JRMC 202-2 Interview Assignment

Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Salma Rizk

Subject: Dr. Matthew Crippen

Date: March 13
, 2014

Location: AUC Radio Lab (recording studio)

Institution: The American University in Cairo

Professor: Kim Fox

Date completed: March 14
, 2014

Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview


March 13th, 2014

Persons Present: Salma Rizk - Interviewer
Dr. Matthew Crippen - Subject

Rizk: This is Salma Rizk for JRMC 202, and today we'll be talking with Dr. Matthew
Crippen, professor of philosophy at The American University in Cairo.
Dr. Crippen, thank you for being here.

Dr. Crippen: Thank you very much for having me.

Rizk: I understand you come from quite a religious background [?]

Dr. Crippen: I mean, my background isn't that religious, but I have a lot of religious people in
my family; my mom, for example, is an Anglican priest. My uncle is a United
Methodist minister. I have a cousin who is a Russian Orthodox priest...

Rizk: Oh, yeah?

Dr. Crippen: ...So, I grew up around lots of religious people.

Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview

Rizk: And, do you feel in any sense that this has an effect on your personal outlook?

Dr. Crippen: I...think.. it does, but I'm not actually exactly sure how.

Rizk: Well, how do you... what /is/ your outlook to begin with?

Dr. Crippen: I guess I would classify myself as an Agnostic who'd really like to believe. So, I
mean... I mean I've had interesting conversations, you know, religious
conversations. I think my mom is probably a borderline heretic.

Rizk: Oh, yeah? How's that?

Dr. Crippen: There's just a lot of standard things that she doesn't really believe; she doesn't
believe that Mary was a virgin, for example. I'm not even really sure whether she
believes that Christ was literally resurrected. My United...

Rizk: I see. That's interesting.

Dr. Crippen: ...My United Methodist uncle is an ultra-Liberal, so he's been arrested more
Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview

times than he can count. He's protested for abortion rights, for gay rights, but his
son rebelled by becoming an ultra-conservative Orthodox priest.

Rizk: Okay, yes-- that /is/ very interesting. And, how do you... Do you feel that you
relate to any of this?

Dr. Crippen: Yeah, I mean, interesting, I relate to Orthodoxy more than any of the other
religions, and I think it's because it's pretty firmly entrenched in the Greek
tradition, so there's Greek philosophical ideas that make an appearance, and...

Rizk: Mmmhmm.

Dr. Crippen: ...more. But I actually like the art; I like the iconography, I like... and.. and it
even... it fits with certain notions. So, for example, everything that God created
was good, including the material world, and hence, you know, the Orthodox
Church is perfectly comfortable depicting, you know, Jesus-- because Jesus was
meant to be both fully human and fully God --and Saints, and anybody who
basically took human form, they're comfortable depicting. So philosophically, I
like the Orthodox Church, although it tends to be way too politically conservative

Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview

for me.

Rizk: And how's that?

Dr. Crippen: I mean, most of them tend to be, you know, against Gay marriage, which I think
I'm for. I mean, if one wants to get married, I think they should have the right.
Most of them even tend to be.. you know, to think the homosexual lifestyle is a
sin, whereas I don't. They also tend to be conservative in the sense that, you
know, they would actually vote Republican, they would tend to, you know, favor
the war in Iraq, they would tend to, you know, be against welfare for low-income
people or single mothers, and you know, against even publicly funded education,
I mean, not.. not necessarily 'against', but I would say they're for the private
system, and so in this sense, they tend to be conservative. So it's nothing like I can
hang out with them, I'm just saying I don't really... so, for whatever reason, the
reli.. people in that religion tend to be on average pretty conservative,...

Rizk: Hmm.

Dr. Crippen: ...whereas the Anglicans and United Methodists tend to be much more liberal on
the whole.
Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview

Rizk: Well, I mean, as a philosophy professor, I'm sure you're aware that there's a
common notion that philosophy and religion are antithetical. Do you believe this
to be true?

Dr. Crippen: I believe it to be complete nonsense. I mean... I mean, historically, it's clearly
false. I mean.. I mean, philosophy throughout most of its history has been in the
service of religion; most philosophers were religious. The difference between
theology and philosophy, I mean, there's a lot of overlap, so some of the great
philosophers of history, such as, you know, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas
Aquinas were also religious, and in the Islamic tradition as well, you know, you
have Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, who are, I mean, basically purveyors of the
Aristotelian tradition and other Greek traditions, but who are obviously
philosophizing from a religious standpoint, and more recently you have people
like William James, who in effect, offered a.. a.. a.. a defense of religious belief
that actually drew heavily on the sciences, particularly actually Darwinism, so no,
I think it's nonsense to say they're antithetical. Though, I would add in passing
that in most philosophy departments, you're kinda considered a softhead if

Rizk: Yeah...
Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview
Dr. Crippen: ...Christian. You can get away with being Islamic or Jewish, but not Christian.

Rizk: Why is that?

Dr. Crippen: I have no idea.

Rizk: Oh?

Dr. Crippen: We do have one Christian in our department-- she's not a softhead, but.. but,

Rizk: [Laughter] Okay. Well, then why do you think that...why do you think this notion

Dr. Crippen: That you're a softhead if you're religious?

Rizk: No, no. I'm going back to philosophy and religion being mutually

Salma Rizk Dr. Matthew Crippen Interview

Dr. Crippen: It.. it may be because a lot of people don't understand much about
philosophy. It also may be because philosophers traditionally question
everything and therefore lead people to question beliefs that they've held
on to unthinkingly, but in my view, you can't even really have faith if you haven't
gone through a period of doubt and struggled. But you get the same thing where
people say that science and religion are enemies, and in ancient times...

Rizk: Yeah...

Dr. Crippen: ...this was thought where natural philosophers were banished from Gree.. from
Athens for, you know, giving views that people held, you know, went against
religion, and it's similar today. But again, historically, most of the great scientists
have also been religious.

Rizk: That's true. Okay, well, I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today.
Dr. Crippen, thank you for your time and thoughts.

Dr. Crippen: My pleasure.