Talk:Richard Dawkins/Archive 14

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Nomination for WP:FA?

Any takers? I don't know how to do it and I'm just too freaking lazy to find out anyway.:| TelCoNaSpVe :| —Preceding undated comment added 07:05, 19 May 2010 (UTC).

--Lurkmolsner (talk) 21:38, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
First fix the obvious lack of punctuation related to enumerating three or more nouns and the fair amount of style issues here and there, get a copy edit, peer review it, and perhaps you have a shot. EricLeb01 (Page | Talk) 03:12, 18 July 2010 (UTC)


In the section Atheism and rationalism, where is the rationalism? Are we sure he isn't instead empiricist? Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 16:57, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

There was some chat about the rationalism -- see this archived section: [1]. Rationalism is mentioned in the lead, but through a source with a dead link. It's also in the next subsection Richard Dawkins#Richard Dawkins Foundation. "Empiricism" doesn't appear in the article. I think we can scratch the "and rationalism" in the section header. Go ahead, if someone can find something useful (and sourceful) to say about it, they can restore the header. DVdm (talk) 19:00, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
He claims "scientific rationalism" in his book "The God Delusion", but the trouble with his claim is that true rationalists claim there is some knowledge to be reasoned out by pure and sole thinking. He may actually confuse the word as an alias for modernism or positivism. I'm gonna remove it, anyone who can find a correct rationalist reasoning to cite, and can insert a short rationalist paragraph, might do so with my applauses. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 09:35, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
No he is a rationalist as he claims. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 10:45, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

Old Moonraker, that was an excellent job. DVdm (talk) 11:13, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

No, I didn't managed the "paragraph" that Rursus rightly called for. --Old Moonraker (talk) 11:19, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
Applause, as promised! Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 14:21, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

To make the obvious point, rationalism means many things, and an empiricist in the sense used in history of philosophy can be a rationalist in a number of other senses--a believer in the importance of proportioning belief to evidence, or avoiding irrational beliefs. User:JustinBlank (talk) 11:11, 15 June 2010 (UTC)


The God Delusion was praised by many intellectuals...

Three says the text. The source provided happen to be According to my read, he shoots himself seriously in his own foot twice, once by proponing a clearly theistic evolutionary model of a multiverse where universes containing life in some quite unexplained way are favoured by natural selection (!!!), another time by explaining that evolution is optimizing, peacock feathers are thus optimized, the horrible unoptimized religion is like peacock feathers. I will replace "many" for "three", since the praise alleged seem far fetched. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 17:50, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

No, I didn't. I made it
The God Delusion was praised by among others... [list of three]
someone more certainly praised it, somewhere. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:04, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

I've no objection to the change you made as such (more specific is better, in general), but your argument here -- if I'm understanding it right -- seems to amount to "the article says that many intellectuals praised TGD, but it contains arguments X and Y which I find weak, so it's unlikely that many intellectuals praised it", which seems to me hopeless in multiple different ways. Most uncontroversially: to get from "I think argument X is weak" to "it is unlikely that many intellectuals praised a book containing argument X" you need to make several separate implausible leaps of logic. (Less uncontroversially, I think you badly misunderstood him. But let's not argue that here.) Gareth McCaughan (talk) 21:56, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

Aumh. OK, then my reason is WP:NPOV, although I used some reference to facts and other subjective operations to indicate that the stmt was unlikely POVvy. Sorry for being opinionate, the topic is a little controversial, so I should know better. Otherwise I think I understand him correctly. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 07:26, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

Dawkins' father dead?

How reliable is the source that states Dawkins' father, Clinton John Dawkins, died in 1989? I just watched an interview with Richard dated Jan 9 2010 on youtube in which Dawkins says his father is still alive.

Here's the link: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:38, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for this information. I watched part 1 of the video (I intended just looking for the "father" reference, but the interview is unusually good). The statement that the father is still alive occurs at 7:30 (although you need to start before that to see that they are talking about the father). It is not clear when the interview was conducted, but it's clear that it was well after 1989 (probably in January 2010 as the youtube page suggests).
The dubious information was added in this edit by Jim Michael on 27 May 2010 with an unclear reference, namely The source looks dubious to me (is the person the father of RD?).
The same user made other changes in these 8 edits. I think some of that should be removed (certainly all the material relying on findmypast), but I'll leave it for a while to see if anyone has further comments. Johnuniq (talk) 04:44, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I mistook a man who had exactly the same unusual name as Dawkins' father as being him; I have now removed the incorrect lifespan. Apologies for my good faith mistake; thank you for drawing our attention to it, and the YouTube interview. The rest of the info I added is consistent with what we know from other sources, so the accuracy of that is not in reasonable doubt. This biography is of a very prominent person, and it has insufficient info about his family and personal life, which is why I added it. It is still the case that his mother is not mentioned. All I could find about her was her name, but the sources appear to be taken from this article when it stated her name, but did not give a reference. In the YouTube interview, he talks about both his parents in the present tense. Jim Michael (talk) 11:55, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
Richard Dawkins says in his web-site that his mother trained as an artist, but did not act as one for long. He said this to prove that
his parents were not missionaries. That they were not is no doubt true. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:58, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

Critique of Dawkins

Perhaps some mention should be made in the criticism of Dawkins and other New Atheists made by proponents of historical materialism and some strains of Marxism, such as Noam Chomsky or Terry Eagleton? see as one minor example Hash789 (talk) 00:13, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

It's already at The God Delusion and is not needed here (not significant to Dawkins' life). Johnuniq (talk) 01:37, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

Popular culture

I know this has been an issue in the past on this page, but Richard Dawkins is often used in popular culture as 'The scientist', so I wonder if it is worth reopening the debate, and include a section mentioning the way he is used? For example, his being referenced in the final of season 5 of doctor who ("I don't trust that Richard Dawkins and his star cult" - will need checking for exact quote, i'm working from memory) and he's mentioned in Terry Pratchett's 'Nation' at the end. I don't think you can truly document his impact without citing the numerous times he's been written into popular culture. Abergabe (talk) 09:51, 27 June 2010 (UTC)


Dawkins' conversion from Church of England to atheist is a fundamental part of his life. It is reliably sourced in the article. Ref 17, Darwin's Child, The Guardian: 'he went to a C of E school, was confirmed, and embraced Christianity until his mid-teens.' He fits the criteria of Category:Converts to atheism from Protestantism, as the C of E, which he was raised in, is a Protestant denomination, and he is now an atheist. Jim Michael (talk) 15:33, 6 July 2010 (UTC)

