The Academic Chair for the Study of Atheism at the University of Miami Starting to Smell Like an Advocacy Position

It looks like the man who is purchasing “the nation’s first academic chair for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics at the University of Miami” hates religion.  What a surprise.  Atheism motivated by hatred of religion. Who would have thunk it?

He added “the cancer that exists in our society has to do with religion,” according to a YouTube video of his talk.

Atheists love to compare religion to viruses and cancers. And mental illness.

One has to wonder that given the extreme views of the donor, will this new academic chair be proselytizing for hardcore atheism.

UMiami philosophy Professor Harvey Siegel, who has been a friend of Appignani for years and played an active role in securing the donation, told The College Fix that the chair will not be in the business of “advocacy,” however.

“The Chair is a faculty position at the University of Miami, not an arm of the Appignani Foundation,” Siegel said in an email. “The Chair’s title involves the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics, not advocacy.”

Okay, so that’s the official position. We’ll see if is holds.  Let’s read some more:

As for the launching of the Appignani Foundation Chair for the Study of Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics underway at the University of Miami, “the holder of the chair is to (a) offer one course annually on the history, philosophy, and influence of atheism; (b) engage with the community (university and public); for example, through public lectures, forums, or conferences,” David Kling, professor and chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Miami, told The College Fix via email.

Wow.  One course a year.  Sounds like serious scholarship.  And what’s the difference between advocacy and “engage with the community?”

“The fact of the matter is that the study of religion often includes the study of religious doubt, secularism, agnosticism, and atheism. We offer a course, ‘The Problem of God,’ that deals with these issues,” Kling stated.

LOL.  In other words, “the study of religion” entails bashing religion and this is not advocacy because it is “study.”

Kling added that the academic objective of the new position “would be to examine questions of science, knowledge, ethics, and social policy from a strictly atheistic perspective.”

Er, isn’t that how all university courses are taught?  A “strictly atheistic perspective” is one that simply does not invoke God.

But Kling notes that, in reality, tackling education from a secular standpoint is not really a new thing to the halls of higher education.

“[F]rankly, [that] has been the approach of the academy for decades—which is to say, appeals to a divine source in explaining these phenomena are impermissible,” Kling stated in his email.

Yep, I was right.  So what is the purpose of this new chair since it doesn’t seem to be adding anything new to the academy?

“There was great reluctance on the part of the university to have an endowed chair with the word ‘atheism’ in the name, and that was a deal-breaker for Lou,” Mr. Siegel told The New York Times. “He wasn’t going to do it unless it had the word atheism in it.”

Ah, the chair needs the word “atheism” in the name.  Sounds like advocacy to me.  Our new Chair of Atheism (and humanism and secular ethics at the University of Miami) could “engage the public” about “the Problem of God”.  And how dare anyone think this is about advocacy for atheism.

A search for candidates is expected to begin this fall. The eventual chair holder will be selected by an interdisciplinary faculty search committee, professors told The Fix.

I’d bet Peter Boghossian is applying.  Whoever gets it, it will be interesting to see what they are doing when they are not teaching that one course a year.

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4 Responses to The Academic Chair for the Study of Atheism at the University of Miami Starting to Smell Like an Advocacy Position

  1. GRA says:

    Gotta love the comments of the linked article.

  2. TFBW says:

    I’d bet Peter Boghossian is applying.

    University of Miami says:

    The new chair will be an interdisciplinary appointment held by a distinguished scholar whose research and interests include the study of atheism – understood, for purposes of this gift, as a philosophical approach that emphasizes the methods and techniques of science, logic, and reason in dealing with questions of knowledge, ethics, politics, and social policy. The new chair will also offer annually a minimum of one course on the history, philosophy, or influence of atheism.

    Boghossian is interdisciplinary, to the extent that Philosophy of Education can be considered such, but I don’t think he can be considered particularly “distinguished”: he’s a minor atheist celebrity, but his academic achievements are somewhat paltry (to be a candidate for an endowed chair). It’s not clear that he has any special knowledge of the history, philosophy, or influence of atheism, either, although I don’t suppose it wouldn’t be hard for anyone to cover the biggest atheism-embracing influences of the 20th century: Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China.

    I note that we seem to have a new special definition of “atheism” here: “a philosophical approach that emphasizes the methods and techniques of science, logic, and reason in dealing with questions of knowledge, ethics, politics, and social policy.” With that kind of description, implying as it does that theism denies (or at least de-emphasises) those things, maybe Boghossian the Propagandist is the right man for the job after all. It’s very nice of the University of Miami to legitimise the New Atheist narrative like this, but I suppose they’re being well compensated for it.

  3. Dhay says:

    > The new chair will be an interdisciplinary appointment held by a distinguished scholar whose research and interests include the study of atheism – understood, for purposes of this gift, as a philosophical approach that emphasizes the methods and techniques of science, logic, and reason in dealing with questions of knowledge, ethics, politics, and social policy. The new chair will also offer annually a minimum of one course on the history, philosophy, or influence of atheism. [My emphases.]

    Compare this seeking of someone at least capable of doing some research — so perhaps research will be part of the role — and a minimal requirement of them to teach, with Richard Dawkins’ professorship; the latter seems to have involved no research * whatsoever, and to have involved neither teaching nor supervision of students at any level.

    (* Gathering facts from others to write books hence further a now merely journalistic career hardly counts as original research.)

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