theorem–examples of what Heidegger calls exact thinking But in the switch from rigorous to exact thinking, one loses something essential. As John Searle convincingly argues, the fact that an entity (e.g., a computer program) can restate, translate, apply, or even prove a theorem is not sufficient evidence that the entity actually understands the theorem.

I wonder then, if, in stating measurable learning objectives, we are aiming at the wrong target–albeit an easier target to hit. Perhaps those who object to learning objectives are really pointing at something profound: that real thinking (rigorous thinking) can’t always be measured, and that’s OK. This raises all sorts of questions about how we might keep students accountable, how we might assign grades, etc. But these questions shouldn’t stop us from thinking clearly about what, in many cases, we really want students to do: understand!

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A Place for Philosophy

In 2004, the city of Memphis celebrated the “50th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” attributing the roots of rock to Elvis Presley’s 1954 recording of That’s All Right. Some have rightly taken issue with this; black artists were playing what sounded like rock music for years before Elvis. Perhaps the origin of rock music is better attributed to Jackie Brenston’s Rocket 88, recorded in 1951. This event seems to be just one in music history where white artists capitalize on the talent of lesser-known black artists. Still today, some argue that white artists are more successful at pushing boundaries simply because they are white.

Just as the achievements of black artists sometimes go unacknowledged, philosophers are often not acknowledged for their past and ongoing contributions to furthering knowledge (scientific or otherwise). Moreover, scientists rely on philosophical thinking in their work but often don’t acknowledge it as such. In what follows, I hope to convince the reader that philosophical thinking has a central place in modern science and academia and that we ought not marginalize philosophy in favor of pure scientism.

Science as we know it today developed out of philosophy. Galileo and Isaac Newton were known as “natural philosophers.” It was not until the modern period that science began to separate from philosophy. Even after this separation, there was plenty of interaction between the two disciplines. The formalization of calculus was occasioned by a philosopher and many philosophers made contributions to modern mathematics.  However, science does not just owe a tip of the hat to philosophy for its origins; many modern scientific theories, such as string theory, rely on reasoning that goes beyond physically observable phenomena–what I think of as philosophical reasoning.

This past week, I attended Denver’s third Nerd Nite. Kayla Knopp, Rachel Miller, and Lane Nesbitt, clinical psychology students at the University of Denver, spoke about the way in which both biology and culture influence our understanding of sexual behavior. Although they didn’t state their conclusions explicitly (more on this below!), I take one of their main conclusions to be that (C) the set of all morally permissible sexual activities is larger than the set of all culturally accepted sexually activities. After what I think was an honest assessment of their talk, I took the argument for (C) to be the following:

P1. In nonhuman animals, there exists a set of sexual activities that our culture would find unacceptable if practiced by humans (e.g., one member of this set is deer threesomes!).
P2. We have evolved to enjoy (some) activities in this set.
P3. Since these activities are part of our natural evolutionary heritage, we ought to explore them (i.e., they are not immoral).
C. The set of all morally permissible sexually activities–i.e., the set of culturally acceptable activities plus the set of “natural-yet-culturally-unacceptable” activities that we ought to explore–is larger than the set of all culturally accepted sexually activities.

To be clear, I agree with (C); it is the argument for (C) that I take issue with.The problem with this argument–as many philosophy students may pick up on–is that P3 is fallacious: just because an act is natural doesn’t mean that that act is right, moral, or ethical. There are many examples that illustrate this fact. For one, we have evolved to eat meat—i.e., it is natural—but it’s not at all clear that eating meat is ethical; there are very strong arguments that support the claim that eating meat is unethical. To consider a more relevant example, sex between adult and juvenile animals occurs naturally among certain types of weasels and primates. But, among humans, such acts are considered immoral by most (and for good reason, since these relationships in humans often cause significant harm to at least one party, they are often non-consensual, etc.).

