Posts in Category: Mentorship

Research Presentation

Poster Presentation

Meeting with Professor Hardig

I met with Professor Hardig on Wednesday, April 4th for about 15 minutes to discuss the analysis section of my research paper. Beyond struggling with structural issues, I was mostly concerned that I simply had not done enough research. I felt that there was so much more information out there that was fundamental and important to my research that I had not yet had the time to explore. Professor Hardig, after looking over my analysis briefly, assured me that this is the plight of all researchers and academics, and that rather than focusing on the breadth of research I was able to compile in a semester, I focus on organizing and working through the research I did have.

Research Portfolio Post 6: Marginalization and Activism in Academia

Arendt is particularly concerned with understanding the human condition in the modern age. Beginning in the twentieth century there was a desire to escape the human condition; rockets were sent into space; automation allowed a laboring society to be free from labor; and the sciences began to adopt a mathematical language where human speech, that which defined the human existence in all its complexities, lost its power.[1] Yet those questions of the human existence, which had been pondered by philosophers and theologians for centuries, could not be answered through science alone; such questions were fundamentally political and could not be solved through experimentation or mathematical equations.[2]

Jonas, similar to Arendt, tried to understand the complex and dynamic new age in which he was living. He determined that as human action changed, the ethics that guided their behavior must also change.[3] Science has eroded the foundation upon which human normative values were built; the old religious values simply could not hold in a new age of supreme human, technological, and scientific capabilities. In particular, Jonas places great emphasis on the future and the role that our present decisions will play in the quality of future life for humankind.[4] As such, politics is inherently unfit to meet the demands of the future, as politicians are solely concerned with the present.

Activist scholarship thus grants the ability to understand this new and unknown age. Our old modes of thinking, those based on religious values and traditions, cannot hold in a world where humans can send man into space or create immortality or alter human behavior. Activist scholarship can give us the vocabulary to understand and explain this new age. In a world where nothing makes sense, activist scholarship grants humans the tools by which to create the language and capability to create a better world; one based on sound ethics that can be applicable to the modern age; one that actively protects future generations from the sins of the present.

In a world that desperately desires science to solve its problems, to give some objective solution to the woes of humankind, Sarewitz argues that the search for objectivity has only resulted in an excess of it.[5] The very nature of science and politics are so fundamentally different that they cannot be reconciled by the scientific method. Science, unable to provide the answers to our greatest and most contentious political debates, serves merely as a veil from which to hide our true values.[6] Thus, activist scholarship grants us the ability to use the science we so claim to value to actually fight for our values and morals. For Sarewitz, science should be a tool of politics, used to advance preferred goals.

Although I see the merit in activist scholarship, indeed I fundamentally believe that we can never fully separate our values from our scholarship, I also understand the concerns of activist scholarship. I worry that science will try to become the basis upon which we place our values. Science cannot give us sound values and morals on how to direct and live our lives. Just because humans may have the ability to provide vaccinations, does not necessarily mean that we will use them. In addition, activist scholarship seems to believe that scholarship must have some tangible ends that will affect the human experience here on earth. Scholarship, that which seeks to know for the sake of knowing, will be lost in the eternal struggle for meaningful, impactful work. While meaningful, impactful work is important, scholarship does not need to play this role, indeed there are many instances where scholarship should not play this role.



Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago University Press, 1958.

Jonas, Hans. “Technology and Responsibility: The New Task of Ethics.” Bell and Howell Information and Learning Company (2000).

Sarewitz, Daniel. “Science and Environmental Policy: An Excess of Qbjectivity.” In Earth Matters: The Earth Sciences, Philosophy, and the Claims of Community, n.d.

[1] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago University Press, 1958), 2-4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Hans Jonas, “Technology and Responsibility: The New Task of Ethics,” Bell and Howell Information and Learning Company (2000).

[4] Ibid., 51.

[5] Daniel Sarewitz, “Science and Environmental Policy: An Excess of Qbjectivity,” in Earth Matters: The Earth Sciences, Philosophy, and the Claims of Community, n.d.

[6] Ibid., 91.