And let's not forget his earlier conversion from atheism (or possibly agnosticism) to Christianity when he was practically a baby! It's a bit of a subjective call, but I suspect that this category is best kept for people who "converted" (back?) to atheism when they were adults. At least some of the examples currently in the category seem to fit the bill on this point (e.g. Jonathan Edwards). I think that while one's early views may be worth noting in a biography section of an article, this particular category (plus related ones for other religions) would probably best be stocked with people who have had a foot in both "camps" during their adult lives. The transition is of much greater significance in these cases since they're likely to have thought long and hard about both positions, whereas a child or young adult is less likely to have. But this whole category is a slippery one in the first place. Cheers, --PLUMBAGO 16:36, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
Yes, this is an ugly area. You will see how ugly if you go to Category:Converts to atheism from Protestantism and then to the discussion on changing the name of the category. One generally doesn't convert to atheism. One decides that the religious structures one was surrounded by as a child are no longer needed, and happily carries on life without them. We need a word that means something like "abandons religion". HiLo48 (talk) 23:24, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that many of us, and Dawkins in particular, reject the notion that a child should be labeled with the religion of their upbringing. Sure, if an adult attends a CofE church, or writes of a CofE faith, and later announces they are an atheist, it may be appropriate to consider them a "convert". But it is completely inappropriate to assume that because a child participated in their environment (studying the subjects presented at school, and performing the rituals including confirmation, again presented at school) that the person was in any meaningful sense a CofE member of such standing that an encyclopedia needs to record that the person "converted" from CofE to atheism. I have used quotes on "converted" because it is highly dubious to regard a rational decision as a conversion, as if it were merely clever talk or emotional upheaval that led to the outcome. Johnuniq (talk) 23:56, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
I agree. We need a way of saying that the FIRST conscious choice of a person in the area of religion was to not have one. It's not a conversion at all. HiLo48 (talk) 00:15, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Dawkins' conversion to atheism is probably the best known and most relevant case in the world. He really believed in Protestant Christianity and a God designer of the universe and everything in it when he was a child; he didn't merely go along with it to please his parents. When he was 16, he decided through logic that the religion he previously believed was nonsense propaganda, and that atheism and evolution were what made sense. Bear in mind we are talking about a very intelligent person, who was 16 when he converted, and that he didn't merely decide not to bother with being a Chrstian anymore, or decide that it wasn't 'cool', nor just ceased his interest in it. He is very active in his atheism. To say a person should be an adult when they convert to make it meaningful or relevant is not justified, nor is saying a person has to be notable before they converted. Wikipedia bios routinely cover aspects of their subjects' lives, including their early lives, during which time many of them were not at all notable. Thousands of adolescents convert. Much of his life and career involves writing, lecturing and presenting programmes to promote atheism and point out the flaws, shortcomings, contradictions, false history and lack of logic in various religions. He said after 9/11 that religion is not harmless nonsense, it is dangerous nonsense. I can't see how he could be more of a convert; he speaks to millions against what he used to believe in. Whilst atheism may not be a religion, it is for Dawkins an active belief in the non-existence of God, not merely a lack of belief in God. His life heavily involves actively promoting atheism. He couldn't be any more atheist. He didn't merely choose not to believe in Christianity (or any other religion), he chose to make it his life and work to promote atheism and argue against religions. His belief in the non-existence of God is as strong as any Christian, Muslim or Hindu's belief in their God(s). To claim that there's no such thing as converting to atheism is contradicted by the existence of Category:Converts to atheism, and its subcats. Jim Michael (talk) 15:39, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
I don't think we wish to diminish the significance of "conversion" to atheism in adolescents. To use the Dawkins example again, while it may be true to say that his conversion to atheism was the result of careful, logical thought, it is probably not true to say that his prior conversion to protestantism was the result of the same application of careful and logical thought. Largely because he was a child then, and absorbed the influence of his upbringing. However, people who convert when adults are liable to have been in full possession of their faculties prior to their conversion, and so have likely thought long and hard about their position as a believer. As such, their subsequent conversion is arguably more significant.
Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand, I would argue that if we use the category in the way that you are proposing, then the majority (to date) of notable atheists from western nations would fall into it, since most will have been raised on Christianity prior to rejecting it later. Which would then make the category more-or-less synonymous with that of western atheists (or "converts to atheism"), and therefore redundant. My argument is that it would be much more interesting to use the category to document "staunch" Christians who became "staunch" atheists. But since that would require some definition of "staunchness", which I'm assuming is at least congruent with "adult", then I think my suggestion is unworkable. By way of summary: your suggestion = workable, but potentially redundant; my suggestion = an interesting subset of atheists, but unworkable. As a result, I suggest dumping the category. Or am I completely missing an obvious justification? Cheers, --PLUMBAGO 16:11, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
P.S. I don't think that one should put too much stock in the idea that having a Wikipedia category about some topic points to its real-world existence!  :-)
Jim Michael - you say that Dawkins "really believed in Protestant Christianity and a God designer of the universe and everything in it when he was a child; he didn't merely go along with it to please his parents", and then give us lots of examples of how keen an atheist he is. To convince me that he ever really converted, you need to give equally powerful evidence of your original claim, that he, as a thinking person and of his own choosing "really believed in Protestant Christianity...", etc. That's what's missing. HiLo48 (talk) 03:44, 10 July 2010 (UTC)