I notice this fallacy often in scientific discussion, and it is sometimes made by scientists. But philosophers have been warning us about making this mistake so much that they’ve given it a name: the appeal to nature fallacy. Generally speaking, my (admittedly anecdotal) experience suggests that philosophers are more careful with the form of their reasoning than scientists are. As further evidence for this claim, philosophers are notorious for writing their arguments and conclusions explicitly and very carefully; they sometimes even number their premises in the way that I did above. Philosophers follow this practice because they think it removes a lot of potential ambiguity and misinterpretation. Scientists follow this practice less often but I think that, in many instances, doing so would make their work more clear. After all, if explicitly outlining arguments was a standard scientific practice, then I wouldn’t have had to create my own (possibly misinterpreted!) outline of the sex-talk argument above. The point here is that, in so far as scientists use arguments in their work, they are doing philosophy in some sense, and that scientists may have something to learn from philosophers about how to present their arguments more effectively.

This week’s Radiolab provides another example of how philosophical thinking fails to get the credit that it deserves. It’s worth looking at the description of the episode:

The “mind” and “self” were formerly the domain of philosophers and priests. But in this hour of Radiolab, neurologists lead the charge on profound questions like “How does the brain make me?”

The connotation here (if I’m not being overly sensitive to the science-philosophy tension) seems to be that, for centuries, philosophers have spun their wheels with the question of personal identity, but that no serious work has been done until brain scientists caught on to the question. This kind of thinking is problematic for a number of reasons. For one, in an incredibly complicated area such as personal identity, just formulating the right set of questions is difficult. In many areas, philosophers deserve credit for formulating the right questions. Second, as philosopher Alva Noë has argued, neuroscience operates under the philosophical assumption that consciousness and the self are cognitive phenomena that are to be found by studying neural activity in the brain. This assumption is not empirical or “scientific”; it has roots in Cartesian philosophy (and I don’t think it is at all obviously true). Noë’s position, which builds upon work by Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, is that we are missing something of fundamental importance if we do not try to understand the self in terms of our embodied existence. Finally, the idea that discoveries in neuroscience (and many other disciplines) are reliable has been called into question by epidemiologist John P. A. Ioannidis. Ioannidis, in the celebrated paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” argues that, in “hot” fields where there are small studies, small effect sizes, or great financial interest, many findings are likely to be false (arguably, neuroscience falls into each of these categories). While Ioannidis is not a philosopher, his arguments attack the (poor) statistical reasoning of some scientists. Since statistics is really a formalization of inductive reasoning, it can be understood as a sub-discipline of philosophy. Thus, I think Ioanidis’s criticism of scientific findings is largely a philosophical criticism.

There are many other examples of the importance of philosophy in scientific practice: disputes in the foundations of statistics, the interpretation of probability in modern physics, the definition of life in biology, and the understanding of measurements and mathematical models are all inherently philosophical. We ought to  acknowledge that philosophy place such an important role.




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The Paradox of Choice and the Death of God

Although some choice is undoubtedly better than none, more is not always better than less. –Barry Schwartz

God is dead…how shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?–Friedrich Nietzsche

My least favorite aisle in the grocery store is the cereal aisle. It’s not because I don’t love cereal (I do); it’s because there are too many choices. I know that I probably ought to eat one of the hundreds of low sugar, high fiber cereals–perhaps one of the many kinds of oatmeal. But the hundreds of different chocolate cereals are so damn good. At least for a time. Then I get tired of the sweet stuff and wish that I bought something else. The problem is that I take too much time deciding, and, in the end, I am usually disappointed with choose.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz describes some research that suggests that having too many choices–like I have in the cereal aisle–is actually bad for one’s well-being. His claim is that we feel less satisfied with the choices that we make because we are haunted by the idea that one of the many other options that we did not choose may have been better. Although we tend to think that the more choice we have the better, Schwartz is convincing in arguing that the abundance of choice, even in trivial domains like the grocery store, can make us less happy (he calls this the paradox of choice).

