Meet USA's first atheism, humanism & secular ethics chair + When a _F_ finds _P_

News of this dates (back to 2016), but apparently Anjan Chakravartty is finally the one who has been recently selected to fill the slot. First, here's the entrepreneuring funder's original announcement from less than two years ago:

EXCERPT: Louis Appignani, a retired businessman, endowed a chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.” Max Reed for The New York Times With an increasing number of Americans leaving religion behind, the University of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”

The chair has been established after years of discussion with a $2.2 million donation from Louis J. Appignani, a retired businessman and former president and chairman of the modeling school Barbizon International, who has given grants to many humanist and secular causes — though this is his largest so far. The university, which has not yet publicly announced the new chair, will appoint a committee of faculty members to conduct a search for a scholar to fill the position.

“I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists,” said Mr. Appignani, who is 83 and lives in Florida. “So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate.”

Religion departments and professors of religious studies are a standard feature at most colleges and universities, many originally founded by ministers and churches. The study of atheism and secularism is only now starting to emerge as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair.

“I think it’s a very bold step of the University of Miami, and I hope there will be others,” said Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and atheist luminary who is the author of “The God Delusion.” “It’s enormously important to shake off the shackles of religion from the study of morality,” Mr. Dawkins said in a telephone interview from his home in Britain.


Here's the more current news:

Meet the nation’s first atheism, humanism and secular ethics chair

EXCERPT: The question of God’s existence is not new – German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first said “God is dead” in 1882. But the University of Miami made national headlines by tapping Anjan Chakravartty as the first atheism, humanism and secular ethics chair. This is the first chair of its kind in the nation. Chakravartty will begin his tenure on July 1. He currently serves as a philosophy professor and director of the John J. Reilly Center for science, technology and values at the University of Notre Dame.“Well, you have to admit that the optics of it are kind of funny on the surface,” Chakravartty said. “Coming from a renowned Catholic university into a chair that has ‘atheism, humanism and secular ethics’ in the title.”


When a Fundamentalist Finds Philosophy

EXCERPT: I was rummaging through some stacks of stuff in the garage today sorting through items that needed to be recycled, discarded, and saved. I found an old, dust-covered briefcase that I used as a student [...] In June 1995 I was scouting graduate schools with the goal of studying philosophy. I had grown up a Christian fundamentalist who generally had the world figured out by the time I was a teen and had my eyes firmly set on full time ministry. I took a required intro to philosophy class during my senior year at an ultra-conservative Baptist college by a professor who was not so conservative (and not so Baptist it turns out). I would never be the same. [...] Three years later, my worldview was in shambles and I knew I needed more training....

I have always thought of Anjan Chakravartty as a rather good philosopher of science. I hope that his accepting this academic position doesn't lead to his 'Dawkins-ization', the process that transformed a rather good evolutionary biologist into an outspoken atheist controversialist. It would be a shame for philosophy of science to lose Chakravartty the way that evolutionary biology lost Dawkins.

I'm curious what a professor of atheism would teach and research. There isn't any body of atheist doctrine the way there are bodies of religious doctrine. Secular ethics suggests a possible subject: the justification of an ethics without God to underwrite it. But aren't most ethicists already doing that: consequentialism, virtue ethics, evolutionary ethics, deontology and whatnot? Besides, Chakravartty isn't an ethics specialist.

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