Dawkins' father spent a spell in Africa from 1939 to 1949 to evade conscription. We need more detail about this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:15, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Well, you certainly read the article carefully. Duh. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 12:31, 16 July 2010 (UTC)
Dawkins Junior is the only one I can find who claims that his father was in the KAR. The KAR was a small unit that did little fighting in the War. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:40, 16 July 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
Ref. 19, one of the proofs, is now a dead link. The question arises as to why Richard Dawkins has taken the previous claim out of his site. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:49, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
All of the forums on RDnet were re-organised a few months ago, so any url beginning is dead now. The info is anyway cited from a book (a flat thing made of trees, available in libraries), but a search of RDnet also turns up [2] which confirms what the article already says (see comment 16). You appear to be trying to spin a conspiracy out of a dead link. That's silly. 'The question arises as to why Richard Dawkins has taken the previous claim out of his site' indeed. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 07:28, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
Squiddy has passed over in silence the small size of the KAR. So far, Squiddy has proved that Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawkins and Richard Dawkins have said that his father was in the KAR. In "comment 16", Richard Dawkins rather oddly refers to the "brief" time his father was in the KAR. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:36, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
(i) I've 'passed over in silence the small size of the KAR' because I can't see any relevance. (ii) No-one has even suggested, let alone proved, that RD's father was not in the KAR. (iii) 'Brief' in the context of the comment clearly means 'for the duration of the war' as opposed to 'professional soldier'. Do you have any actual point, is there some change you'd like to see in the article? It seems at this point that you are trolling. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 09:48, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
See Richard Dawkins says, "In 1943 my father was posted back to Nyasaland". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:15, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
I've added the words 'and Nyasaland' and cited from that link not the dead one. Happy now? Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 10:27, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
Is source reliable? According to Johnuniq's last edit, no it's not. So you would not be able to include this information in the article. :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 15:31, 17 July 2010 (UTC)
I think the edit and source from Squiddy are fine. I removed this section from the talk page when it looked like a pointless and troll-like comment about the father, with no source. I think any attempt to repeat similar unsourced claims should be reverted. Johnuniq (talk) 03:36, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

Third Way Magazine

A quote with a {{cn}} tag is from an interview in Third Way Magazine. I couldn't find any reason in WP:RSN not to use this, so adding the reference. If RD was happy to use it, so are we. --Old Moonraker (talk) 13:07, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

No reply

I have sent two emails to Richard Dawkins about his father's war activities. R. Dawkins has not replied. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:18, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

If you emailed me asking about my father's war activities, I would not reply either (and I get a minuscule number of unsolicited email requests, whereas Dawkins would get many each day). Please see WP:TALK where it points out that this page is to discuss how to improve the article. Note that this article is about Dawkins, and not about his father. You may be interested in what happened sixty years ago, but that is not relevant to this page because there is no connection between someone's war record and Dawkins' work. Johnuniq (talk) 12:14, 22 July 2010 (UTC)


Lol @ the evil Dawkins title image. Might consider replacing with a better one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:33, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

I believe this was last discussed at archive 12 where three people supported changing the image to this (which was previously used), and one opposed a change. Would anyone like to comment, because I think it is unprofessional to use a "subject caught off-guard" picture here. Johnuniq (talk) 01:47, 24 July 2010 (UTC)
I slightly prefer the alternative file you link to above (aaconf.jpg), but neither are portrait-style photos. I take the point about 'evil Dawkins' (but find it amusing). Either photo is fine by me, but ideally we'd use a more formal one if someone provides one. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 08:50, 24 July 2010 (UTC)

"Atheistic theologian"

Just a quick thought: I added "atheistic theologian" to the introduction because Dawkins has written numerous books about religion/theology and its contrast against science. Several of his books have a similar premise, which include science, but are more a reaction to defend atheism. Perhaps this makes them theology books more so than science books? You may edit or remove what I placed, but I just wanted to see what people thought first. Regardless, I see Dawkins as a theologian as much as I do a scientist due to his ongoing publications about religion and/or belief (or non belief) in God. Your input is always accepted.Jim Line (talk) 20:59, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for sharing. I have reverted your edit since "atheistic theologian" sounds like original research to me. For such a edit to stick here, you'll need to find reliable sources to support it. I'd also suggest that The God Delusion is Dawkins' major foray into theology (of which he's attacking it, rather than defending atheism), while his other books largely deal with matters of science. Some of them touch on topics beloved of theology, but these are not their primary subjects. Cheers, --PLUMBAGO 21:14, 23 July 2010 (UTC)
Agreeing with "atheistic theologian" being WP:OR or WP:SYNTH without external sources, I deem you mainly wrong about The God Delusion – what he actually does in that book is proponing some really really fringy theories about human psychology (that about human mind being inherently dualist) and universe (that one when he proposes an evolutionary multiverse!!). He is much less a scientist than an "atheist theologian", although that term does probably not exist yet and so cannot be the basis for a category. I've come to the understanding that such a weird subculture exists within some parts of evolutionary biology, prob due to an idiosyncratic bunker mentality due to perceived attacks from politics, social science and religion – so prob it should be interpreted as a temporary immaturity in a newly occurring science. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 12:18, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Google "atheist theologian" gives 310 hits which is unusually rare. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 12:31, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm pretty certain Dawkins does not advocate dualism in TGD. Not that it really matters to the question of whether to call him an 'athesit theologian' - which I agree we shouldn't on grounds of OR, unless someone can find sources. Just to be clear - you're not actually suggesting we stop referring to him as a scientist are you Rursus? Olaf Davis (talk) 16:42, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that Rursus is (mis)-referring to the sections where Dawkins describes work by Paul Bloom that suggests that children's conception of the mind is dualistic: see for example [3], which Dawkins discusses on pages 179-183, as part of a group of thinkers who argue for the "religion as by-product" view. Note that Dawkins does not actively endorse this view as his own, but rather describes the work of other scientists who have thought about the psychological origins of religion. The sheer number of times that Dawkins says "Bloom would say..." or "Bloom argues..." and so on should make it clear that Dawkins is describing someone else's viewpoint, not his own. The rest of that section builds on these ideas. Bloom is also not some "fringe" guy; he's a professor of developmental psychology at Yale University, with his PhD from MIT [4] and this research has been published in peer-reviewed journals (see, for example: Bloom, P. (2007). Religion is natural. Developmental Science, 10, 147-151 and Bloom, P. & Weisberg, D. S. (18 May 2007). Childhood origins of adult resistance to science. Science, 316(5827), 996-997.). So, at least this example, which I know pretty well, as it intersects with some of my own professional interests, is not a "fringy theory" that Dawkins is espousing. Edhubbard (talk) 17:07, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
The interesting post from Edhubbard motivated me to find the section in The God Delusion. Here is an extract that contradicts the interpretation above by Rursus: "Like most scientists, I am not a dualist, but I am nevertheless easily capable of enjoying Vice Versa and Laughing Gas [stories where two people swap bodies; the mind of one finds itself in the body of the other]. Paul Bloom would say this is because, even though I have learned to be an intellectual monist, I am a human animal and therefore evolved as an instinctive dualist. The idea that there is a me perched somewhere behind my eyes and capable, at least in fiction, of migrating into somebody else's head, is deeply ingrained in me and in every other human being, whatever our intellectual pretensions to monism. Bloom supports his contention with experimental evidence that children are even more likely to be dualists than adults are, especially extremely young children. This suggests that a tendency to dualism is built into the brain and, according to Bloom, provides a natural predisposition to embrace religious ideas." Johnuniq (talk) 05:09, 6 August 2010 (UTC)
I am just going to paste this here and let you figure it out. "Douglas, I miss you. You are my cleverest, funniest, most open-minded, wittiest, tallest, and possibly only convert. I am just going to paste this here and let you figure it out. "Douglas, I miss you. You are my cleverest, funniest, most open-minded, wittiest, tallest, and possibly only convert. I hope this book might have made you laugh — though not as much as you made me… Douglas's conversion by my earlier books — which did not set out to convert anyone — inspired me to dedicate to his memory this book — which does!" Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, p 117. TGD was written with the intent to convert, not to inform. Which would make the book a form of theology, even if that theology is "we all die and there is no god". Sorry the book was never ment to be science, whether we like it or not. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Marstheavenger (talkcontribs) 02:20, 18 August 2010