The problem seems to be much more pronounced when we think about the choices related to important existential questions in our lives. Choices about what school we ought to go to, what career path we ought to take, where we ought to live, whom we ought to date or marry, whether and when we ought to have children, etc., can be extremely difficult. To spend a lot of time thinking about these questions is to acknowledge that a lot is at stake; the idea that the chosen career path or mate was the wrong choice is enough to cause us serious psychological harm.


But were these existential choices ever easy? It seems as though people have long been faced with important choices about where to work or whom to marry. There are good reasons, however, to think that the nature of the choices that we face today is different because there really are so many more options available to us. This is not just an empirical claim about the number of potential careers or mates in the world (although it is probably true that there are more possible careers and mates); rather, it’s a claim about a worldview that has slowly pervaded our culture. This new worldview, the philosophical foundation of which arguably began with Nietzsche’s claim that “God is dead,” seems to be one in which old models for living are being erased or left behind. For example, getting married used to be a thing that you did as soon as you could; the same with having children. It didn’t even seem like a choice. Everyone just did it. Schwartz writes:

A range of life choices has been available to Americans for quite some time. But in the past, the “default” options were so powerful and dominant that few perceived themselves to be making choices. Whom we married was a matter of choice, but we knew that we would do it as soon as we could and have children, because that was something all people did. The anomalous few who departed from this pattern were seen as social renegades, subjects of gossip and speculation.

Today it is hardly the case that those who don’t have children are renegades. Many people make a deliberate choice to not have children. But the problem that comes along with shaking the old existential models–e.g., grow up, get a job, get married, have a child (or several)–is that there aren’t corresponding replacement models for existential decisions; instead, we are faced with a myriad of ways to live our lives, and, prima facie, many of these ways seem equally good (notice that is not to say that some aren’t bad…). If this analysis is accurate, then it seems as though we are faced with the same dilemma that I faced in the cereal aisle: knowing that there were other options available to us makes the option we chose less satisfying. Perhaps it would have been better to have children, or to be a teacher rather than researcher, one might reason. If we have destroyed the old existential models (perhaps for good reason), then how are we supposed to live? Or, equivalently, if God really is dead, then how shall we “murderers of all murderers,” comfort ourselves?

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Rationing by Price

Last month, hepatitis researchers made an astounding breakthrough in the fight against hepatitis C.  A drug named sofosbuvir is claimed to cure hepatitis C  in over 90% of patients with very few side effects. Given that hepatitis affects millions of people in the US and globally–many times more people than are affected by AIDS–this is great news. However, sofosbuvir’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc.,  is expected to sell the drug for $1,000 per pill. Since the treatment is expected to take several weeks, experts estimate that a full treatment–that is, a cure of hepatitis C–will cost, on average, $84,000.

This hefty price should raise a number of questions about access to healthcare. For one, even acknowledging the fact that Gilead Sciences Inc. has invested large amounts of money into developing this drug, we should ask ourselves whether this is a fair price for a disease that causes suffering to hundreds of millions of people. I think that, independent of what ethical theory that you ascribe to (e.g., utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics), there are strong arguments to be made that this is not a fair price. But, here, I’d like to argue for another claim that is often overlooked by proponents of free market healthcare and those who criticize healthcare rationing: charging $84,000 to cure a disease is rationing healthcare (by price), and further, rationing healthcare by price is at least as unethical as rationing by age, pre-existing condition, or employment type.

