Atheists Gift Humanity With Britain's Most Expensive University

The British news has been filled with the trump of doom - some of the world's leading academics have gotten together and called themselves an institute, as Paul Simon might have said - a private university in London set to charge twice the amount allowed for public universities: £18,000.  What no one seems to have remarked upon is that several of the key figures in this extraordinary move are also the leading British atheist-intellectuals, A.C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins; also to teach is Ronald Dworkin, not known for his support of religious beliefs, to put it mildly.  Also to be teaching is famous atheist and psychologist Stephen Pinker.  The distinguished astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss, a top American atheist, will teach science.  Historian Niall Ferguson, the famous atheist from Harvard, will also teach.  Steve Jones, the controversial atheist scientist, is also on board.  Indeed, it is striking how little has been made of this intellectually homogeneous group of thinkers - what sort of Liberal Arts education can such a group offer, with such little sympathy for one of the key cultural forces in human culture?  Atheists like Dawkins always promise a better world free from religion, but his first major move to create a new form of education in the UK is the least charitable ever announced, and its dog-eat-dog elitism smacks of the worst sort of conservative social Darwinism, despite the claim of the "pink tinge" among the professors. (note: due to helpful comments, I have edited out the reference to Ferguson being Irish; I should also note, these professors also all appear to be white, older, and male, a rather unwelcoming patriarchy for the heart of multicultural London).

Comments

puthwuth said…
Niall Ferguson's no Irishman, let me point out, thank God.
Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

Niall Ferguson is actually Scottish but you make some good points here. My nephew is going up to university fairly soon and when I asked my sister whether or not she approved of this new academy she just laughed.

Best wishes from Simon
Sheenagh Pugh said…
I'm not sure what to think of the project - I think it would depend a lot on how many free places they provide, as I'm all for the fees of the rich funding the education of the poor. But for the life of me I see nothing sinister or odd in people with similar ideas and interests collaborating on a project. Isn't it natural enough that those who think the same on major matters like politics or religion tend to congregate at the same water cooler? I probably don't spend much time chatting with very religious folk, simply because I'd be inhibited from speech lest I offend them. People herd; it's only natural!
The Editors said…
Todd, there was a wonderful article - brilliant argued and written, briskly splenetic and occasionally hilarious - by the indomitable Terry Eagleton in the Guardian yesterday about this, which made reference to the (a)religious leanings of some of those involved, so it's been noted in some quarters, though not many, I'll grant you.

Simon @ Gists and Piths
Anonymous said…
"what sort of Liberal Arts education can such a group offer, with such little sympathy for one of the key cultural forces in human culture?"


Well, a lack of sympathy for or belief in sny religion shows an improvement on the traditional cultural attitude of complete faith in the True Religion and little sympathy - often absolute hatred and contempt- for all its false rivals.

Being one of the key cultural forces in human culture doesn't necessarily make somethimg an admirable quality. Racism and sexism are also key cultural forces in human culture.
Unknown said…
I definitely agree with Sheenagh, here.
Zachary Bos said…
Christopher Ricks is both a non-believer, and if his writings are to be believed, has a credible appreciation for the role religion has played in history, as a motivating agent for cultural creation (see: Milton), and as an influence upon those who create culture (see: Hill, Eliot, etc.).

As an Atheist myself, I don't know that there is cause to fear that a nontheistic faculty would fail to kindle students' appreciation for what religion is and what it has done.
Anonymous said…
The price is admittedly extravagant, and the details about the syllabus worrying. But the suggestion that these hugely respected and learned intellectuals cannot offer a rounded and worthwhile education just because they have atheist beliefs is utterly absurd and just the kind of woolly Catholic thinking that Dawkins and their ilk rail against. Were they all of a Catholic bent, I very much doubt there would be the same concerns. Religion may very well be a key cultural force in human culture, but it's also a poisonous and reductive influence and I for one welcome its exclusion from as many sectors of society as possible.

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