“Neuatheismusstreit”: Was ist das?

My recent post on “Mooney & the ‘new atheists’: another round” begins with a reference to the latest round “in the ongoing Neuatheismusstreit.”

I’ve been asked what that is–this “Neuatheismusstreit” that I’m referring to. Let me begin with the “sense” (or Sinn) of the word, and then explain its “reference” (or Bedeutung) in the context of that post. “Neu” means “new,” “Atheismus” is “atheism,” and “Streit” is “dispute”; so “the Neuatheismusstreit” is “the dispute over new atheism.”  

The word is patterned after the word “Positivismusstreit.”  “Der Positivismusstreit

refers to a well known philosophical dispute between Critical rationalism (Karl Popper, Hans Albert) and the Frankfurt School (Theodor W. Adorno, Jürgen Habermas) in 1961, about the methodology of the social sciences. It grew into a broad discussion within German sociology from 1961 to 1969.   [Wikipedia, “Positivism Dispute” (August 14, 2009)]

The Positivismusstreit is not just any disputation concerning positivism; it was a well-formed ongoing dispute among disputants in established camps, with established positions, on particular issues in particular domains of discourse.

My use of the word “Neuatheismusstreit” alludes to how the current dispute involving Mooney, Dawkins, et al. has taken on that character.  In one of the posts linked from my post on Mooney & the ‘new atheists’: another round, Jerry Coyne points out that

The “new atheists” have been on the scene for exactly five years, beginning with Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, published in 2004.

A review of that and the other posts linked from  “Mooney & the ‘new atheists’: another round” shows that this dispute over the new atheism has taken on the character of a Neuatheismusstreit.


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