Peter Boghossian

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Peter Boghossian
Born (1966-07-25) July 25, 1966 (age 50)
Nationality American
Notable work A Manual for Creating Atheists
Era Contemporary philosophy
School New Atheism[1]
Institutions Portland State University
Main interests
Atheism, critical thinking, pedagogy, scientific skepticism, Socratic method

Peter Gregory Boghossian (born July 25, 1966)[2] is an American philosopher and atheism advocate. He is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University.[3] His primary research areas are critical thinking, philosophy of education, and moral reasoning. Boghossian is a speaker for the Center for Inquiry, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the Secular Student Alliance. He has been nominated as a member of the Global Secular Council.[4]


Boghossian's thesis looks at the use with prison inmates of the Socratic method for critical thinking and moral reasoning with the intention to decrease ongoing criminal behaviour.[5] The research was funded by the State of Oregon. Boghossian was Chairman of the Prison Advisory Committee for the Columbia River Correctional Institution and he is currently a fellow at the Centre of Prison Reform[6]

As part of his ongoing interest in Prison Reform the Portland State University entered into a partnership with the Columbia River Correctional Institution in 2009 to address the needs of inmates releasing into the community. Details of this partnership have been elaborated in an article titled Prisons, Community Partnerships, and Academia: Sustainable Programs and Community Need.[7]


Boghossian has stated that he wants to be "the type of person who is willing to revise his beliefs, maybe I want to be the type of person who is inquisitive, trustful of reason and treats people well."[8]

Boghossian has called all faith-based beliefs "delusions."[9] In a 2015 interview with Dave Rubin, Boghossian described himself as a classical liberal who has never voted for a Republican candidate, but is "not a fan" of the Democrats. He stated that any of the Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election "would be an unmitigated disaster." He described Mike Huckabee as a "bonafide lunatic."[8]

According to him, "the regressive left have taken over academia."[8] He has repeatedly stated that cultural relativism and egalitarianism are contradictory values.[8][10][11]

Richard Dawkins stated that "Boghossian's techniques of friendly persuasion are not mine, and maybe I’d be more effective if they were. They are undoubtedly very persuasive—and very much needed."[12]


A Manual for Creating Atheists[edit]

Boghossian's book, A Manual for Creating Atheists (ISBN 9781939578099), was published by Pitchstone Publishing in 2013. A foreword was written by Michael Shermer. Shermer said that the book is the "perfect companion to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion." Guy P. Harrison called it "a game changer … a how-to manual to take to the trenches of everyday life where minds are won and lost in the struggle between reason and madness.”"[12] Boghossian "offers the first-ever guide for talking people out of faith, through reason."[13] In it, he describes what he dubs "street epistemology", a set of techniques that atheists can use in personal conversations with religious believers to get them to think more critically with the eventual goal of religious disaffiliation.[14][15] A review by Susan K. Perry in Psychology Today praised the book for its "clarity, intelligence, credibility, and creative approach to changing minds, whether or not you have the courage to start conversations with strangers."[16] In his talk at TAM13 Boghossian states that the book provides a way for "people to convert themselves" and that ideas don't deserve dignity, people deserve dignity.. ideas are fair game"[17] In the same talk Boghossian stated that he planned to call the Book, Street Epistemology but his publishers stated that they did not believe the book would sell and the name was changed.

In his book Boghossian clearly states how he defines terms and these are not necessarily the same as reference dictionaries. He defines faith as " it's a leap over the probabilities. It fills the gap between what is improbable to make something more probable than not without faith. As such, faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities". The secondary definition is "Pretending to know things that you don't know". In his debate with Tim McGrew[18] significant time was spent defining terms and McGrew did not agree with Boghossian's definitions and used dictionary quotes to support his view. Hence, the views expressed about the outcome of the debate often reflects the bias of the listener.[19]


Socratic pedagogy, critical thinking, moral reasoning and inmate education : an exploratory study (Ed.D. thesis). Portland State University. 2004. OCLC 57569353. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 


Academic articles[edit]


In 2015 Boghossian and his team developed a smart phone application called Atheos[20] to help people have non-confrontational discussions about gods, religion, faith, and superstition: "The goal is to help people become more thoughtful and more reflective about their faith-based beliefs." The app is sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.[21] The app has been promoted by Dave Rubin on Twitter.[22]


In 2017, Boghossian and his colleague James Lindsay published a hoax paper in the pay-to-publish journal Cogent Social Sciences. They initially submitted the paper to the unranked Norma, where it was rejected, and then submitted, on recommendation from Norma, to Cogent Social Sciences, where it was peer reviewed and accepted. The paper, later revealed as a hoax in Skeptic magazine, intended to highlight a couple of problems: firstly, the "echo-chamber" of morally driven postmodernist social sciences and, secondly, the problem of "lax standards" with pay-to-publish journals.[23] The journal later retracted the paper.[24]