The verb ration means to “allow each person to have a fixed amount of a particular commodity.” So, to ration healthcare means something like “to allow each person to have a fixed amount–and perhaps that fixed amount is none–of a particular medical treatment.” In recent debates about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), opponents of the act claimed that it will lead to rationing of healthcare, particularly to seniors. They argue that government bureaucrats will be the ones deciding whether the costs of a particular treatment (perhaps tens of thousands of dollars) will outweigh the benefits of the treatment (perhaps only months of additional low quality life). It may be the case that government healthcare will lead to forms of rationing; perhaps some government decision makers will decide that a $50,000 treatment for an expected six months of extra low quality life is not worth the cost, when that same cost can be spent in much more efficient ways (perhaps by extending a higher quality life by many, many years). But opponents of this kind of rationing are silent about the form of rationing that is standard practice. We already ration healthcare in the US. When a cure for a condition like Hepatitis C costs $84,000, we are rationing by price: if you do not have the money, your allotment of sofosbuvir is zero. When an insurance company decides that it won’t allow those with pre-existing conditions into the risk pool–a practice allowed before Obamacare–we are rationing by pre-existing condition (got cancer? Oh well!). The question we ought to ask is not, “Is  it permissible to ration healthcare?” since some form of rationing scarce healthcare resources will always take place; rather, we ought to ask, “What form of rationing is most permissible?” Those who think that rationing by market forces is most permissible seem to implicitly assume that those who don’t have the money for a treatment must have not worked hard enough to deserve it. Even a basic understanding of the kind of systematic inequality and lack of social mobility that exists in the US seems to suggest that this is seriously mistaken.

Proponents of rationing by price may rightly ask, “Does the existence of a cure imply that the cure ought to be available to everyone?” To this question, I ask another: if you have the ability to easily save someone’s life, say, by administering a medical treatment, but don’t, are you responsible to some degree for that loss of life?

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January 12, 2014 · 11:54 am

Reasons and Public Policy

In January 2013, members of New Trier Public Schools in Illinois hosted a forum to present information about guns and public safety. During the talk, the crowd became defensive about the message; finally, an army veteran begins to speak about our constitutional rights. He says:

I went to war for your ability to have the First Amendment, to say what you stood up there and said today, to write what you want to write in your newspaper, and have whatever opinion you want to have. You can practice whatever religious freedoms you want. I would like you to answer the question, since you just [mentioned] one of the rights that I went to war over to defend, that is inalienable, to every American citizen. If this discussion was going on, about your First Amendment rights, would you still have the same opinion that we don’t need that any more either.

Goodman, a speaker from the New Trier Public Schools reasoned with the veteran as follows: when the second amendment to the constitution was adopted in 1791, Congress and the people had particular reasons for supporting it; we ought to reevaluate whether these reasons are relevant today.

I have a feeling that, to many Americans–call them constitutionalists–the idea of reevaluating the reasons for the second amendment is foreign. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and other government documents written at that time, so think constitutionalists, state the inalienable natural rights of American citizens. Such rights just are, and no reasoning ought to take them away. In fact, audience members during this debate between Goodman and the veteran can be heard saying things like “eternal truth…true for all time” in the background.

I think this kind of reasoning put forth by constitutionalists is highly problematic (and, to be sure, it’s not just limited to debates about guns). The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, etc., are documents written by people. The people who wrote them, as smart as they were, were not infallible, and did not have any special connection to God (if He exists…) or any special deep insight into the nature of the universe that other scholars lacked. As evidence for this claim, we can point to the fact that Thomas Jefferson, while writing that “all men are created equal,” owned slaves. While we might defend Jefferson as being blameless on the grounds that, as a product of his time and culture, he did not consider enslaved Africans to be “men”, this is no reason to believe that Jefferson is an infallible individual since we all (hopefully) believe that Africans are “men” and enslavement is wrong. Thus, if the individuals who wrote these documents are fallible, then we have no prima facie reason to take them as conveying the absolute truth. Instead, as Goodman points out, we should probably look at the reasons why they were written and consider whether those reasons are relevant today.

One might object at this point (as the veteran does during the debate) that the reasons for holding onto the second amendment have not changed. This claim cannot be true of all of the reasons. Here are some reasons that people in 1791 supported the second amendment:

  1. citizens ought to be able to form a militia
  2. citizens ought to be able to participate in law enforcement
  3. citizens ought to be able to suppress slave revolts
  4. citizens ought to be able to protect themselves from tyranny

In the very least, we no longer believe the third reason to be legitimate. Further, given the nature of current military weapons, the fourth reason seems silly: no weapon available to a civilian can offer protection against the kinds of weapons that the government possesses. Given that these two reasons are a bit outdated, we can conclude that the legitimacy of a reason for a law depends on the time and context in which the reason was given. So, it seems to follow that we ought to focus on our context, consider how we ought to interpret the second amendment, and think about what reasons we might have for passing certain laws that limit it.

