Valerie Tarico just wrote an article that begins as follows:
In history books, Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins will be known for his contributions to science. But you’d never know that based on the last two years of his media coverage, which have centered on a series of controversial tweets, mostly about women and Islam. The tweets, and Dawkins’ attempts to defend them have provoked fierce debate between atheists about whether his visibility as an advocate for secularism has become a liability to the cause. The story raises challenging questions about aging public figures in an era of instantaneous communications.
Tarico, who clearly has an over-inflated view of Dawkins, is trying to come to terms with the fact that one of her heroes is disliked by her daughter:
As someone who believes that we each get one precious life, someone fascinated with understanding the intricacies of the natural world and the human mind, I owe Dawkins a debt of gratitude. And when, once, I found myself passing time with him before a speaking event, his demeanor as a seemingly genteel but awkward introvert made me even more grateful that he has been willing to tolerate such a high level of conflict and publicity for so long in the service of change.
But when I said as much to my college age daughter, Brynn, she wrinkled her nose. “I think he’s a bit of an ass,” she shot back.
Tarico realizes Dawkins is shredding his credibility and reputation with his twitter account, so she comes up with an excuse:
Verbal ability remains stable the longest, which can mask changes in other kinds of processing (and allow politicians to remain in office indefinitely). In one small pilot study, 90 percent of adults over 70 show some measurable evidence of cognitive decline; more conservative and complex measures suggests that 22 to 50 percent experience a condition that researchers term Mild Cognitive Impairment. Almost a third of us will eventually die with dementia
Yep, “challenging questions about aging public figures in an era of instantaneous communications.”
Tarico is trying to rescue Dawkins’s reputation by carefully and gently raising the idea that he has started to suffer from dementia. Or, to put it in the language of we peasants, the old man is becoming senile.