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”.
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.