Peter Boghossian seeks new vocation

Peter Boghossian must be seeking a new job. He has recently joined a very tiny, niche, and widely ignored group who are calling for academic philosophy of religion to be withdrawn from secular universities. [1] 

This seems a little odd since Boghossian teaches sophomore-level philosophy of religion in a secular university himself. [2]

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Surely if one seriously thought that philosophy of religion should not be being taught in secular universities one would not be teaching it in a secular university? If he got his wish, that would be the end of his ‘introduction to atheism’ classes at Portland State University!

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[1] I’m Calling For An End to the Philosophy of Religion As A Discipline In Secular Universities

The intimidating list of academics (I am being sarcastic) calling for this change appear to be: Richard Dawkins, Peter Boghossian, John Loftus, and Jerry Coyne!

I have written more on this subject here: Peter Boghossian ostracizing atheist/agnostic philosophers

Could it be that these four men are so widely ignored by professional philosophers of religion that they are on this quest? I did ask Graham Oppy if he would be responding to Loftus’s response to his video interview on philosophy of religion and he said he would not be. Too busy writing good books on philosophy of religion probably!

Following some of Peter’s links makes things even more confusing. Notice this screenshot:

ScreenHunter_398 Aug. 01 15.35

Peter recommends a ‘Secular Studies programme’ instead of philosophy of religion and asks us to look up the ‘Pitzer’s program’. Funny things is – if you do that guess what you find being taught on that course? Yes, that’s right – some philosophy of religion!!!

ScreenHunter_399 Aug. 01 15.40

[2] If anyone should be in doubt about that have a look at Peter’s schedule and required reading for his ‘Atheism PHL 365U 001’ course:

http://www.skeptic.com/skepticism-101/downloads/syllabi/Syllabus-Atheism-by-Peter-Boghossian.pdf

Anyone who knows the subject well will also spot his bias toward New Atheism and the lack of reading he requires his students to do from theist philosophers. It’s certainly an odd philosophy of religion course which requires students to read so many people who are not published in the subject as well. In fact, he virtually ignores all the atheist, agnostic and theistic philosophers one would consider compulsory reading in a philosophy of religion course in favour of reading lots of Sam Harris and his own book (which no other university that I know of uses as a standard textbook on the subject!).

In fact, after seeing his syllabus and clips of him teaching at Portland, I am not usre he could get away with this course in many universities. I don’t know how it can be considered good practice for the lecturer to be very clearly trying to convert his students into his own conclusions on the matter. I would certainly fear the objectivity of his marking!

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PS. I have recently been blocked by Peter Boghossian on Twitter. While I attempt to get over this hugely distressing moment in my life I do wonder what his reason was. I was never rude to him and never said anything about him as a person. I have only ever asked some difficult questions about his street epistemology. It does seem rather odd since he is such an advocate (so he says) for engaging with one’s critics. First I was ignored. Now I am banned. Interesting approach for interacting with one’s critics Peter.

ScreenHunter_397 Aug. 01 13.44

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About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Atheist apologists, Education, Street Epistemology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Peter Boghossian seeks new vocation

  1. labreuer says:

    The logical end seems quite simple: let us conform our thinking to the pattern of this world. After all, anything which does not conform to the pattern of this world doesn’t have “sufficient evidence”. Gregory of Nyssa’s 379 condemnation of slavery? Didn’t conform to the pattern of this world: dismissed based on insufficient evidence. Slavery was obviously economically required and some people obviously couldn’t ever learn to take care of themselves, and thus needed masters. Jesus’ idea that he could challenge the cosmic order of things and usher in a new era? Ludicrous! His ideas did not conform to the pattern of this world, and thus ought to have been dismissed. Indeed, Celsus had the right idea: Christianity was dangerous. We’ll ignore that he called them atheists; labels are quite irrelevant.

    Be this as it may, the future will be better than the current age. We will change the pattern of the world by conforming our thinking to it. You are welcome to look behind the curtain of this allegedly paradoxical statement: you’ll see scientists, hard at work, making the world a better place. In case you didn’t know, scientists have special moral powers, such that by the act of doing science, they become better people. You see, evil really stems from cognitive biases and not being conformed to the pattern of this world. Once we solve those problems—and you can see that science is the way to do so—things will be so much better. Not only will you be able to buy what you want, but you’ll probably be able to 3-D print many things and get instant gratification that way! And don’t worry about conflict: that will all be solved when everyone has his/her thinking conformed to the pattern of this world. If people are taught to only ever want what science can give them—perhaps modulo some art—then peace will reign supreme!

