The Incredible Shrinking Dawkins

A decade ago, Richard Dawkins was known as the widely-respected, clever science author who came out as a vocal atheist. But somewhere along the line, the science part began to fade and he became known simply as the vocal atheist, the British equivalent of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The problem for Dawkins was that he thought his ability to craft clever metaphors for Darwinian evolution would translate as his ability to come up with clever expressions of atheism and clever arguments against God. But as with most scientists, the attempt to translate success in one field into success in a very different field ended as a complete failure. There is nothing clever about his atheism or anti-God arguments. And now it is becoming clear that Dawkins is not only known as the “vocal atheist,” but he is being increasingly laughed at as the Angry, Clumsy Atheist Who Constantly Shoots Himself in the Foot with Tweets. People read his tweets not to find some pearls of wisdom; they read his tweets with a bowl of popcorn in their lap, waiting for the next blow-up. Some of us began to sense this change when New Atheist foot soldiers stopped trying to defend Dawkins and instead began distancing themselves from him. Now, it’s almost impossible to find atheists willing to defend Richard Dawkins in the blogosphere.

Note how an atheist writing a recent article on Salon.com described Dawkins:

But in 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

Ouch. So Dawkins is…..out of style. He is no longer even “relevant.” That’s almost worse than being “wrong” in this day and age.

And back in March, Brendan O’Neill had little trouble skillfully roasting Tweety Dawk. Savor the following excerpts:

Another week, another half-hilarious, half-tragic Richard Dawkins meltdown on Twitter. This time, Dawkins, who prior to becoming a jester of the Twittersphere was apparently a well respected author, used the opportunity of International Women’s Day to blast the “loathsome religion” of Islam. He tweeted a photo of three Afghani women in short skirts in the 1970s next to a photo of three Afghani women cloaked in the burqa today, alongside the words: “How can anyone defend this loathsome religion?” He means Islam. He always means Islam.

O’Neill also makes a very good point while continuing the roast:

The end result is that even someone like Dawkins can now be better known for his late-night blabbing than for his intellectual works. I’m sure that to young people in particular, who don’t remember that time when Dawkins was taken seriously and who get the vast majority of their info via the Twittersphere, Dawkins is now just “that bloke what says weird stuff on Twitter”.

And adds:

So I don’t buy the idea that Dawkins’s intolerant tweeting shows us the “real man”, as some suggest. I think it shows us something that we shouldn’t really have the right to see, and certainly would never have seen in earlier eras: that is, the half-formed thoughts of a human being who is only as silly and ill-spoken as the rest of us are in our homes, pubs or inner mind monologues. If the real Dawkins wants to preserve his reputation, then he should retire, or at least reprimand, the emotionally incontinent private Dawkins who keeps tweeting whatever comes into his head.
Dawkins’s fate – his self-demotion from serious author to barking tweeter – should be a lesson to everyone: beware Twitter, for it is the technological facilitator of the most backward cultural trend of our age – the Oprahite urge to spill, sputter and speak every thought, idea and feeling that pops into our heads.

One has to wonder if the last chapter of Dawkin’s Autobiography, Vol 2, will discuss his devotion to Twitter. After all, the once highly respected science writer has reached the stage in his life where is best known for making a fool of himself while furiously tweeting in response to 16-year-old trolls.

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11 Responses to The Incredible Shrinking Dawkins

  1. Mark Plus says:

    Keep beating up on Dawkins if you find the exercise enjoyable. But you’ve missed out on the real story that the “rapture” of christians has happened in a big swath of the world organically, and without central planning, for reasons social scientists have started to explore. Basically most people never cared that much about god in the first place, and they hold religious beliefs as weak opinions to manage existential anxiety. When countries figure out how to run themselves properly, people feel sufficiently secure that they lose interest in these beliefs.

    Reference:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-god-dying/

    Also refer to my comment on Shermer’s post:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-god-dying/?page=2#comment-36DCD43A-CB32-F2C4-C360F9817725429D

  2. Michael says:

    Yet just two days ago, we heard that The Coming Theocracy (!) is just around the corner. ;)

  3. ccmnxc says:

    What’s that? The more money and worldly security a group of people has, the less interest they will have in God? Inconceivable! Next you’ll tell me that people have been saying this for 2000 years or something.

