Abrahamic Reflections on Science and Religion: Project Participants
Nathan Aviezer (Ph.D., University of Chicago; Professor of Physics, Bar-Ilan University, Israel) writes extensively (three books and numerous articles) on the interface between science and religion. Although he is an Orthodox Jew, his writings apply to all the Abrahamic religions. His strong background in physics (140 scientific articles; fellow of the American Physical Society) enables him to write authoritatively about quantum theory and chaos theory, and their relation to providence. He has already written about the relationship between probability theory, evolution and the anthropic principle.
Rana Dajani, Ph.D. in molecular cell biology, University of Iowa, USA; a Fulbright alumnus twice, an Eisenhower Fellow and an Associate Professor and former Director of the center of studies at the Hashemite University, Jordan. She has initiated a committee to study the ethics of stem cell research in Jordan to set the guidelines for researchers and physicians, which resulted in the establishment of the first law for stem cell research and therapy in the Arab and Islamic World. She is an advocate for the theory of biological evolution and of its compatibility with Islam. She was a speaker at the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship symposium at the University of Cambridge and at the British Council belief in dialogue conference, McGill University and MIT. Dr. Dajani is a consultant to the higher council for science and technology in Jordan. She has written in Science and Nature about science and women in the Arab world. She is on the UN women Jordan advisory council. Rana is the Founder and Director of We Love Reading.
Scott A. Davison (Ph.D., Notre Dame) writes on questions about divine providence and human freedom. His publications include a number of articles in prestigious journals, two entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ("Prophecy" and "Prayer"), and the first full-length book treatment of issues involving divine providence and petitionary prayer (On the Pointlessness of Petitionary Prayer, Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
Bruno Guiderdoni is a Senior Researcher at the Lyon Center for Research in Astrophysics, of which he was the director from 2005 to 2015. His main research field is in galaxy formation and evolution. He has published more than 150 papers and has organized several international conferences on these issues. He is one of the referent experts on Islam in France and has published 50 papers and contribution to books on Islamic theology and mystics. He was in charge of a French television program called "Knowing Islam" from 1993 to 1999, and supervised an International research program on "Science and Religion in Islam" from 2005 to 2010 (Al-Bouraq Publisher, Paris, 2012). He is now the director of the Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies.
Nidhal Guessoum is an astrophysicist. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego and spent several extended periods as a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He is currently Professor and Associate Dean at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. In addition to his technical papers, Prof. Guessoum has published many articles on issues related to science, education, the Arab world, and Islam, and authored or co-authored several books, including: The Story of the Universe – from primitive conceptions to the Big Bang (in Arabic, 4 editions) and Islam’s Quantum Question - Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science (IB Tauris, 2011).
Robert Koons has been working on issues concerning the interaction between probability, causation, and belief since graduate school. This was a major theme in both of his early books, Paradoxes of Belief and Strategic Rationality and Realism Regained. He's also had a longtime interest in philosophical theology, developing an account of divine agency and providence (based on some ideas from the English theologian Austin Farrer) in a 2002 article in Philosophia Christi entitled “Dual Agency.”
Alan Love is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota and director of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science. His research focuses on conceptual issues in biology. His work has concentrated on the concepts of innovation and novelty in evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo). He is also interested in issues that arise in developmental biology and functional morphology. He uses a combination of approaches to investigate a variety of philosophical questions: conceptual change, explanatory pluralism, the structure of evolutionary theory, reductionism, the nature of historical science, and interdisciplinary epistemology. He has published nearly fifty scholarly articles and edited Conceptual Change in Biology: Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Evolution and Development. Boston Studies in Philosophy of Science, 2015.
Josef Stern (Ph.D. Columbia; William H. Colvin Professor of Philosophy and Inaugural Director, Chicago Center for Jewish Studies (2009-2014) at The University of Chicago) works both in the contemporary philosophy of language and in medieval Jewish philosophy and its Islamic background. He is the author of over fifty papers, three edited volumes, and three books, most recently, Metaphor in Context (MIT Press, 2000) and The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide (Harvard University Press, 2013), which was awarded the 2014 Prize of the Journal of the History of Philosophy for the best book in the history of philosophy published in 2013. He has written extensively on Maimonides’ naturalistic approach to the interpretation and explanation of the Mosaic Law and his views concerning the limitations of human knowledge with respect to metaphysics, cosmology, and the ultimate principles of nature. Stern makes extensive use of Arabic influences on Jewish thought and in turn has discussed their impact on scholastic philosophers such as Aquinas. He has also been deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and teaching. In 2011 and 2014 he served as the Russell Berrie Visiting Professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome (where he taught comparative (pagan, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish) medieval philosophy) and for many years he has also been involved in dialogues and meetings, including a webinar series he directed, with Muslim and in particular Shi’a theologians and philosophers.
