Dr. Peter Boghossian Seeks to Revolutionize Our Academic Institutions

I'm writing a few posts about Peter Boghossian's book, A Manual for Creating AtheistsTo read other posts in review of his brilliant book click on the tag below. In this one I want to highlight how that he intends to revolutionize academic institutions, a big yet noble goal.

Boghossian tells us that developing a legion of Street Epistemologists is a vital first step in our struggle against the faith virus.
But Street Epistemology alone may not be enough to move us toward a New Enlightenment and Age of Reason. We need to fundamentally change the way people think about and value faith, belief, and conviction, and develop and ultimately implement large-scale solutions to address these seemingly intractable problems.
One important solution is to change how educators teach their students. "We need to train educators not just to teach students how to think critically, but also how to nudge attitudes about faith on their downward spiral" (p. 177). Teaching students to be critical thinkers is very important but teaching them to have a skeptical disposition is more important. "Anyone can develop a critical thinking skill set," he says, even people who are pretending to know things they don't know (p. 220). Just think Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig, who are brilliant at defending the indefensible. I taught critical thinking classes as a believer so teaching critical thinking is not enough. I agree wholeheartedly.

Educators have given faith-based claims preferential treatment. In the classrooms "It is taken for granted that faith-based claims are invulnerable to criticism and immune from further questioning" in the so-called "soft sciences" like sociology, philosophy, anthropology, etc. "This intellectual rigor mortis is not allowed to occur across all disciplines." In the hard sciences like mathematics, chemistry and biology "challenging claims and questioning reasoning processes are 'intrinsic to what it means to teach students to reason effectively'." So Boghossian says, "This needs to end" (p. 188). Educators in all disciplines of learning should grant faith based conclusions "no countenance. Do not take faith claims seriously. Let the utterer know that faith is not an acceptable basis from which to draw a conclusion that can be relied upon" (p. 189).

If educators began doing this across the board it could revolutionize our institutions of higher learning. I welcome this revolution. It is very much needed. Let's call the professors who accept this challenge, who risk offending their students, their parents, and their administrators, "Academic Epistemologists." We need them desperately if we want to change the religious landscape.

Based on Boghossian's revolutionary ideas I challenged professor Keith Parsons to do this. If you remember, he quit teaching philosophy of religion classes because he could no longer take the claims of religion seriously. To see what an uphill battle this is, the reader might want to read my challenge to Parsons and his initial response. Here is my challenge. His initial response can be found here. Unfortunately, when The Secular Outpost moved to Patheos the comments didn't also transfer. But in the end, after seeing what the real challenge was, Parsons just refused to offend his students, their parents and his administrators. Boghossian argues however, that if we're just too afraid to offend others then "we silence ourselves. This needs to end" (p. 213). Every academic must at least consider this challenge and do whatever can be done.


I am both pleased and very gratified that in Peter Boghossian's class on atheism he has chosen to use my book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True.I would hope that educators who teach the same class, or certain philosophy of religion classes, or religion classes, would do the same.