PHIL 4800:  Senior Seminar:  New Atheism

Course Description: In recent years, so-called “New Atheism” has garnered increased attention.  Names like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett have emerged as the most energetic and outspoken defenders of this program, and the sales of their books have routinely earned high-ranking spots on national bestseller lists.  Who are the targets of these books?  A recent Gallup poll has shown that only 12% of Americans believe in Darwinian evolution, and 53% believe in creationism.  In other words, ours is still a very religious country, and the majority of our citizenry denies the worldview that the scientific community has articulated since Darwin.

In this senior seminar, we will read and evaluate the arguments of the new atheists.  What are their principal objections to religion?  Are the objections filed against a real or imaginary audience?  Is it possible to dispel religious belief?  Would that even be good?  As a senior seminar, this topic allows us to incorporate queries from a range of philosophical disciplines:  philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.  Note that this seminar does not purport to be a defense of new atheism, but rather an evaluation thereof; students of any religious proclivity are encouraged to participate.

Course Syllabus (Spring 2010)