There’s been a lot of discussion about the death of new atheism lately (see below for links). New atheism has probably been the second most useful force in frustrating serious discussion of the evidence for design in nature (“theistic evolution” is the most useful one).
Th new atheists’ effectiveness was largely due to their ability to choke public debate with nonsense questions like “Who created God?” and red herrings like “What about the Canaanites in the Bible?”
Their choice of tactics may have had something to do with who was a new atheist vs. who was an old atheist. Many old atheists were serious scholars who represented thought-out philosophical positions; new atheists had profanity, the internet, and a lot of time on their hands. It showed.
An explanation is here offered by someone who remembers the beginning and has put a lot of thought into it:
But the sudden fall of New Atheism didn’t feel like a process of gradual social change and eventual acceptance. It felt like a movement certain of its own victory burning out spectacularly over the course of a few short years, followed by mysterious yet near-total contempt from the very people it thought it had convinced…
The atheists of Early Internet Argument Culture were not New Atheists. The term “New Atheism” didn’t really catch on until about 2006 when Richard Dawkins published The God Delusion; Early Internet Argument Culture was just a prelude to the main event. Post-2006 atheists were brasher and more political. They were less interested in arguing with religious people about the minutiae of carbon-dating; they were more interested in posting about how stupid carbon-dating denalists were, on their own social media feeds, read entirely by other atheists. The concept of the Internet as magical place where you could change other people’s minds had given way to the Internet as magical place where you could complain to like-minded friends about how ignorant other people were…
New Atheism was also more centralized. EIAC was every man for himself; you would march forth alone into your chosen bulletin board and engage, neither seeking or receiving any help beyond precooked arguments from your local armory-site. New Atheism, for the first time, started to have celebrities. Richard Dawkins, of course, and the Four Horsemen, but also random bloggers like PZ Myers and Stephanie Zvan. These were the days when bloggers filled auditoria and travelled in high-altitude balloons. Every day they would tell you the latest reason to be outraged about religion, and every day you would discuss it on social media and comment sections and get appropriately angry.Scott Alexander, “New atheism: the godlessness that failed ” at SlateStarCodex
Alexander’s thesis is that, along about 2016, new atheism morphed seamlessly into social justice activism. Lots of details. Read it and decide.
Ever since the new atheists declined (or whatever), discussions of Darwinism and evolution have become much more open-minded. For example, researchers seem to talk more openly about work that points in a direction other than Darwinism. Perhaps they don’t worry so much about 20,000 semi-literate trolls writing their Dean of Science to get them fired just for saying that their research points in another direction.
One wonders, in passing, whether the social justice warriors are happy with their new recruits.
See also: Bad News: New Atheism Is Still Over: It’s been so easy to get people to take the claims for design in nature seriously after they’ve been inundated by a huge dump of new atheism. But hey, the easy stuff never lasts
The Three Living New Atheist Figureheads Deny That New Atheism Is Dead We’d heard it was in decline from a Google Trends graph but that’s like playing with a ouija board. Who knows? Now, Darwinian evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne emerged to say that it ain’t so. He quotes Sam Harris, one of the Four Horsemen of the (New Atheist) Apocalypse, along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens
New Atheism Is Over, Says Darwinian PZ Myers. He calls it a train wreck
New atheism in decline? Well, that’s gleaned from a Google trends graph.