Steven Pinker tweeted about it to his followers,[25] but later linked to a Salon article, saying that the "hoax missed the mark".[26] Others, such as the science communicator Yvette d'Entremont, pointed out that similar hoaxes involving randomly-generated scientific papers have been conducted many times before in pay-to-publish, peer-review scientific journals, yet no one has concluded that these papers undercut science; rather, they merely reveal the problems associated with pay-to-publish platforms.[27] The humanities researcher Helen Pluckrose addressed some critics in an article for Aero Magazine – pointing out, among other things, that pay-to-publish journals were one of the targets of the hoax.[28]

In 2014, Boghossian tweeted "I've never understood how someone could be proud of being gay. How can one be proud of something one didn't work for?"[29] After an online backlash,[30][31][32] he responded that "Questioning that one can be proud to be gay is a leftist blasphemy."[33]


  1. ^ Schulson, Michael (11 February 2013). "Atheist Philosopher Peter Boghossian’s Guide to Converting Believers". The Daily Beast. 
  2. ^ "United States Public Records, 1970-2009," database, FamilySearch (23 May 2014), Peter Gregory Boghossian, Residence, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States; a third party aggregator of publicly available information.
  3. ^ "Portland State College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: Department of Philosophy | Peter Boghossian". Retrieved 2016-06-04. 
  4. ^ Secular Global Institute: "Peter Boghossian"[dead link].
  5. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2006-01-01). "Socratic Pedagogy, Critical Thinking, and Inmate Education". Journal of Correctional Education. 57 (1): 42–63. JSTOR 23282687. 
  6. ^ "Center for Prison Reform, Fellows". Center for Prison Reform. 03-06-2016. 
  7. ^ "Federal Probation Journal - June 2012". United States Courts. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  8. ^ a b c d Rubin, Dave (2015-12-18), "Peter Boghossian and Dave Rubin: Critical Thinking, Atheism, and Faith [Full Interview]", The Rubin Report, retrieved 2016-06-03 
  9. ^ Holgate, Tess (20 June 2015). "How do you know? Atheist vs believer debates strike again". Bible Society Australia. 
  10. ^ "One cannot be both a cultural relativist & an egalitarian. You can't simultaneously claim all cultures are relative & equal. #RegressiveLeft". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 21 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "One cannot simultaneously maintain relativism & egalitarianism. Yet these contradictory values are held by many contemporary leftists.". Peter Boghossian on Twitter. 25 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Prof. Peter Boghossian: the "How do you know?" tour". Rationalist Society of Australia. 2015. 
  13. ^ Beck, Dean (25 July 2015). "A Penny For Your Thoughts! Philosopher Peter Boghossian". Joy 94.9. 
  14. ^ Winston, Kimberly (18 November 2013). "Got faith? ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ would like to change that". The Washington Post. 
  15. ^ "Street Epistemology: An Interview with Peter Boghossian". November 29, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  16. ^ Perry, Susan K. (24 January 2014). "All Together Now! Let’s Spread the Word of . . . Reason". Psychology Today. 
  17. ^ peterboghossian (2013-11-12), Peter Boghossian Authenticity TAM 2013, retrieved 2016-06-03 
  18. ^ Theology, Philosophy and Science (2014-05-29), Is Christian Faith Blind?: Tim McGrew vs Peter Boghossian (Debate), retrieved 2016-06-03 
  19. ^ Wartick, J. W. (2014-05-26). ""Is Faith a False Epistemology?"- Debate Review: Tim McGrew vs. Peter Boghossian". J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason". Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  20. ^ "Atheos App". Retrieved 2016-08-20. 
  21. ^ "A New App Helps Atheists Guide Others Toward a More Rational Way of Thinking". Retrieved 2016-08-20. 
  22. ^ "Interested in clear thinking, logic and reason? (Yes, you are.) Check out the new app by my friend @peterboghossian:". Dave Rubin on Twitter. 15 August 2016. 
  23. ^ "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies". Skeptic. 19 May 2017. 
  24. ^ Lindsay, Jamie; Boyle, Peter; Halsall, Jamie (19 May 2017). "The conceptual penis as a social construct". Cogent Social Sciences. 3 (1). doi:10.1080/23311886.2017.1330439. 
  25. ^ "Steven Pinker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  26. ^ "Steven Pinker on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  27. ^ "Get Me Off Your F*cking Mailing List, The Penis As A Construct, and Other Predatory Publishing Tales. - SciBabe". SciBabe. 2017-05-23. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  28. ^ Aero article addressing criticisms
  29. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2014-10-30). "I've never understood how someone could be proud of being gay. How can one be proud of something one didn't work for?". @peterboghossian. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 
  30. ^ "Peter Boghossian on Gay Pride and Hobnobbing with an Online Misogynist - Richard Carrier". Richard Carrier. 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  31. ^ "Peter Boghossian, and What Gay Pride Actually Means - Greta Christina's Blog". Greta Christina's Blog. 2014-11-01. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  32. ^ Carr, Taylor (2015-04-04). "The Godless Skeptic: Has Peter Boghossian Disqualified Himself from the Adult Table?". The Godless Skeptic. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  33. ^ Boghossian, Peter (2014-11-01). "Questioning that one can be proud to be gay is a leftist blasphemy. #justbornthatway". @peterboghossian. Retrieved 2017-05-31. 

External links[edit]