Karl Svozil is Professor at the Institute for Theoretical Physics of the Vienna Technical University. He has been a visiting scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley, the Lebedev Institute of the Moscow State University, and the Ioffe Institute, St. Petersburg. He was President of the International Quantum Structure Association from 2012-2014. His research is in Quantum theory, applications of computability theory, algorithmic information theory, constructive mathematics in theoretical physics, and equilibrium dynamics. He is the author of Randomness & Undecidability in Physics (World Scientific: Singapore, 1993) and Quantum Logic (Springer: Singapore, 1998).
Caner Taslaman was born in Istanbul where he completed his elementary and high school educations. As the son of a mother who is a chemical engineer and a father who is a doctor, he always had deep enthusiasm in natural sciences from a very tender age. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Sociology Department of Bogazici University in Istanbul. During his undergraduate education he has also showed interest in fields like anthropology, sociology of religion, and sociology of knowledge. He later got his masters degree at the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department of Marmara University in Istanbul, with a thesis on the relationship between the Big Bang Theory, philosophy and theology. Following that, he got his doctorate in the same department with a thesis on the relationship between the Evolution Theory, philosophy and theology. He got Associate Professorship with his book on the relationship between Quantum Theory, philosophy,theology and Professorship with his work on science, philosophy and religion. He also earned a second Ph.D. degree in Political Sciences Faculty of Istanbul University with his thesis on "Islam in Turkey During the Globalization Process". He had post-doctorate studies first at Tokyo University and later at Oxford University. He also studied at Harvard University and Cambridge University as a visiting scholar. He currently serves as Professor of Philosophy at Yildiz Technical University.
Sara Aronowitz is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She works in two mostly unrelated areas of philosophy - the epistemology and cognitive science of memory, and philosophical issues surrounding the religious law in Judaism and Islam. Her recent work on the religious law explores how to reconcile arbitrariness in religious obligations, and how theories of legal interpretation and interpretive authority utilize background views about the process of learning.
Marilie Coetsee is a doctoral student in Philosophy at Rutgers University, where she is also currently earning her masters degree in Religious Studies (with a focus on Islam). She earned her B.A. in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Stanford University in 2009, and also finished her Masters degree in Philosophy there in 2010. She completed her masters thesis on the use of religious arguments in public deliberation. Marilie continues to work on that project – the paper associated with it was accepted for publication in a volume on Rawlsian political theory with Cambridge Scholars Publishing and she has presented it at multiple academic conferences. Marilie has begun her dissertation project at Rutgers, in which she will (among other things) examine what it takes for people to understand new and unfamiliar value concepts. She hopes to contrast the nature of value concepts with that of scientific concepts, and explore what the consequences of that contrast are for the diverging nature of, and norms applying to, religious and moral beliefs (on the one hand) and scientific beliefs (on the other hand).
Enis Doko graduated from both Philosophy and Physics departments in Middle East Technical University. Currently he is doing a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics on many-body quantum theory and cold atomic physics. He is interested in philosophy of religion, philosophy of science and the science-religion relationship. He has written two books: Religious and Genius: Isaac Newton (2012) and Presuppositions of Science and the Quran (2015, with Caner Taslaman). He has co-edited and written chapters for two books on Kalam and philosophy of religion: "Contemporary Debates in Kalam" (2014, with Mehmet Bulen) and "Philosophy, Science and God" (2013, with Taslaman).
Tyron Goldschmidt is a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from King’s College London and an M.Phil. in philosophy from the University of Cambridge. His areas of expertise are metaphysics, philosophy of religion, ethics, early modern philosophy and medieval philosophy. Tyron has various journal publications on metaphysics, philosophy of religion and the history of philosophy. His publications in philosophy of religion integrate contemporary analytic philosophy with medieval and early modern Jewish philosophy. He has also edited The Puzzle of Existence (Routledge), is co-editor of the forthcoming volume, Idealism: New Essay in Metaphysics (OUP), and is co-author of two forthcoming commentaries on early modern philosophy, Berkeley’s Principles: Expanded and Explained (Routledge) and Hume’s Principles: Expanded and Explained (Routledge).