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      You well and truly lost me that time Lab! 😉

      • labreuer says:

        Doh! I was essentially playing evidentialism against what goes on in the philosophy of religion. I take evidentialism to be “Be conformed to the pattern of this world!” Philosophy of religion and theology in general engage in the radical, rebellious, dangerous activity of considering states of affairs quite different from the current world-picture provided by science.

        For example, what if there were no gratuitous evils and therefore that all evils could be redeemed? This would place a tremendous responsibility on mankind. If those evils are just impersonal, random nature though (or propaganda so clever that it is not seen for what it is—I’ve been reading Ellul), then we could merely treat the symptoms the best we can, and pat ourselves on the back.

        >

  2. Well this is disturbing. Though not altogether surprising. I think philosophy of religion is well worth studying. After all, isn’t an important part of philosophy understanding the arguments and worldviews of other philosophers, whether you agree with them or not (and especially if you don’t)?

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Indeed. I think this is what a lot of people miss. I think they get the impression it is just apologetics. My own theism has endured but the greatest challenges to it have come from being a student of philosophy of religion myself. Do these atheists think theists can read the likes of Martin and Oppy without being challenged in the slightest?

      What I don’t understand about these four gentlemen ranting against philosophy of religion is that they all spend lots of time on philosophy of religion themselves! It would be like being told by a politician that no-one should study politics!! I could at least understand them if they never engaged in the subject themselves but all four of them do. Not only that but all four of them cannot seem to go a week without engaging in philosophy of religion. The trouble is none of them are particularly good at the subject.

      Rant over. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Philosophy of Religion is just metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics applied to religious concepts and issues. Is that so bad?

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Well I know that Boghossian is also a staunch critic of metaphysics as well. Strange though, that he does not see the overlap in these fields of enquiry. I don’t think they can be boxed up as neatly as the titles suggest.

      What I do find hilarious, however, is that all four of these men appear to want to be permitted to do their lay theology / philosophy of religion and be expected to be taken seriously and yet the professionals who actually make it through peer review and who lecture in the world’s finest universities are being asked to shut up. Oh the sublime irony. I just don’t understand how anyone with an IQ in double figures cannot see how self-refuting that is!?

  4. > [2] If anyone should be in doubt about that have a look at Peter’s schedule and required reading for his ‘Atheism PHL 365U 001′ course: http://www.skeptic.com/skepticism-101/downloads/syllabi/Syllabus-Atheism-by-Peter-Boghossian.pdf

    On Page 8 of Boghossian’s course’s syllabus, I find that one of the “Biology, Belief and Ethics” topics is “The God Helmet”, which the “Watch” section YouTube link confirms is Michael Persinger’s helmet; and one of the questions is “God Helmet”-based, namely, “If everyone who went into the God Helmet and had feelings of community with a particular deity (e.g., Zeus), what, if anything, would that be evidence of?”

    Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Persinger#Research_in_neurotheology) says of the God Helmet:

    “The only published attempt to replicate these effects failed to do so and concluded that subjects’ reports correlated with their personality characteristics and suggestibility. They also criticised Persinger for insufficient double-blinding and argued that there was no physiologically plausible mechanism by which his device could affect the brain. Persinger responded that the researchers had an incorrect computer setup and that many of his previous experiments were indeed carried out double-blind. Both claims are disputed. The evidence base on which Persinger’s theory rests has been criticised and commercial versions of Persinger’s devices sold by his research associate Todd Murphy have proved unable to produce the effects that Murphy claims under experimental conditions.”

    That sounds like the “God Helmet” claims have been thoroughly debunked; and sounds like the “If everyone who went into the God Helmet [experienced the same experience]” question is fantastic nonsense — they simply won’t do so.

    Is Boghossian ignorant, or is he intent on deliberately misleading his students.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Thanks for checking on that David. It appears you’ve researched it more skeptically than the self-proclaimed skeptic himself!

  5. alphazulu99 says:

    [Comment removed due to how incredibly sad it was.]

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      I can only feel very sorry for you. I hope you can get the necessary psychological help you so badly need.

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