The purpose of this post is not to defend or denounce second amendment rights. Instead, the purpose of this post is to shed light on how important reasons are. It’s not enough to rally around a veteran simply because he is a veteran or point to inalienable natural rights; veterans can be wrong and debates about whether such rights exist are highly philosophical and far from settled. Instead, we ought to decide what values are most important and what policies would best promote those values. This process involves assessing reasons.

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The Demand for Liberal Arts Skills

(Published in The Oredigger.)

In the September 30, 2013 issue of the Oredigger, Jordan Francis reported on a wonderful interview that he conducted with Kiewit CEO Bruce Grewcock. In this interview, Grewcock suggested that, in addition to a working knowledge of STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), Mines students who wish to become successful engineers ought to develop proficient critical thinking and communication skills.

Francis writes:
Grewcock said that to successfully interact with necessary and helpful non-technical people [people not well-versed in STEM fields], students and professionals must learn certain skills that are rarely taught in school. He claims that engineers need to learn to broaden their interests and perspectives, develop communication skills, and ask people’s opinions. Grewcock conveyed that he believes that these skills, in conjunction with a good sense of ethics, can help engineers both on a personal and industry-wide level.

This advice is wonderful, though, to say that these skills are not taught in schools is probably inaccurate. The skillset being described by Grewcock—understanding ethics, diverse perspectives, the development of communication skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, etc.—fall very nicely under the category of a liberal arts (or humanities) education. Although there has been a decline in liberal arts majors in recent years, Grewcock’s remarks reinforce the fact that a liberal arts education—the rigorous study of philosophy, political science, English, history, etc.—is invaluable. Further, his remarks reflect a more general trend among the desires of employers. For example, according to a recent report by the “Chronicle of Higher Education,” “160 employers and 107 college presidents agreed to help the public understand the importance of a ’21st-century liberal-arts education,’ comprising broad and adaptive learning, personal and social responsibility, and intellectual skills.”[1] In another article in “Business Insider” titled “Eleven reasons to Ignore the Haters and Major in the Humanities,” Max Nisan claims that a liberal arts education actually teaches one how to think (as opposed to what facts to memorize), how to sell ideas, and how to successfully deal with people.[2]

My personal experience with the liberal arts (undergraduate, graduate, and teaching work in philosophy) has been nothing short of pure joy. To the extent that I am a clear thinker (perhaps a topic of debate!), I have the study of philosophy to thank. Philosophy helps one think more clearly about whatever topic one chooses to study, including STEM topics. Though it is no fault of their own, I have no doubt that my freshman students would have a much easier time understanding some of the more difficult topics in calculus I (e.g., the Intermediate Value Theorem, the formal ‘epsilon-delta’ definition of a limit) if they had the opportunity to be exposed to a more rigorous study of logic (a branch of philosophy) sometime during their education.

Although Mines is well known for its great STEM education, the school also has a fantastic Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies (LAIS). While focusing on and majoring in STEM fields, Mines students can successfully develop some of the skills mentioned by Grewcock by choosing a minor in LAIS, or by applying to the McBride Honors Program. There is no doubt that the skills acquired through these programs can enrich the education experience of Mines students while at the same time make them more attractive on the job market. For more information on these opportunities, visit lais.mines.edu.
[1] http://chronicle.com/article/Employers-Want-Broadly/138453/
[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/11-reasons-to-major-in-the-humanities-2013-6