Aaron Griffith is an assistant professor of philosophy at the College of William & Mary. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Irvine in 2013. He has a B.A. in philosophy and religion from Calvin College. His religious background is broadly reformed Christianity, but he also has some affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy. Griffith’s research is primarily in metaphysics. In his dissertation, he formulated and defended a “pluralist” theory of truthmaking. His published work has largely concerned the relation between truth, truthmaking, and various forms of metaphysical dependence. His future research will be on the ontology of social reality, especially topics such as social construction and realism/essentialism about social kinds. Griffith is also working on a project on the metaphysics of time and our obligations to future and potential persons. Along with his work in metaphysics, he has published on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and plans to write on Kant’s critique of metaphysics. In the philosophy of religion, he has interests in the problem of evil, God’s foreknowledge and human freedom, and the relation between theism and meaning in life.
Silvia Jonas is a Polonsky Post-doctoral Fellow at The Van Leer Institute and a Visiting Researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. She completed her Ph.D. at Humboldt University Berlin in 2012 and holds a B.Phil. in Philosophy from the University of Oxford and an M.Litt. in Philosophy from the University of St. Andrews. Her areas of research are metaphysics, philosophy of religion, epistemology, and philosophy of mathematics. Her monograph Ineffability and its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion, and Philosophy was published in 2016 with Palgrave Macmillan. Her current focus is on shared metaphysical and epistemic problems for mathematics and other allegedly a priori domains, such as theism. On this topic, she has published ‘Access Problems and Explanatory Overkill’ (Philosophical Studies, 2016), `On Mathematical and Religious Belief, and on Epistemic Snobbery' (Philosophy, 2015, and ‘Modal Structuralism and Theism’ (OUP, forthcoming).
Shalahudin Kafrawi is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Since he joined the Colleges in 2006, he has taught courses in Qur'anic studies, interfaith dialogue and other courses in religious studies. He authored Methodology of Qur'anic Interpretation: Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Exegetic Principles and a number of articles. He also co-edited Islam: Between Globalization & Counter-terrorism and Globalization and Civilization: Are They Forces in Conflict?
Jeffrey Koperski is a professor of philosophy at Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan. He has a Ph.D. (Philosophy) from Ohio State University and a B.E.E. (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Dayton. His areas of expertise are philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. While most of his early work focused on chaos theory, more recent publications deal with issues at the intersection of philosophy, science, and religion. He is an editorial board member for Philosophy Compass and has published articles in Philosophy of Science, the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Zygon, among others. His first book, The Physics of Theism: God, Physics, and the Philosophy of Science, was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015. A second book is currently in the works on physics and divine action.
Sam Lebens received his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of London, Birbeck College. His thesis was a defense of Bertrand Russell's multiple relation theory of judgment. Upon completing his Ph.D., he took some away from full time philosophy in order to dedicate himself to Rabbinic Studies, which led to his Orthodox Rabbinic ordination. Since returning to full-time philosophy, he has held two research fellowships, one at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame, and another at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Rutgers. He has published on Hassidic metaphysics, the nature of faith, and the limits of religious language. His Ph.D. thesis is currently under review with Cambridge University Press. He is also a co-founder and chairperson of the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism, an academic association aimed at championing and supporting a new chapter of Jewish thought that combines intimate knowledge of the Rabbinic tradition with the rigor of analytic philosophy.
Yamina Bouguenaya Mermer is a scholar of the Quran. She is the director of Receiving Nur, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to empowerment and enrichment through Quranic spirituality. Yamina transitioned from her position as Associate Professor of Islamic Studies in order to commit to this project. In addition to extensive training in Islamic Studies both in traditional and academic settings, Yamina also holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical (Quantum) Physics from Durham University, England, UK. She has published extensively in several languages on Islam, especially on Quranic Studies, Islamic Spirituality and the relation between religion and science. Some of her publications include her latest book Living with Genuine Tawhid: Witnessing the Signs of God, “Islam: A Prophetic Dissenting Voice within the Reality of the Modern World,” (in Scripture, Reason, and the Contemporary Islam-West Encounter, Palgrave Macmillan), “In Islam, Fasting is Feasting,” (Fasting and Feasting in Three Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, University of Indianapolis Press), “Principles of Quranic Hermeneutics,” (in Journal of Scriptural Reasoning).
