Atheism Intelligent Design

How did new atheism become the godlessness that failed?

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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

and

New atheism in decline? Well, that’s gleaned from a Google trends graph.

7 Replies to “How did new atheism become the godlessness that failed?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    discussions of Darwinism and evolution have become much more open-minded

    ID deserves some credit for that.
    The loud, aggressive young atheists created a lot of internet conflict and after a while, people could see that it was a lot of childish rage and ridicule against God. It’s not a thoughtful or well-considered position.
    Atheism, in general, still seems to be growing but in a more complex format. It often includes some sort of spiritualism.
    Mindless nihilism is too easy to refute and the more sophisticated atheists like to deny that they are materialists of that sort.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It’s an excellent article – good research. It may actually be a sign of maturity for the atheist movement, where they are not as interested in debate but just believe in their own righteousness and want to change society. So, as they retreat from the intellectual conflicts it is not a good thing, but it’s a sign that atheism believes in its own self-confidence. Plus, “taking action” is what follows from a thoughtless worldview. It’s just a matter of following impulses and rushing forward for revolutionary change.
    That explains all of the social justice issues that people are obsessed with.
    There will be an extreme right-wing backlash to that, over time.

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    It Sums up a lot of things I witnessed

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    The stark difference between the trollish New Atheists on the internet and the ‘intellectual’ Old Atheists who were much more reasonable is best illustrated by none other than leading atheist thinker Anthony Flew, who after a lifetime of weighing the evidence, converted from atheism to Deism. The late Anthony Flew was, for decades, considered the leading atheist intellectual in the world prior to his late conversion to Deism followed shortly thereafter by his death, and by the subsequent (and apparently brief) rise of Dawkins and the rest of the ‘new’ atheists.

    Antony Flew on God and Atheism – interviewed by Lee Strobel
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHUtMEru4pQ

    “There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself — which is far more complex than the physical Universe — can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source.”
    – Anthony Flew – One Of The World’s Most Famous Atheists Changes His Mind – 2007
    https://evolutionnews.org/2007/10/one_of_the_worlds_most_famous/

    Anthony Flew was particularly unimpressed by Dawkins’ argument in his book “The Selfish Gene”

    Book – THERE IS A GOD:
    How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind – Antony Flew
    Excerpt page 79-80: “I (Antony Flew) went on to remark that Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene was a major exercise in popular mystification. As an atheist philosopher, I considered this work of popularization as destructive in its own ways as either The Naked Ape or The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris. In his works, Morris offers as the results of zoological illumination what amounts to a systematic denial of all that is most peculiar to our species contemplated as a biological phenomenon. He ignores or explains away the obvious differences between human beings and other species.
    Dawkins, on the other hand, labored to discount or depreciate the upshot of fifty or more years’ work in genetics — the discovery that the observable traits of organisms are for the most part conditioned by the interactions of many genes, while most genes have manifold effects on many such traits. For Dawkins, the main means for producing human behavior is to attribute to genes characteristics that can significantly be attributed only to persons. Then, after insisting that we are all the choiceless creatures of our genes, he infers that we cannot help but share the unlovely personal characteristics of those all-controlling monads.
    Genes, of course, can be neither selfish nor unselfish any more than they or any other nonconscious entities can engage in competition or make selections. (Natural selection is, notoriously, not selection; and it is a somewhat less familiar logical fact that, below the human level, the struggle for existence is not “competitive” in the true sense of the word.) But this did not stop Dawkins from proclaiming that his book “is not science fiction; it is science. We are survival machines — robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” 2 Although he later issued occasional disavowals, Dawkins gave no warning in his book against taking him literally. He added, sensationally, that “the argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.”
    If any of this were true, it would be no use to go on, as Dawkins does, to preach: “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” No eloquence can move programmed robots. But in fact none of it is true — or even faintly sensible. Genes, as we have seen, do not and cannot necessitate our conduct. Nor are they capable of the calculation and understanding required to plot a course of either ruthless selfishness or sacrificial compassion.
    https://archive.org/stream/There.Is.A.God/Antony%20Flew%20-%20There%20Is%20A%20God_djvu.txt

  5. 5
    EDTA says:

    It is interesting and yet concerning that all the new “spirituality” we’re seeing is accepted by its adherents with even less warrant/evidence than any of the prior belief systems had. One would have hoped that people would want more evidence for what they were going to believe, not less.

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    I would say that so-called New Atheism has been a success. Inasmuch as it had any specific objectives, one was to take its rightful place in the “public square” from which it had been largely excluded by the dominant Christian right. The books, articles and speeches by Hitchens, Harris, Dennett and Dawkins may not have converted many to atheism but they have opened the door to the increasing number of people willing to admit to being unaffiliated or having no specific belief.. Atheism will never supplant religious belief while people are as they are. It cannot offer the comfort, support and hope for an afterlife for all eternity which is offered in various forms by various faiths so believers can rest easy.

  7. 7
    AaronS1978 says:

    Neo Atheism did its damage. It might be ridiculous now and it might be on its way out but it made it fashionable to ridicule and make fun of people who are religious it also made it fashionable to be an atheist

    In the end they did shoot themselves in the foot and created a monster that they can’t control themselves but I can’t believe in God anymore without being looked at like I’m stupid

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