Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

12-2018

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department

Humanities

Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Maloney, Thomas

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Shields, Geroge

Committee Member

Shields, Geroge

Committee Member

Pranke, Patrick

Committee Member

Dove, Guy

Author's Keywords

secular humanism; atheism; antitheism; religion; postmodernism

Abstract

This dissertation will examine the social and intellectual impact of the so-called “New Atheism” as evidenced by the writings and public careers of its four principal protagonists: evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett, journalist Christopher Hitchens, and neuroscientist Sam Harris. I will argue that the New Atheists together provide an account of reality philosophically superior to that of theism, including those superficially sophisticated variations espoused in the writings of scholars William Lane Craig, John Lennox, Allister McGrath, Alvin Plantinga, etc. Yet, even if this were not so, I would still contend that the accessible, informative, and provocative style of the New Atheists’ prose nevertheless epitomizes precisely what academic writing could and should be. Their commitment to the Enlightenment principles of philosophical objectivity, reason, and the successes of the scientific method stands in stark contrast not only to the more malleable methodology of their religious opponents, but also to the prevailing (and ideologically-conflicting) traditions of deconstructive postmodernism and post-structuralism (as exemplified in the works of Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and others) which have greatly influenced humanities’ scholarship in recent decades. Therefore, while I very much intend to defend the substance of the New Atheists’ arguments against the various objections of their philosophical, religious, and scientific critics, I simultaneously mean to defend their stylistic choices as well (not only against their critics but also as compared to the obscurant, equivocal, and highly subjective style so often employed by postmodernists). It is my fervent hope that even those who should ultimately disagree with either the New Atheists’ assertions or my defense of them will still be able to see the value of their (and hopefully my) clear, concise brand of communication. For theirs is a style no longer widely employed within the confines of the academy. That said, I believe that the humanities disciplines of history, literary theory, cultural studies, and philosophy would greatly benefit, were they to adopt (or perhaps re-embrace) the communicative model and underlying realist epistemology of the New Atheists.

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