Which leads us back to the point about original research. What you are saying is your opinion, and we don't use editors' opinions in our articles. Where are your sources? Dougweller (talk) 05:25, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. The claim that any writing intended to convert is automatically theology would definitely need sourcing. Also, I don't think anyone is claiming that TGD is meant to be science. Are they? Olaf Davis (talk) 10:18, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Criticism section

So where is the "Criticism" section? Don't tell me he hasn't been criticized. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:56, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

We tend to avoid dedicated criticism sections for people - it's generally preferable to mix positive and negative reactions into the text than putting them in separate lists. The article currently does mention criticism of him - see the paragraph beginning 'Oxford theologian Alistair McGrath', the following one, and the one beginning 'Astrophysicist Martin Rees' at least. If you have a specific criticism in mind that you think needs (more) coverage feel free to suggest it. It might be helpful to look at the recent archives of this talk page first though, because editors have discussed this quite a lot in the past. Olaf Davis (talk) 20:50, 13 July 2010 (UTC)
Unfortunately too much of the criticism of Dawkins in the past has been from people whose position is. "My church tells me creationism is true, so Dawkins must be wrong." Many edits based from that perspective have been quickly (and rightly) reverted over the years. That can then perhaps lead to other, more valid criticism being more carefully handled too. We also have to remember that that this is the biography of a living person. Wikipedia can be (and has been) sued if nasty, inaccurate things are said about people. Considerable care is required when adding criticism to an article like this. HiLo48 (talk) 21:18, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Wait so you are saying that if religious people say he's wrong, that can't be put in the article. That's like saying a gay group speaking out against Fred Phelps isn't notifiable , verifiable, or NPOV —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:17, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

It may be valid for the article to contain a comment to the effect that fundamentalist creationists can't deal with what Dawkins says, so long as it comes from a reliable source, but no point in repeating that over and over again. [Who is Fred Phelps?] HiLo48 (talk) 21:43, 25 July 2010 (UTC)
Re-read the parts that criticize. It's a quote followed by lines of Dawkins' quotes and replies. The article, while not a terrible article at all, is weighing heavily on Dawkins' side. (talk) 20:55, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Cant help agreeing with that. There is a feeling, in most of the criticisms mentioned, of a Dawkins punchline putting an end to all further argument which, of course, just isn't the case. Little bit too much tit and not enough tat. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:28, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
There's nothing to stop you adding well referenced, notable, relevant criticisms to the article. Complaining here won't fix anything. But do be prepared for your additions to be challenged if they don't fit those criteria. HiLo48 (talk) 01:53, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia is largely academic in nature. It's unnecessary to bring in scriptural arguments. It's likely common knowledge that religious believers will disagree. It's like putting anti-psychiatry arguments in every psychiatry page. They'd have arguments, but they stem from arguments against psychiatry itself. Similarly, criticisms of Dawkins would typically fall under criticism of atheism. Arguments about how he delivers his messages, how his reasoning follows from the premises, etc, would be reasonable. Other things are a bit much, as I see it. "Atheism, atheist, and Dawkins" are not found on Pope Benedict's page, but we can be sure there are objections from such groups when it comes to much of what he says.

Dooga16 (talk) 06:25, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

I think the main reason he deserves one is because every other New Atheist (Except maybe Dennett) has a criticism section due to their views on religion, shown in their books. I can see why one isn't appropriate or necessary, but I think it would fix a major slant I'm seeing. If not for his own page then certainly for his books. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:08, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

Richard Dawkins Credientals

Should he be labeled as "...ethologist, evolutionary biologist". He has not done research in over 43 years, which most scientist (and wikis entry on scientist considered a requirement to be called as scientist and by the title of your field ie. Cosmologist. Also most of his books and programs are not about ethology or evolutionary biology (which are very specific fields of study). Most are philosophy, sociology and skepticism. I am just thinking that it needs to read differently, something like.

Clinton Richard Dawkins, MA,, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British popular science author, and lecturer. He was formerly Professor for Public … Marstheavenger (talk) 01:48, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't think the usually accepted definition of 'scientist' says that people cease being scientists when they stop doing active research, and nor does our article as far as I can see. We don't stop referring to someone as an author because they haven't written any books in decades.
Anyway it's irrelevant whether you or I personally believe him to be a scientist: reliable sources refer to him as a scientist so as far as Wikipedia is concerned he is one. Olaf Davis (talk) 10:21, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
Further, I think the 43 years is incorrect (it would put him at age 26 when his last scientific paper was published). The last 20+ years he's been focused on popular science, etc., but prior to that he was publishing in scientific journals like any normal scientist. Anyway, as per Olaf, you'll have to provide some reliable sources if you'd like to change this. Especially for this 43 years. --PLUMBAGO 11:42, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
Indeed - here's an article from 1979. Olaf Davis (talk) 13:40, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
I can't believe someone actually came on here and suggested we stop calling Lord Dawkins a scientist. Thankfully, there were enough sensible people here to spike the absurd suggestion. PalindromeKitty (talk) 00:39, 15 September 2010 (UTC)
AFAIK he hasn't been made a peer.Autarch (talk) 12:59, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Militant atheist

This article mentions that Richard Dawkins "has been described as a militant atheist."

However, I believe that it is noteworthy to mention that Dawkins refutes this claim saying that any time someone criticizes religion, regardless of how sensitive they are, they are criticized as "militant" or "strident."

