This is a re-formatted edition of the information available in paper flier form at Millsaps:
October 22, 7:00 pm
Academic Complex 215
The New Atheism
Taking a Stand for Science and Reason
Speaker: Victor J. Stenger
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado and Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii
Respondent: Steven G. Smith
Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Millsaps College
In 2004, Sam Harris published The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, a major bestseller. This marked the first of a series of series of bestsellers that took a harder line against religion than has been the custom among secularists: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris (2006), The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett (2006), God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger (2007), and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) by Christopher Hitchens. These authors have been recognized as the leaders of a movement called The New Atheism.
In The New Atheism, Victor Stenger reviews and expands upon the principles of New Atheism and responds to many of its critics. He argues that naturalism, the view that everything is matter and nothing more, is sufficient to explain all we observe in the universe from the most distant galaxies to the inner workings of the brain that result in the phenomenon of mind and that nowhere is it necessary to introduce God or the supernatural to understand the world. He disputes the claim that science has nothing to say about God and argues that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, when evidence should be there and is not. In the case of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, he argues that the lack of evidence is sufficient to conclude that he does not exist beyond a reasonable doubt. Stenger also argues that since faith is belief in the absence of evidence it should not be used to make any judgments about the world or personal life, that religion has produced many horrors over millennia, that the Bible is unable to solve the problem of unnecessary suffering in the world, and how a common morality exists that is natural, rather than divine. Finally, he discusses the teachings of the ancient sages such as Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Confucius who 2500 years ago provided guidelines for the individual to cope with the problems of living, and dying, that did not depend on the existence of any supernatural forces in the universe, calling this “the natural way” as opposed to the supernatural monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Victor J. Stenger is the author of ten books. For more information go to
The response will be by Millsaps professor Steven Smith. I’ve taken classes from Smith myself, he is an intelligent and humorous speaker, and he demonstrated a great amount of fairness in his Philosophy of Religion class, giving me good marks despite my materialistic philosophical leanings.
If you want a little more non-personal proof, Dr. Smith also enjoys reading a bit of Dawkins here and there, and he likes Neuromancer by William Gibson, and Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, so there’s that.
Patrick Hopkins who will be hosting the debate, is another interesting philosopher, who unfortunately (in this picture) looks like an evil mirror-universe Star Trek character.
I hope we’ll see you there!
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The beautifully named “Academic Complex” is a ghastly bit of architecture which crouches in tons of concrete over the cavernous parking lot. You can get there right off of Park Avenue, just take the right at the end of the street (after turning off of State Street) and there is a singular entrance underneath the building in the parking lot – or you can make your way up the stairs you’ll see in the parking area, and go in the front door.
From the front door (or the stairwell) head left on the second floor and you’ll make your way into the big stadium-style room 215.