Research Portfolio Post 5: Grappling with the Division of the Sciences

Bacon’s distinction between the spheres of science and those of ethics, religion, and morality takes on a very religious tone. Unlike Nietzsche’s blatant disregard for religion, Bacon acknowledges the significance of religion and cautiously warns against turning away from God and creating one’s own laws.[1] Though knowledge of moral dilemmas such as that between good and evil are God’s alone, Bacon recognizes the importance of cultivating human knowledge in order to improve the human condition and life and conduct charity.[2] The divide, for Bacon, is a divide between the knowledge that humans can obtain through the scientific method and that which humans can obtain through religion.

Although at some point the goal of science may have been to pave the path toward art and nature and God, according to Weber, this is no longer the case.[3] Science cannot, by its very nature, lead us to God.[4] Science cannot give us the answers to the moral questions and those questions concerning the meaning of life. Weber states quite explicitly that the spheres of science and the spheres of “the holy” are unbridgeable, and that such spheres, or gods, will be in constant battle with one another.[5] Weber writes that humans can tackle the scientific questions that demand to be answered in our physical, present world, but that the questions of true value, that seek to explain the human condition and life, cannot be answered through the scientific method. Science inherently does not take on normative inquiry. Though science can do some things, such as offer power, methods, and clarity, it cannot do all things and therefore is limited in its scope.

Both Bacon and Weber believe that knowledge is attainable in some form, though they acknowledge that not all knowledge can be attained through science alone, and that some simply belongs to God. Thus, they accept some moral facts and religious claims as true and objective and beyond human manipulation. In this respect, the divide offers the ability to pursue research using scientific methods from the standpoint of normative claims which themselves do not require scientific proof. Thus, we are able to situate our projects within specific moral spheres. The divide is also useful in that we are not required to recreate the world according to our own desires and morals as Nietzsche may desire. In my own project, I take on many normative assumptions such as the value of protecting minority rights, the importance of democratic societies, and the need to have positive societal behaviors among groups. Without the divide, such as in a Nietzschian world, such assumptions would have to be verified and created on my own accord.

[1] Francis Bacon, “The Great Renewal,” in The New Organon, n.d, 12.

[2] Ibid., 13.

[3] Max Weber, Science as a Vocation, n.d, 6.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 11.

Meeting with Professor Mislan

I met with Professor Mislan on March 1st for about thrity minutes. He was extremely helpful in drawing out my hypotheses. I originally had two; one showed how numerous variables could lead to the outcome of increased persecution, whereas the other was more causal in nature; one variable led to increased levels in another which led to increased persecution. Professor Mislan noted that the causal hypothesis was much stronger and that I could continue to perform a structured, focused comparison, but with a small amount of process tracing in order to show the causal mechanisms. He also greatly helped with my case selection. He agreed with Professor Hardig that I should continue to research multiple cases and with Professor Field that they should be regionally focused. He drew a typology using my independent and intervening variables. He showed how I could select cases based on the presence or absence of such variables. He also noted how I could control for other variables such as the character of the minority. Professor Mislan was extremely helpful in my case selection, explicitly making the connection between my variables, my hypothesis, and thus my cases.

Meeting with Professor Field

I met with Professor Field on February 23rd for about thirty minutes. I was still grappling with my case selection. I had followed Professor Hardig’s advice and researched cases where there was increased persecution and where there was not. My cases, though, were all over the world and, as Professor Field noted, it would be very hard to justify such case selection without it looking like I simply cherry picked the results I wanted. She suggested that I focus my cases regionally in order to control for other variables. Since my original focus was in the Middle East, she suggested I focus there, with about four cases that had different outcomes on the dependent variable. She also noted the importance of the minority group I was proposing to research, as persecution levels could differ between ethnic or religious minorities. I ultimately decided to focus only on religious minorities so as to control for variance among the persecution of different groups. She really helped to me outline my project, what I was hoping to achieve with my research, and all the factors that I had to control for, or at the very least, note in my research.

