With the publication of The God Delusion in 2006, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins thrust himself to the forefront of the modern atheist movement. That book has since sold over three million copies and been translated into 30 different languages. The Oxford University professor is the embodiment of the concept of the public intellectual, his activities on behalf of science and against religion including best-selling books, celebrated debates, and numerous appearances as either guest or host on myriad television programs. In his professional capacity, he served as Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford and has since promoted that mission via the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and its popular website. Few professors can boast a guest spot on The Simpsons; there, he appeared as a demon version of himself in Ned Flanders’ dream of hell in the 2013 episode, “Black Eyed, Please”.
For Dawkins, science is not something to be confined to universities and laboratories, particularly when much of the work conducted there is dismissed or demeaned by the anti-science lobbies of the religious community. This concern, articulated in his recent memoir, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (New York: HarperCollins, 2015), has prompted Dawkins to call for a broadening of the image of a scientist to one that can intersect with more accessible fields. His call for a “third culture” furthers Carl Sagan’s desire to articulate the “poetry” of science, to celebrate its awesome wonders as well as its evidentiary minutia (p.5). Writing and rhetoric need to be promoted, argues Dawkins, and wit needs to be central to both; scientists need to emerge from isolation, he posits, with genres such as science fiction literature integrated into science for a more populist presentation of the profession.
For him, the days of just hunkering down to research while the political forces of religion infiltrate, occupy, and control the culture need to come to an end. In his 2002 TED Talk he calls for a “militant atheism” because “rocking the boat is just the right thing to do”.
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