Therefore, I think that either the use of "militant" should be removed from this article, OR the fact that Dawkins denies being "militant" should be added. Otherwise, it insinuates something that Dawkins himself denies. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:42, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Please sign your talk page messages with four tildes (~~~~)? Thanks.
I see no reason to remove the (very well documented) fact that he has been described as a militant athteist. On the other hand, if you have a good source where Dawkins (or someone else) has something (preferably interesting) to say about that, by all means, it can go in the article. DVdm (talk) 14:07, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Concerning this: I should have checked all three sources, in stead of just one. I agree with the removal. DVdm (talk) 14:46, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. I've added his own self-descriptions (1994, "fairly militant atheist", 2006, "Passionate Skeptic"). Sure, you can find other descriptions of him as a militant atheist (and worse), but do we need any more than this? Dougweller (talk) 14:57, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Very good call. DVdm (talk) 15:25, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Um, taken from the lead paragraph of militant atheist:

The terms militant atheism and militant atheist are designations applied to atheists who are, or are perceived to be, hostile towards religion. The term has been used going back to at least 1894 [1] and it has been applied to people from Thomas Hobbes onwards. It had a specific application within the materialism of Marxism–Leninism, and in the early years of the Soviet Union, and more recently the term has been used, frequently pejoratively, to describe atheists such as Richard Dawkins,[2] Christopher Hitchens,[3] Sam Harris[4],and Daniel Dennett.[5]

The source in question for Dawkins is here.

Dawkins is definitely perceived as hostile to religion, in fact he openly claims to be hostile to religion, so I don't understand the dispute unless you think the use of the word "militant" was pulled out of thin air and not an actual phrase. The article should mention that description of him as a militant atheist is pejoratively used(most of the time, for others it is simply descriptive) as well as his denial of it, but other than that it is definitely notable.Wikiposter0123 (talk) 21:32, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

I don't find any evidence that the term is used "frequently pejoratively" in this source, so perhaps it should be removed from the militant atheist article as well. DVdm (talk) 22:06, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

I think Dawkins uses the term militant atheist as a tongue-in-cheek term. For example, go to this url [5] and watch from 5:10 into the video and you'll hear Dawkins say "What I want to urge upon you is militant atheism" and then the audience laughs, and Dawkins continues, "... but that's putting it too negatively."

Further, in wikipedia's article on "militant atheism" it states under "Concerns about the use of the term":

"The linguist Larry Trask suggests that the word militant "is used all too freely in the feebler sense of 'holding or expressing views which are unpopular or which I don't like'." He notes that Richard Dawkins is "accused by tabloid newspapers and other commentators of being a 'militant atheist'", although, according to Trask, the adjective is never used of Christian activity."

I agree with the original post that militant atheist is not a neutral term and shouldn't be so easily applied to Dawkins.

BillSmithinSiheung (talk) 08:39, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

Whether or not he is a militant atheist is perhaps debatable. That he has been described as a militant atheist in WP:RS eg [6], [7] and [8] is not. NBeale (talk) 21:05, 17 September 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from, 24 August 2010

{editsemiprotected} in this section receiving his M.A. and D.Phil. degrees in 1966, while staying as a research assistant for another year.[16]

remove "while" while implies at the same time as. what is meant is the subsequent year (?). (talk) 17:20, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

The reference for this is a dead link (which is a pity, because it's been used a lot) but would replacing the "while" with a "but" fix the problem? --Old Moonraker (talk) 17:36, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

If you go back to 2004 you can view the CV in pdf form. It has:

  • 1962-1966 Research Student, Oxford University (D.Phil., 1966)
  • 1965-1967 Research Assistant to Professor N.Tinbergen FRS

To me, this means "while" is correct, but I may be wrong.--Commander Keane (talk) 03:23, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Dawkins on the Pope's visit

To be fair to Dawkins and Co their letters states clearly that they have no objection to Benedict visiting, but to the fact that it is a State Visit. I also really think that we should record the views of the Independent (in their Editorial) and the FT (already quoted in the article) on this stance. This article at present is very adulatory of Dawkins and he seems to be immune from any substantive criticism. NBeale (talk) 13:35, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

And this in the Daily Telegraph. Let's think about something suitable and balanced to put here. Perhaps "though other national newspapers suggested his stance might be un-helpfully strident"? NBeale (talk) 08:50, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
It's just trivia. I suggest waiting for two months. If anyone is still talking about it, then might be a suitable time to consider an addition to the article since we would be in a better position to assess whether it was due. Johnuniq (talk) 10:13, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
I must agree with NBeale. Having a cameo on Dr. Who is trivia; calling for the arrest of the Pope is not. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 13:04, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
My comment was specifically concerned with adding day-by-day points like "though other national newspapers suggested his stance might be un-helpfully strident" as suggested above. There will be ongoing commentary for a week or two longer, but deciding exactly what is suitable for the article should wait (a brief mention of the facts is fine, but this is not the place to record ongoing commentary). Johnuniq (talk) 02:55, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
I agree entirely. We need to think ahead. This isn't a current affairs article, and what we want in this article about the Pope's visit is not a changing view but a retrospective one - I doubt that there will be any reason for this to be a major part of Dawkins' biography in any case. Dougweller (talk) 07:36, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
If NBeale feels that "the article at present is very adulatory of Dawkins and he seems to be immune from any substantive criticism", then he should work some material into the article in appropriate places, taking it from relevant and reliable sources. Inserting a passing remark from a newspaper about "strident smugness" looks more like cheap point-scoring than an honest attempt to balance the article by adding substantive criticism. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 08:12, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
This is complete crap. The article is "adulatory" of Richard Dawkins???? Or maybe reality is. I have yet to see anything here that violates WP:NPOV. He is arguably the top scientist in the world; there are people who say he is --- I don't see that in this article. It seems incredibly mild IMO. PalindromeKitty (talk) 20:44, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
Top scientist? He has made exactly zero substantive contributions to science (his only research published in Nature or Science was a speculation about possible memory mechanisms in 1971 that turns out to be wrong). He has injected one deeply un-helpful and misleading metaphor (the "selfish gene") and one quite interesting concept "the extended phenotype" which even his admirers admit has only interpretive but not explanatory power. The fact that you can read this article and think he is a "top scientist" shows how ridiculously unbalanced this article is. NBeale (talk) 09:53, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
There are plenty of notable people who do call Dawkins smug, strident and worse, so if the article heaped praises upon him, I would insist that we give equal time. However, it's actually quite neutral right now, despite his controversial nature, so let's keep both extremes out. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 23:38, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
NBeale: You are entitled to your opinion that the selfish-gene metaphor is "deeply unhelpful" (to whom?) - but at least get your facts right in your determined efforts to be as rude as possible about Dawkins! He has published more than one article in Nature. See List of publications by Richard Dawkins. But please go ahead and "balance" the article, if that is what you feel it needs. Just don't do so by constantly inserting trivial rude comments from ephemeral sources.SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 10:15, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
Well it seems that he has published two research articles in Nature (and none in Science). All the other pieces in the list are opinion pieces or letters (not "letters to Nature" which are, confusingly, scientific research). I assure you I am not "as rude as possible" about Dawkins. I genuinely didn't know he had publised any original research in Nature or Science. In fact his "Selective Neurone Death" idea, although published in Nature in 1971, has had just 25 citations in Google Scholar (but only 1 in PubMed) in the intervening 39 years. His paper with Carlisle has done much better, 319 citations in Google Scholar (none in PubMed). But since it is essentially a footnote to some work of Trivers it is hardly a major contribution. And not remotely in the top 5% of tenured scientists at world-class universities. Martin Nowak, to take an admittedly rather extreme example, has dozens of papers in Nature and Science including 5 that have been cited over 1000 times. NBeale (talk) 15:30, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
I'm getting lost. What has any of this to do with Dawkins' comments on the pope's visit, or on the alleged lack of balance in the article? SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 15:47, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