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Science and the Quran: A Philosophical Review

spaceinquran_main_i801 Recently, the Muslim Students Association at the Colorado School of Mines hosted a talk by Mines Physics PhD student Abdulaziz Alaswad entitled, “From the Atom to the Galaxy; Quran and Science”. During the talk, Alaswad interpreted a number of passages in the Quran as clear evidence that the author of the Quran had knowledge of contemporary (i.e., 20th and 21st century) science. This fact, he claims, is proof that God authored the Quran. There is no doubt that Alaswad is a well-spoken scientist with a special talent for explaining complicated subjects (e.g., cosmology, atomic physics) in a way that the non-specialist can understand. There is also no doubt that Alaswad has a sincere belief in a higher power. Here, I do not wish to take issue either with his scientific knowledge or his faith; I have a sincere respect for both. Rather, I would like to analyze the arguments that he presented for the claim that the author of the Quran had knowledge of contemporary science (call this claim C).

All of Alaswad’s evidence for claim C was presented in the following way: first, Alaswad explained a bit of a contemporary scientific theory; then, he presented a passage from the Quran that he believed to be overwhelming evidence that the author of the Quran knew the claims of the scientific theory just presented. So, for example, Alaswad presented a brief summary of the Big Bang Theory—the theory that, at some time in the past, the universe occupied an infinitesimally small, infinitely dense point. Then he presented the following passage from the Quran: “The heavens and the earth were joined together, and we clove them asunder” (21:30). He holds that this passage is strong evidence for claim C. I believe that this example is representative of the argument structure of the entire talk.

On my view, this connection does not constitute good evidence for C. There are a number of reasons that support my view, many of which have to do with the vagueness of this passage. Granting for the moment, as Alaswad believes, that the Quran is the perfect word of God[1], we are still faced with the question on how we should interpret these words. This passage in particular allows for at least two interpretations (and in reality, many more but we’ll consider two), none of which seem better than any other. For example, it is not clear at all what is meant by the claim that “the heavens and the earth were joined together.” Does the word ‘heaven’ refer to the several levels of the afterlife that most Muslims believe exist? If so, then it should be apparent that this passage has nothing to do with modern science since the Big Bang Theory does not posit the existence of this kind of heaven. But, perhaps ‘heaven’ refers what we call ‘the heavenly bodies’—the moon, the planets, the stars, etc. This interpretation might lend some support for claim C, but with a bit of inspection, we see that it doesn’t lend much. ‘Being joined together’ is certainly not equivalent to ‘being infinitely dense’; it is hard to see how we can interpret this passage as at all matching the level of precision of the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory makes claims about temperature, the nature of space, time, and matter; none of these things are addressed in the Quran passage (or anywhere else in the Quran, to the best of my knowledge) with any precision. Such precision is necessary in order to make the connection between science and the Quran. Otherwise, the connection is much like the purported connection between astrological events and social interactions: dubious at best.

One might object here that I’m being too demanding. Perhaps what is important about the Quran—and what is important about many religious texts—is that it displays the mysterious nature of God. Rather than speaking directly, and with precision, God is mysterious and unknowable. I’m sympathetic to this view. But, if we accept that God’s writings are mysterious, then it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect that the word of God be understood scientifically. Science is meant to be clear, unambiguous, and devoid of mystery. [2] It values not believing over believing falsely. Thus, I think that the best we can hope for is that the Quran is consistent with contemporary science. But that is a very different claim than the one made by Alaswad.

The Quran may be the word of God but we, as finite beings, are left with the monumental task of interpreting His (unfortunately ambiguous) word. In many cases, there aren’t any good reasons to believe that one interpretation is better than the other. But, without a relatively unambiguous interpretation of a religious text, it is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to make a link between that text and a scientific theory. As someone not at all opposed to religious thinking, it is hard for me to understand the appeal of making such connections. There are consistent positions that allow science and religion to coexist without sacrificing intellectual rigor.

[1] I am granting this claim—that the Quran is the perfect word of God—for the sake of argument. Full disclosure: the degree to which I believe that this claim is true is very low.

[2] To be clear, I am not judging which kind of discourse is superior; rather, I am merely arguing that, on an important level, the goals of each type of discourse are very different.


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