  4. Sorry to disappoint you, but I never considered Dawkins books some kind of bible (and most atheists I know always thought of his works as “Meh… Ok, but not world-changing.”). He wrote some good stuff, but so did many other philosophers (and let’s be honest, often better). Dawkins gave a face to a new wave of atheism and that was important. His works made a good entry point for some new atheists, but that just doesn’t make him always right or something like that. It’s a human failure to search for idols – only to be disappointed when they turn out to just humans.

  5. Dhay says:

    Mark Plus > …existential anxiety. When countries figure out how to run themselves properly, people feel sufficiently secure that they lose interest in these beliefs.

    You join Jerry Coyne, who has been harping on the same lines for years, and on the same dubious grounds. Dubious because: the US very much an outlier; the correlation is far from perfect; evidence of supposed or of real correlation is not the same as evidence for causation; you (nor the Bertelsmann Foundation, Shermer, nor Coyne) have not provided evidence for causation.

    Try reading WM Briggs’ blog — link in RHS panel — which relentlessly attacks the misuse of statistics and the poor understanding and poor reasoning underlying misuse of statistics.

    I see you prefer to derail with dubious statistical claims and speculation rather than address the topic of the incredible shrinking Dawkins.

  6. carmelitaspats666 says:

    Dawkins is not Jesus Christ, a crazed and failed apocalyptic preacher currently making appearances in Catholic Churches as a rancid cracker which turns into the literal flesh of a 2,000-year-old virgin carpenter. The ONLY credit I give Dawkins is in his advocacy work for science education and in motivating some of us to get off the couch, evaluate our embarrassing science illiteracy and go back to school to fill in the gaps. Other than that…..Meh.

  7. Rhaeyga says:

    The day someone is mocked for lamenting that women are forced to wear bean bags because imaginary sky daddy says so is the day I want off this planet.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’m still waiting for an atheist with the intelligence or maturity – whichever attribute may be lacking – that can actually describe Christianity on its own terms, rather than using inane descriptions like “imaginary sky daddy” that do little more than make the user of such terms look pathetic.

  9. stcordova says:

    “How can anyone defend this loathsome religion?”

    I actually thought that was a justified and courageous move by Dawkins, one of his finest moments. I say that as a Christian creationist and longtime adversary of Richard. I’d rather pal around with atheists in academia than the Taliban in Afganistan

    The point of was “Shrinking Dawkins”, but what I find surprising is his fellow atheists thought less of him for this tweet, and I had the opposite reaction, I thought more of him! Yes, he is becoming irrelevant, but it seems illogical that this tweet would get him in hot water. I guess the leftist love of Islam hurt Dawkins in this case, but this is one of the few times I salute him.

    The photo symbolize a once secular leaning Afganistan with young women looking happy and free and the other where Sharia law reigns. The burka is symbolic of the sort of cruelty Islam allows upon women, like legalize spousal abuse.

    Dawkins has said dumb things before, but this wasn’t one that was dumb, imho.

  10. ccmnxc says:

    “I’m still waiting for an atheist with the intelligence or maturity – whichever attribute may be lacking – that can actually describe Christianity on its own terms, rather than using inane descriptions like “imaginary sky daddy” that do little more than make the user of such terms look pathetic.”

    Those like Rhaeyga simply provide another data point for Mike that the Cult of Gnu do indeed think like children when it comes to God. Of course, when you point this out, they either completely ignore you or throw a tantrum over it, which provides more (unnecessary) data that they are also incapable of acting like anything but children when dicussing the topic too.
    But of course, we are still supposed to take those who act and think like children seriously, apparently.

  11. Crude says:

    I love the pattern of atheist derails Mike’s posts tend to invite. Especially when the initial derail amounts to, basically, ‘atheists become atheists for non-rational reasons! Statistics says so!’ You really don’t need to convince me of that in many cases.

    As a guy who’s been watching this unfold for years, I’ve noticed how quickly Dawkins fell from ‘Intellectual giant of science and atheist’ to ‘weird old man, who cares what he thinks’. Among -atheists-. It’s been years since I’ve seen the Ultimate Boeing 747 deployed, after some people initially thinking that was some kind of juggernaut argument.

    Ah, nostalgia.

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