← I think we've circled back to "famous (Christian) scientists who I know". Which, as ever, has little to do with this article. The suggestion of "zero substantive contributions to science" was pretty funny though. Anyway, what say we follow Johnuniq's advice and see if this (pope-harassing) is still a topic-for-the-ages in a month or two? --PLUMBAGO 16:10, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

The fact that an intelligent editor could read the article and suggest that he was "arguably the top scientist in the world" is IMHO pretty conclusive evidence that the article is massively unbalanced. Which is a wider issue than the Pope's visit of course. So shall we start a new topic? At present the article cherry-picks the favourable references to him and ignores the un-favourable ones, even in the same article. NBeale (talk) 18:31, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
NBeale, I took the liberty of reviewing the contributor's posts, and I can't find any significant contributions to this article by her (in fact there are none). If you feel like listing off the alleged favorable and unfavorable references, but it looks like you won't be getting much support from your fellow editors given the current state of consensus as reflected on this talk page. Obamafan70 (talk) 04:53, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

Photo of Dawkins

I think that the current photo of Dawkins is pretty terrible. Can we get it changed? I have one from yesterday's rally, but just about anything would be better.

current photo
yesterday's photo

--CGPGrey (talk) 13:31, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

Neither one is wonderful, but in the one with the grey shirt he is at least doing something relevant: addressing an atheist conference. In the other, he is just walking. --Old Moonraker (talk) 13:36, 19 September 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict × 2) I prefer the current image which is larger and shows more of him. Also, the proposed one seems a bit blurry. --Stickee (talk) 13:39, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

I think the current one is better. Shaunthered (talk) 13:36, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

I vote for the current one (if voting is allowed). He looks like he's about to say something he thinks is intelligent, in that one. In the other, he looks like he's wondering why someone's aiming a camera at him. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 23:35, 19 September 2010 (UTC)
It's not really voting per se. It's consensus, although the sheer number of voices can play a role. I "vote" for the first one, as well. PalindromeKitty (talk) 20:41, 21 September 2010 (UTC)
First one. The second is too on-the-hoof. --PLUMBAGO 16:11, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Dawkins Top Scientist in the world - balance

An intelligent editor reading the present article thinks that R.D "is arguably the top scientist in the world" (see talk on Pope's visit). From a scientific PoV this is so completely ludicrous (Oxford only made him a professor because a rich fan gave them money to do so ... only 2 research papers published in Nature or Science with few citations, which were in the 1970s ... doesn't make the ISI Highly Cited Researchers database at all... etc...) and yet it is sadly a widespread mis-perception. He was a promising young scientist who pretty much gave up science to become a very influential science writer. He is certainly the world's "top" science writer by sales, influence etc.. (however misguided or otherwise he may be. )What can we do to make the article more balanced? NBeale (talk) 18:45, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Straw man. PalindromeKitty said that many people think that is true. He/she did not assert it. Obamafan70 (talk) 02:07, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I (she) am saying both -- but more importantly...the complaint that the article is unbalanced and adulatory is a load of crap.PalindromeKitty (talk) 02:11, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't agree with the premise that an intelligent editor reading the present article thinks that R.D "is arguably the top scientist in the world". If you can prove that, we have something to discuss here. DVdm (talk) 18:55, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
per WP:AGF I assume that User:PalindromeKitty is intelligent. See her(?) comment above. NBeale (talk) 19:04, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
Ok, I assumed you meant the intelligent editor in general. By the way, note that wp:AGF can be perfectly compatible with assuming wp:NOCLUE, and note that I have not looked at the comments above. Anyway, if this is only about one single editor, I don't think we have something to discuss here either. DVdm (talk) 19:06, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
Regarding the actual comments alluded to above ("He is arguably the top scientist in the world; there are people who say he is --- I don't see that in this article"), I don't think that NBeale read them either, or at least didn't read them carefully. PalindromeKitty specifically notes that people say this (= "top scientist in the world"), and that this viewpoint isn't in the article. I suspect someone is looking for adulatory Dawkins fancruft where none exists. "Misguided" indeed ... --PLUMBAGO 21:00, 22 September 2010 (UTC)
PLUMBAGO speaks quite well for me. PalindromeKitty (talk) 22:49, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
I can't find the phrase anymore, either, but I don't agree with it being used. One reason is that I might say "I am arguably the smartest person within a twelve meter radius." I probably am the only person, but if could say the same thing with any radius. The issue is that "arguably" is a somewhat subjective phrase. I would "hope" it isn't used in articles to refer to what people disagree about. Then I can go say "arguably, evolution isn't true" or other such claims. Perhaps the idea is that this is subjective (I disagree), but then I could say "arguably, politician Z" is a mass murderer. It's an uncertain term that should be avoided. And objectively speaking, it's just not true. He is significantly influential, but you also need to define "scientist." Is the amount of work Dawkins is currently doing qualify him? If Hawking is still qualified, it's no contest. Even then, I might be mistaken, but there are still a large amount of scientists with accomplishments. Not that the Nobel is an absolute decider on quality, but I don't think Dawkins has even been shortlisted (which if anything, his gene-centered theories would have done). There are tons of significant discoveries that happen, but if they aren't interesting to the public, they get know where. I mean Dawkins is offensive. Hawking is an inspiration story. How many other scientists do people know? The average opinion on scientists is just a sophisticated version of celebrity worship. Dooga16 (talk) 06:25, 3 October 2010 (UTC)
This is semantics. Nobody here is arguing that we need that statement in the article. PalindromeKitty was just pointing out that the article is balanced and that though may people regard him as the top in his field, nowhere in the article does it even state that. Obamafan70 (talk) 22:16, 3 October 2010 (UTC)

