Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
Member of the Alliance for Liberal Learning

Friday, June 26, 2015

The new atheism, pantheism, and modern science

Scheduled for 11:00am–12:30pm Eastern Time, Plenary Session papers and panel discussion 6
Chair: Richard Fafara (Adler-Aquinas Institute)

Speaker: Lois Eveleth (Salve Regina University): “The lure of pantheism”

In 1975 the Universal Pantheist Society was established, and in 1999 a break-away group, proudly calling itself the World Pantheist Movement, demonstrated that the number of pantheists was obviously increasing. Arguably, pantheists have always, or almost always, existed, but only with the existence of the internet and social media have many individuals been able to organize, communicate, and support each other, and, most importantly, spread the details of their world- view with a view to recruiting the like-minded. If we can think of pantheism as an answer to a question, I find it an intriguing task to identify the question to which it is an answer; or, more clearly, to identify the several questions that could have generated this broadly-understood world-view. Is pantheism an effort to replace theism? To attack it? Or is it more benign, viz. simply an effort to admire nature? Maybe pantheists wish to explore the concept of infinity, or seek to conceptualize an immanent God. I doubt, however, that the online versions of pantheistic doctrine can serve up very much in the way of an explanation of the genesis of that doctrine.

Accordingly, I have gone back to the beginning, or, at least, to earlier expositions of pantheism; specifically, to key expositors like Giordano Bruno, Benedict Spinoza, John Toland, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Writings of these individual pantheists reveal discernible patterns, patterns which I outline.

Speaker: Sebastian Mahfood (Holy Apostles College and Seminary): “Mosquito Mating Habits and the New Atheism: An Investigation of How Dawkins’ ‘Memes’ are Shaping the Conversation”

In his 1976 book entitled The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme,” identifying it as a kind of replicator "that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation" (p. 192, emphasis his), or, in short, an idea that replicates itself from one person to another within a culture. This paper will discuss Dawkins' efforts to systematically establish within the culture his own peculiar set of memes through an attack on a cultural foundations of belief and faith.

Speaker: Robert Delfino (St. John’s University): “The failure of new atheism morality”

New atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, generally speaking, are committed to two main beliefs. The first is scientism, which is the view that only science can give us complete and reliable knowledge of reality. The second is metaphysical naturalism, which is the view that no supernatural entities exist. In this essay I shall focus on the metaphysical naturalism that new atheists espouse. I will examine their attempt to give morality a purely naturalistic foundation, and thereby eliminate the need for God and the role of religion in human life. Ultimately, I shall argue, and explain why, their project fails.

Livestream of video from the Conference will be at the Holy Apostles College and Seminary YouTube Channel.

Next session scheduled for 1:30pm.

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