Meeting with Professor Hardig

I met with Professor Hardig on February 21st for about twenty minutes. I was very concerned that I would not be able to study cases of foreign invasion when the presence or absence of foreign invasion was also my independent variable, but Professor Hardig assured me that it should not be a problem as long as there is variance on my dependent variable; the level of persecution directed toward religious minorities does vary. I was also having a lot of trouble with my case selection, and I thought briefly about returning to my original case idea where I would only research the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, but Professor Hardig maintained his suggestion that I investigate more cases. He argued that my research would be much more meaningful, and I very much agreed. He said that I should I continue to look at cases where increased persecution occurred and where it did not. He also recommended the book, “Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences” by Alexander George & Andrew Bennett.

RPP 4: Abstract

The plight of religious and ethnic minorities, in a world marked by the scars of foreign intervention, has remained on the forefront of political and academic debate. Though much of the dominant research has focused on the persecution of minorities following intervention, little research has been conducted to explain why this persecution occurs. Using a structured, focused comparison of three cases of foreign intervention, this paper analyses the variables present in order to understand what factors are sufficient to result in increased levels of persecution following intervention. The findings of this paper indicate that a conjunction of variables are necessary to result in increased persecution including negatively held societal attitudes toward religious minorities and a high intensity of foreign intervention. As the issue of foreign intervention remains a prominent debate on the world stage, it is increasingly important to understand the repercussions of intervention and the effect one might have on religious and ethnic minorities.

Research Portfolio Post 3: Grappling with Ethical Naturalism (and Positivism)

Gorski argues that the social sciences can shape our values and morality. They can show us what we, as human beings, ought to be doing. There exists, independent of the human mind, moral truths of which humans have no genuine knowledge, but of which social sciences can enlighten us.[1] And these values and moral truths shape human existence and the facts we hold, and vice versa. He argues that human well-being can be determined by the type of social order in which we live; that the social sciences provide a lens into genuine human well-being.[2] He claims the distinction between sciences and morality is fluid, if existing at all.

Though I think it is a noble endeavor to show how science can offer insights into human well-being, I am not fully persuaded by Gorski’s argument. Although I agree that there certainly exists a relationship between values and facts I do not think that we necessarily look to science to inform our values or vice versa. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that morality and science exist on completely separate planes, and I do think that social sciences do offer some insight into the human condition, but I think that people ultimately look elsewhere for their moral truths.

Comte claims there is no real knowledge beyond that based on observable facts and that positive philosophy dominates over the scholastic systems. He would probably disagree with Gorski’s claim that there exist moral truths beyond human knowledge. Comte claims that religion has no purpose in the pursuit of true knowledge and that science holds the key to obtaining facts, though he does admit there can be no facts without some guiding theory and foundation in social science.[3]

Harris claims that science could be used to map the moral landscape, and that perhaps, one day, science could be the key to determining moral truths. He makes many good points throughout his talk: why do we view morality as less factual than other sciences, when nearly all sciences are open for revision? Why are there not allowed to be moral experts when there are experts in nearly every other field? Though his cultural and religious insensitivity undermines much of his argument, he makes some interesting points about how science could hold the key to determining the ethical truths humans have grappled with for centuries.[4]

My own research has numerous normative assumptions, including believing human rights should be protected, that cultures should be respected regardless of how the west might view them, and that the laws and norms that govern our international society are good. Such normative beliefs are implicit throughout my research and will be backed up with much more explicit factual claims, yet these are precisely the sorts of norms that pure science does not uphold. Science is inherently descriptive while morality is prescriptive. Thus, facts obtained from science can help inform moral decision, but cannot be a source of sound values. While social sciences are very important for informing moral decisions, the basic values one holds comes from a higher authority. My research though will not be intended for the use of legislators, which Gorski would appreciate.

[1] Philip S. Gorski, “Beyond the Fact/Value Distinction: Ethical Naturalism and the Social Sciences,” Symposium: Facts, Values, and Social Science (n.d.), 549. Philip S. Gorski, “Beyond the Fact/Value Distinction: Ethical Naturalism and the Social Sciences,” Symposium: Facts, Values, and Social Science (n.d.).

[2] Ibid., 543.

[3] Auguste Comte, Course of Positive Philosophy, n.d.

[4] Sam Harris, Science Can Answer Moral Questions, n.d., accessed February 14, 2018,