Interview: Emily Qureshi-Hurst


University of Oxford

Areas of Interest/Research:

Science and Religion, Philosophy of Time, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Physics. 

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I love the interdisciplinarity of my research. I’ve always struggled to focus on one thing – I loved all three of my A-level subjects, studied a joint honours degree (Philosophy and Theology), and actively seek out interdisciplinary research collaborations as a doctoral candidate. I think I would get bored or feel boxed-in if I had to stick within the rigid boundaries of a single discipline. By working in science and religion I get to explore philosophy, theology, and physics. In my science and religion masters course there were 8 students and almost all of us was working on a totally different area of science. It’s such a diverse field and I love that!

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

‘Science and religion’ is a relatively new interdisciplinary endeavour, and I guess one of the ‘big ideas’ (so big it has now become almost universally accepted) is that science and religion can both co-exist and meaningfully interact. This idea is both important and far-reaching, especially in the context of the post-Enlightenment consensus that science was epistemically superior and religion was intellectually and morally inferior. This big idea has led to many smaller, meandering, streams of scholarship each of which looks at different ways of relating these two fields. Its an exciting area to be working in right now.

What is your current research about?

I am currently working on the relationship between the philosophy of time and the doctrine of salvation. More specifically, I argue for a B-theory (or block-universe) model of time and then re-examine salvation within this metaphysical framework. The B-theory is hostile to the type of change required by salvation – i.e. an ontological change that brings something genuinely new into both the universe and the life of the saved individual. My ‘big idea’ is that a salvation-transformation can no longer coherently be believed to be the result of an objective, ontological, or robust change. Instead, I argue that salvific change is ‘mind-dependent’ i.e. individuals experience a subjective transformation between the objective states ‘being fallen’ and ‘being saved’ – the actual events are objectively real, but the sense of transformation is subjective. This idea of ‘mind-dependent becoming’ is found in the literature on B-theoretic explanations of temporal experience.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

My supervisor Alister McGrath – he has written so many excellent books on an incredibly diverse range of topics, its hard to imagine many other scholars who have made such monumental contributions to religious scholarship. He is also an incredibly kind and supportive mentor, which is almost as important in academia (in my opinion!).

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

For me, its definitely been popular books on physics – as a philosopher who has no training in physics past GCSE these books have been immeasurably helpful as gateways into the weird and wonderful world of cosmology and quantum mechanics. Stephen Hawking’s’ A Brief History of Time, Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time, and Manjit Kumar’s Quantum have been particularly formative. This isn’t the most academic answer, but these writers have a way of bringing physics alive, and I think that’s really special. Without these sorts of books, I doubt I’d be able to engage in the philosophy of physics today, so I am incredibly grateful to these physicists who have taken the time to share their expertise and make their field accessible.

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

Qureshi-Hurst, Emily & Bennett, Christopher. “Outstanding Issues with Robert Russell’s Model of NIODA concerning Quantum Biology and Theistic Evolution.” Zygon. (online open)

Qureshi-Hurst, Emily & Pearson, Anna. “Quantum Mechanics, Time, and Theology: Indefinite Causal Order and a New Approach to Salvation.” Zygon. 55 (3) (2020): p.663-68

Qureshi-Hurst, Emily. “Quantum Mechanics and Salvation: a new meeting point for science and theology.” Toronto Journal of Theology. 36 (1) (2020): p.3-13.

Read, James & Qureshi-Hurst, Emily. “Getting Tense About Relativity.” Synthese (2020): 1-23

Where can we follow you online?

Twitter: @equreshihurst

If we ran into you at a conference and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

Other people’s research, Travel, LGBTQ+ culture, animals, and gardening.

What research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

I’m really enjoying being involved in interdisciplinary collaborations. I’m currently working with a quantum physicist (Anna Pearson, see our co-authored paper above) on a couple of different projects. The project on Indefinite Causal Order (again, see above) is drawing to a close but we are about to start working on something in the philosophy of thermodynamics which is very exciting!

>> Thank you so much, Emily, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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