Two paragraphs removed

TYelliot added two paragraphs that I have removed and placed here:

  • Dawkins wrote a letter to the Independent on the 20 March 1993, attacking the grounds of creationism.[ref name=independent]Dawkins, Richard. "Scientific versus theological knowledge". The Independent. Retrieved 2010-09-23.  Text "date" ignored (help); Unknown parameter |= ignored (help)[/ref]. In this letter he purports that "science, and science alone" gives a correct explanation for the origin of man. His letter showed a thorough denouncement of "theology" as a subject, and that it is of no use whatsoever and often "downright false".
  • On 11 April 2010, after Pope Benedict's announcement of his visit to Britain, he publicly called for the arrest of the Pope.[ref name=times]Home, Marc (2010-04-11). "Richard Dawkins calls for arrest of Pope Benedict XVI". Retrieved 2010-09-23. [/ref] In his book The God Delusion he said: "This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence."[ref name=times/]

These might be worked into something suitable but they essentially repeat information already in the article. The major problem is that they contain incorrect statements and possibly verge a little close to presenting an editor's interpretation. In the first, the letter says nothing about creationism. In the second, the quote is not in the book. Johnuniq (talk) 02:51, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Edit request from Chrisdcmoore, 24 September 2010

{{edit semi-protected}} Add "The God Delusion" to his notable works. i.e. Please change
| notable_works = The Selfish Gene (1976)
The Extended Phenotype (1982)
The Blind Watchmaker (1986) to
| notable_works = The Selfish Gene (1976)
The Extended Phenotype (1982)
The Blind Watchmaker (1986)
"The God Delusion" (2006)

Chrisdcmoore (talk) 02:54, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Already done It's the second last bullet point. Thanks, Stickee (talk) 03:18, 24 September 2010 (UTC)

Photo options

He was very gracious to spend the time with me, and I'll let the regular editors of the article decide which to use (if at all). --David Shankbone 03:39, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

Number 3 for me please. HiLo48 (talk) 04:05, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
While #3 is fine, #1 (as currently in article) looks best to me. I have already thanked David Shankbone for the excellent image. For some reason, #1 does not look that great above, but it does look good in the article. I suppose Dawkins knew it was for Wikipedia, and that it may end up here? Johnuniq (talk) 04:27, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
Yes, he knew this was aimed for Wikipedia. I do like 3, and 2 is my least favorite (better as a full as he is stroking the piano), but I advocate head shots for lead images. That said, in my time on WP I have seen many instances where the head shot for the lead looked awful compared to the full shot. Thanks for considering my photos whatever you all decide :-) --David Shankbone 04:48, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

I think #1 is best. I would have said #3 or #4 but I think the piano at the back spoils it and looks out of place. If he were a pianist maybe. Shaunthered (talk) 10:07, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

Heh, yeah, we were sort of limited with backdrop. It was the piano, a bunch of junky school chairs or an EXIT sign. He was the one who chose the piano given the other options. The photos are large enough that if you like the expressions on the piano shots you can crop them (and Photoshop - I'm not that best at that). --David Shankbone 14:38, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
For me, cropping would create the problem which led me to put1, 2 and 5 down the list in the first place. I don't like images that look like passport photos. Now that's purely me expressing a personal preference, and I'm totally happy to run with a popular vote here. HiLo48 (talk) 21:21, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
I'd go for 1 or 2. I think a head shot is best. The piano really does distract a bit. SPLETTE :] How's my driving? 22:02, 30 September 2010 (UTC)
1,3, or 5 is best. I don't like the piano, as well. I find it distracting -- although amusing. PalindromeKitty (talk) 22:40, 1 October 2010 (UTC)
You have to admit, no matter what is chosen, it's the best his hair has ever looked on this article :-D --David Shankbone 06:08, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Your photo improved this article. I'll find an appropriate barnstar. Obamafan70 (talk) 14:33, 2 October 2010 (UTC)
Surely the horns are missing :-) NBeale (talk) 15:07, 5 October 2010 (UTC)
I think that you'll find, cf. David Shankbone's comment above, that his "best hair eva" carefully obscures these. --PLUMBAGO 15:12, 5 October 2010 (UTC)
I vote for #1... (Good to see good ol'NBeale is still editing here...) Mikker (...) 12:53, 6 October 2010 (UTC)

Just curious

Stephen Hawking recently announced that God wasn't necessary; fine, I agree & I'm sure Richard Dawkins agrees. Professor Hawking, as a mathematician, presumably takes a Platonic view; fair enough, I can't. Has Professor Dawkins ever expressed an opinion onödel's_incompleteness_theorem ? I could be chasing shadows but, even if mathematics maps onto reality, Gödel would seem to imply room for God, how else can one achieve completeness? (talk) 05:03, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

This is not a forum, and Gödel's ideas are not going to make my faith superfluous anytime soon. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 05:07, 10 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, -- this is an encyclopedia talk page for discussion about improving the article. See WP:FORUM. You may discuss this on user talk pages or perhaps find a message board like or This is not the place. Thank you Obamafan70 (talk) 06:06, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

Descendant of General Henry Clinton?

