The Atlantic this week covered the University of Miami’s appointment of Anjan Chakravartty to its recently created chair for the study of atheism and secularism.
In April 2016, former businessman and atheist activist Louis Appignani donated $2.2 million to the University of Miami for the endowment of what the university stated was the first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism, and secular studies” in the country. At the time, Appignani was quoted as saying, “I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists. So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate.” Appignani’s non-profit, the Appignani Foundation, is dedicated to promoting secular and humanist ideals to fight against religious, racial, and nationalist divisions in society.
Pitzer College in California has a secular studies program, but Pitzer does not have a chair for atheism and secular studies in the way the University of Miami does.
The University of Miami recently announced that Anjan Chakravartty will hold the chair created with Appignani’s donation. Chakravartty is currently a professor of metaphysics and philosophy of science at the University of Notre Dame. Chakravartty will assume his new role at the University of Miami in July, when he will join the university’s philosophy department.
Chakravartty has made it clear that he is not planning to disparage religion in his courses, but instead he plans to use his classes to examine why some people believe in God and others do not, and in delving into the various ways that people can still live moral and thoughtful lives without a belief in God. “The cardinal sin of a philosopher is to be dogmatic,” Chakravartty said.
Chakravartty’s website gives us a more information on his background. His research “focuses on central issues in philosophy of science (the metaphysics and epistemology of science), including topics in the philosophy of physics and biology.”
All things considered I think that it seems like Chakravartty is a very good choice for the new position at the University of Miami. His focus on a scientifically grounded approach to epistemological inquiry and the various approaches he has taken to philosophical inquiry give him a good background for his new role. Hopefully this program will be successful enough to generate more programs like it at other colleges and universities across the country. With the negative view many people have of atheists, and the constant attempts by religious fundamentalists to undermine education policy in the United States, we could use more programs like this one.