Arash Naraghi is associate professor of Philosophy and Religion, and the chair of Philosophy Department at Moravian College. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of Philosophy of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He previously taught philosophy at California State University, San Bernardino. His areas of specialization include Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Islamic Mysticism, and Contemporary Islamic Theology. His most recent publications include, A Theology of Absence: An Islamic Experience, Critical Traditionalism: A New Approach to the Logic of Reform in Islamic Thought.
Meghan Page is an Assistant Professor at Loyola University Maryland. Dr. Page received her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, and spent the following year as a post-doc with the Templeton-funded Faith Project. Her research focuses on questions in philosophy of science, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion, specifically questions regarding the overlap of scientific knowledge and religious belief. She is currently investigating the relationship between manipulationist theories of causation and theories of probability and chance, and the compatibility of determinism and physical chance. She is also interested in the role idealization plays in fundamental scientific theories.
Sajjad Rizvi is the Director of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University, with principal research interest in Islamic intellectual history, playing an active role in the Centre for the Study of Islam, and of the Islamic Studies research cluster. He works on Islamic intellectual history in the wider Persianate world. His particular interests beginning with the philosophy of Mull adr Shrz (d. c. 1635) lie in post-Avicennan philosophical, theological and mystical traditions. His second main area of interest is Quranic exegesis and textual hermeneutics. He has advised various government departments and private sector concerns on Iraq, Iran, Shii Islam in the Gulf, and Islam in Britain and Europe. He also runs a blog, “Hikmat,” that has various musings on philosophy, both Islamic and otherwise, as well as notes on manuscript research and related critical editions.
Amir Saemi was born in Iran and earned his Ph.D. degree in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, June 2013. He wrote his dissertation on the nature of practical reasons. His research is primarily on ethics, philosophy of action, and philosophy of religion. He has published in top Philosophy journals such as Ethics, Canadian Journal of Philosophy and Journal of Value Inquiry. He is currently a faculty member at the school of analytic philosophy at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM). He also holds another Ph.D. degree in electronics and telecommunications from the University of Limoges, Xlim CNRS 6172 (France). He has published in top Electrical Engineering journals such as IEEE transactions on Wireless Communications, IEEE transaction on Vehicular Technology, IET Communications and IET Circuit, Device and System.
Emil Salim is an associate lecturer of philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jakarta, Indonesia. He received his Master of Divinity in 2001 from the same school. In 2012, he finished his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Arizona. He currently resides in Urbana, Illinois and travels twice a year to Indonesia to teach. Emil's field of specialization is mainly ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy, with serious interests in ethics and philosophy of religion. He is now doing research on philosophy of emotions, anthropomorphism, and virtue epistemology. Being a native of Indonesia, which is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, he is passionate about promoting interfaith philosophical dialogues. Since his full-time employment at RTS Indonesia in 2001, Emil has been responsible for teaching various philosophy courses at the seminary, including philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, ethics, and history of philosophy. He served as Director of Master of Theology in Practical Theology program from 2012-2014, and is now the Chief Editor of the seminary's academic journal. Emil was awarded the Joel Feinberg Dissertation Fellowship (2010) for his dissertation on Aristotle's metaphysics and ethics. He was also invited to be a part of The Templeton Foundation's Philosophy of Religion Summer Seminars at St. Thomas (2011). In 2013, he was granted the Thrive Seed Grant from Fuller Theological Seminary to work on the theoretical foundations for a theory of virtue.
Aaron Segal is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, specializing in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and Jewish philosophy. Among the venues in which he has published or has forthcoming publications are Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Philosophical Studies, Religious Studies and Torah U-Madda Journal, and he is co-editing the forthcoming Jewish Philosophy Past and Present: Contemporary Responses to Classical Sources (Routledge). Aaron holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and Rabbinical Ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and is a co-founder of the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism.
Irem Kurtsal Steen received her M.A. in Philosophy at Bogazici University in Istanbul (1999) and her Ph.D., also in Philosophy, at Syracuse University (2007). She has worked at Bilkent University, Middle East Technical University, and University of Missouri Saint Louis, before becoming an Assistant Professor at Bogazici University. She published papers in Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. Her recent work is on the individuation and persistence of material objects and persons. She is a Vice Chair of her department, and she has taught Philosophy of Religion, Logic, Ethics, Ontology, and Philosophy of Science.