If the pedigree listed here:

can be believed, then Richard Dawkins is a descendant of General Henry Clinton (commander of British forces in the Revolutionary War) and Governor George Clinton of New York. I am not that knowledgeable on more modern British genealogy; can anyone confirm or deny? If this is true, then it is certainly notable.PohranicniStraze (talk) 06:01, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

In River Out of Eden, Dawkins wrote how we are all closely related, and estimated that he and an arbitrary one of his students would have shared an ancestor no more than a couple of centuries ago. So, even if the ancestry were reliably sourced there is probably little reason to mention it. Johnuniq (talk) 06:58, 13 October 2010 (UTC)


I see that RD's occupation is listed as "ethologist". That was certainly what his PhD was in, but now it seems he describes himself (correctly in my view) as a writer - see here. NBeale (talk) 16:21, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

He is stated (first) as former Professor of.....Professors also engage in an activity known as writing. A latter sentence uses a description of him as a writer. I don't think it would be fair to list him as a "writer" under occupation if that is what you are implying. Obamafan70 (talk) 16:33, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
So "Former Professor and Writer" would seem to agree with the facts, and his self-decription? NBeale (talk) 21:44, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm suggesting that the word 'writer' is not being used in the context of his occupation. Similarly, I can go mountain climbing and cite a NY Times article that I am an expert mountain climber, but my occupation is a professor. One can engage in an activity such as writing without it being a profession in and of itself. If somebody asked me my profession, I wouldn't be tempted to say writer, I would say former professor. Also, keep in mind the broader context which is that mere popularizers of science are considered lower in stature. Obamafan70 (talk) 22:48, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a best selling author. Of course he is a writer, quite unlike myself, for example, who is an academic who writes papers. --Bduke (Discussion) 23:58, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

I have to agree here: he is probably best known for his popular writing, even on topics far outside his professorial expertise, such as religion. Dylan Flaherty (talk) 00:06, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Non-sequitors. We are debating what his occupation is. Stephen Hawking is best known for his writing, but his occupation is as a professor of mathematics. The same is true for RD. Obamafan70 (talk) 01:55, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
This is another classic case of a Wikipedia template distorting sensible discussion. The ONLY reason this discussion is happening is because a simplistic template is asking for a simple, one word (or very few words) entry for what is taking people whole sentences to describe even informally above. The reality of why we have an article at all is at the start of the second paragraph - Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene..... He is a writer/biologist/stirrer/media and lecture circuit personality/and many other things. We MUST find ways in Wikipedia of not being driven to simpleton entries in infoboxes, and wasting time arguing about them. HiLo48 (talk) 03:01, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
With all due respect, I think we are having this discussion because of NBeale's track record of criticism with the subject of this article. Changing his occupation from a species of academic to "writer" diminishes the extent to which his opinion can be considered authoritative. He has a doctorate; let's show some damn professional courtesy here even if he's primarily well-known for his militant non-beliefs. PalindromeKitty (talk) 04:12, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
My point is that he IS a species of academic, AND a writer, AND many other things. It takes a lot of words to describe that. Let the article tell what he is, in several sentences, and leave it out of the infobox completely. HiLo48 (talk) 04:27, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
The source given by NBeale to justify the description "writer" actually says "the former Charles Simonyi Professor ... [and] ... a writer who understands the issues ...". There is a world of difference between saying "X is a writer" and "X is a writer who ...". If the source said he was "a man who understands ..." would NBeale be urging us to change the label to "man"? Note also that NBeale devotes considerable energy to trying to demonstrate that Dawkins is "not a real scientist". See his blog, here, for example. This is just one further attempt to introduce the Beale POV into Wikipedia. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 06:55, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

< If we are looking at his "occupation" as opposed to "former occupation" it is surely writer. The last scientific paper by Dawkins that I can find in Google Scholar is a book chapter co-authored with John Krebs in 1982. NBeale (talk) 10:21, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't think anybody else who has posted here is looking for anything as simple as "occupation" as opposed to "former occupation". Dawkins is a complex man. How about we leave the simplistic infobox entry empty (it simply won't appear then) and leave the more detailed, more meaningful description of what Dawkins is to the article itself? HiLo48 (talk) 10:40, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Agreed with Snalwibma. Status quo. Obamafan70 (talk) 14:55, 15 October 2010 (UTC)
Dawkins hasn't been an "ethologist" since 1995 at the latest. His own official website decscibes him as: "the former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University" and "a writer". Under WP:BLP we should not describe someone as "an X" if they do not describe themselves as an X without very good evidence. And there is none. NBeale (talk) 12:39, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
How do you account for this? Dylan Flaherty (talk) 13:20, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
He certainly was an etholigist so it is quite resonable for him to write an essay about growing up in ethology. Note that he is described as follows: "RICHARD DAWKINS, elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in May, 2001, is a gifted writer, who is known for his popularization of Darwinian ideas". As I say, his present occupation is a [gifted] writer. NBeale (talk) 14:27, 16 October 2010 (UTC)
Jimmy Carter's present occupation is writer (see spade of recent articles and books by Carter). I'm pretty sure we would all find it grotesquely inadequate to list his occupation in the field of literature instead of politics. Obamafan70 (talk) 14:33, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

HiLo48 has it essentially correct all along. This silly argument is because the infobox requires a small entry that does not allow a proper description of a complex person. I suggest we put "academic and writer" or "writer and academic". Retired Professors are still academics at Oxford and he is a Fellow of New College I think. The argument that writer is not his occupation is false. I bet he makes more money from his books than his university pension. Let us move on. --Bduke (Discussion) 21:19, 16 October 2010 (UTC)

Done. Makes perfect sense. NBeale (talk) 15:18, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Edit reverted -- have we reached consensus? I don't believe so -- though I'm sure we all appreciate and respect NBeale's boldness, with which I disagree in this instance. Also, I wanted to respond to the previous statement (I bet he makes more money -- see WP:SPECULATION). Additionally, I don't see why we are accepting the "primary source of revenue" definition of occupation. By that definition, I'm a "Wall Street investor" since I make more money from investing than I do from academia.Obamafan70 (talk) 16:23, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
I really do not understand why you are so opposed to describing him as a writer. It is quite clear that his writing is far beyond what a normal academic does. I think all 10 books are still in print and were best sellers. On further reflection however, I thing he should be described as "Academic and writer" not "Writer and academic". "Etholigist" is not appropriate as his academic interests became wider as he moved into other areas including the academic study of the popularisation of science. --Bduke (Discussion) 21:42, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
The objections have been summarized in prior sentiments by a number of editors. I would personally have no objection to "scientist and writer", but I can't speak for other users. Obamafan70 (talk) 22:19, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
Maybe "evolutionary biologist" or "evolutionary biologist and writer"? SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 06:24, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm still keen on leaving it blank. Just because such an entry CAN be there doesn't mean it HAS TO be there. Infoboxes do not help clarity. There is plenty of detail in the article to explain what Dawkins was, is and does. HiLo48 (talk) 06:29, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

And why is he still listed as an evolutionary biologist/ethologist or whatever he was in the present tense? He isn't a practicing one. He is retired. For example, from another Wikipedia page: Willie mays "is a former American professional baseball player". Dawkins is a former scientist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:10, 17 November 2010 (UTC)