Mark Steen received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Syracuse University (2005). Before this he received a B.A. in Philosophy (1997) and a B.A. in History (1993). He has worked at Bilkent University (Ankara) and had a post-doc at St. Louis University before becoming Assistant Professor at Bogazici University in Istanbul. He has published papers in Philosophia, Grazer Philosophische Studien, Acta Analytica, and has an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. His work is somewhat eclectic, but he mainly focuses on the nature of material objects, analytic process ontology, and the metaphysical ramifications of the linguistic phenomenon of verb aspect and mass terms.
Shira Weiss teaches medieval and modern Jewish Philosophy at Stern College, Yeshiva University. She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and wrote her dissertation on the concept of choice in the philosophic exegesis of Joseph Albo. She was awarded an NEH fellowship for college professors on Free Will and Human Perfection in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and has authored several articles. She is currently writing a book on Ethics in the Bible, for which she was awarded a fellowship from The Herzl Institute and the John Templeton Foundation's project on Philosophic Theology.
Umeyye Isra Yazicioglu is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at St. Joseph's University, PA. After studying medical sciences as an undergraduate, she got her M.A. in Islamic Studies & Christian-Muslim Relations from Hartford Seminary. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2008. Her research is on interpretation of the Quran in the modern age, Islamic theology, and relation between faith and reason, with a focus on the Quranic Theology of the twentieth century Muslim scholar, Said Nursi. Her book Understanding Quranic Miracle Stories in the Modern Age (Penn State University Press, 2013) brings Muslim and Western thinkers into conversation on the implications of scriptural texts. Her selected publications include: “Perhaps their Harmony is not that Simple: Said Nursi on the Qur’an and Modern Science,” (in Theology and Science), “Engaging with Abraham and His Knife: Interpretation of Abraham’s Sacrifice in the Muslim Tradition, ” (in Journeys to Moriah from Fortress Press), “Affliction, Patience and Prayer: Reading Job (p) in the Qur’an,” (in Journal of Scriptural Reasoning).
Karen Zwier holds a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a part-time adjunct professor in the department of Philosophy and Religion at Drake University. She has broad research interests in philosophical and scientific methodology as well as metaphysics of science. Her research is largely concerned with questions about how—and if—metaphysical claims are engaged by empirical scientific methods. Her primary areas of research include philosophy of causation, history and philosophy of the physical sciences, and issues in science and religion.
Ravit Dotan is a philosophy graduate student at UC Berkeley. She mainly works in general philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and formal epistemology. From the perspectives of these three subdisciplines, Ravit thinks about theory choice, assessment of evidence, and assessment of theories. One topic Ravit currently works on is the role of evidence in both religion and science. It has been argued that resilience in the face of counter-evidence is central to religious and mundane faith, Ravit is thinking about the role of resilience in science and about different ways to model resilience.
Before arriving to UC Berkeley, Ravit earned an MA in philosophy and a BSc in physics and chemistry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Shoaib Malik obtained his Bachelors of Engineering in 2010 from the University of Bath and then completed his PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham in 2015 in the UK. He then went on and pursued a traditional course in Islamic Studies in which he has obtained ijaazahs (qualification of mastery in the subject) in usool al hadith (principles of verifying hadith) and aqeedah/kalam (Islamic metaphysics) from the scholars at Avicenna Academy. He is currently continuing his Islamic studies with Sheikh Ali Lakhi from The Meem Institute. He is also starting his MSc in Philosophy of Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. As a profession, he is a full-time assistant professor of science at Zayed University in Dubai, UAE where he teaches chemistry and physics related modules. His research interests include science education, metaphors, information theory, science and religion, Islam and science, and evolution.
Ambassadors and Mentors
Doug Kindschi is the founding director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. He is also a Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy at Grand Valley State University, and was previously Dean of Sciences at GVSU for 28 years. With a unique path of starting in science and ending up in religion, Kindschi is particularly interested in the relationship between the two fields. After spending 7 months at the Cambridge Interfaith Programme in Cambridge, England, Kindschi has returned to Grand Rapids with new interfaith initiatives in the community as well as internationally.
Mohammed Hamid Mohammed is a program officer at the Fetzer Institute, Michigan, USA. He has worked in the area of philanthropic programmatic management as well as corporate research developing new technologies and business models before transitioning to his current role. His trainings straddle human-computer interaction, anthropology, design, and the humanities. He also has experience in international development and social innovation.
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Check out past work by our participants here: Participant Videos