Talk:Richard Dawkins/Archive 17

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Archive 16 Archive 17 Archive 18

Unweaving the Rainbow reference

As I read the part about Dawkins's response to Keats that science only exemplifies the beauty of the universe I immediately thought of Richard Feynman, who had the following (relatively famous) quote:

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars — mere globs of gas atoms. Nothing is "mere". I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination — stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern — of which I am a part... What is the pattern or the meaning or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little more about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

Which is from 1964. Does anyone know if Dawkin's referenced this? If he did I think it would be worth mentioning something like "He paraphrased Feynman's qutoe" or something to that effect. If not I guess nothing is worth mentioning, although that strikes me as pretty close to plagiarism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:45, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Adding something like 'activist' to lede

Dawkins is primarily known to the general population as something like an "atheist activist," not as an evolutionary biologist, ethologist, or even as an author. It might be hard to pin down a good term, because he's not exactly a science popularizer in the traditional sense and he's also not an activist in the traditional sense, but I do think there should be a term in there that gets at his primary public role as a promoter of atheism and critic of creationism. Maybe just 'skeptic'? (talk) 07:50, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

I disagree that he is not known for being an author, his books on biology and religion are what attract attention to him! IRWolfie- (talk) 09:52, 29 September 2011 (UTC)
He has written many more books on evolution than religion and many of them are best-sellers. For example, The Selfish Gene has a 30th Anniversary Edition and The Greatest Show on Earth was a big seller. His public advocacy of atheism came out of his dismay at the resistance to teaching evolution in the US coming from some religious quarters. On another topic, "advocate" is a more neutral term than "activist". I also agree with editor IRWolfie.
--Javaweb (talk) 15:34, 29 September 2011 (UTC)Javaweb
I'd like to know which "general population" knows him best as an "atheist activist". I have always primarily known him as a science author. Only those who are upset by his science see him as some sort of activist. HiLo48 (talk) 00:19, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Of course he's an activist - "one who campaigns for change". The RDFRS' mission statement says that the foundation "... is to support scientific education ... in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism ..." (my emphasis). Whether he's "primarily known to the general population" for this is debatable, but there's no doubt that he is actively campaigning for change. (My personal bias: I am a pro-science atheist.) Mitch Ames (talk) 13:45, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Guys, I said "adding," not "replacing." Relax. This is one reason why people aren't so thrilled with rationalists - they can be just as pedantic and close-minded as everyone else. Yes, he's very well known as an author and as everything he's listed as in the lede currently, but I'm talking about things like the bus ad campaign in England, which increased his public profile probably 10 fold. You have to remember your own social context - most of the people editing this page are probably rationalists with a fair amount of education. Within your social circles, a lot more about Dawkins can be expected to be known. I'm maintaining that Dawkins is more generally known for his social and political activism, because I know it's quantifiable. His books on religion contribute to that - it's not like he's the author of purely descriptive works on religion, he's advancing a point of view. That's activism. And even if he isn't more well known as an activist than as an x, y, or z, there's absolutely no doubting that he's well known enough as an activist to put it in the lede.
The only question is what to call it. In modern contexts, not too many people are considered religious activists - missionaries are called missionaries, and people promoting various religious flavors are categorized by the name of the movement. People labeled skeptics are typically the type who debunk topics in pseudoscience and the paranormal, like James Randi, and as far as I know, Dawkins isn't particularly known for that. Well-known atheists are almost always labeled as just "atheists" on their wiki pages. But a guy like Dawkins who's outspoken about religion isn't just an "atheist," he's... an "atheist activist," I guess? There's no widely used term in current use that describes a person like Dawkins in that context, because there are so few well-known campaigners for atheism.
But "activist" is very obviously a bad word to use for Dawkins, as evidenced by HiLo48's reactionary response. It means various things to various people, and some of those things aren't good things. "Outspoken atheist" is less controversial, but it sells Dawkins short. The article already mentions that he's a Bright, but again, not descriptive enough for what I'm talking about. "Advocate of atheism" would be good, and the info box already lists him as being known for "advocacy of atheism and science." Only problem there would be a potentially different connotation for "advocate" to British readers. Can anyone comment on that? (talk) 23:25, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
Again, this all depends on perspective I guess. I don't live in the UK. I am vaguely aware of the bus ad campaign, but don't think of it when I think of Dawkins, and I suggest that the same would be true of almost all non-UKians. (And there's a lot of us.) The bus ad campaign made little difference to his public profile outside the UK, and I can assure you he's pretty well known to many foreigners. So, maybe to you Brits he's an activist. I just like his books. HiLo48 (talk) 23:39, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm american. (talk) 00:40, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
"... 'activist' is very obviously a bad word to use ... as evidenced by HiLo48's reactionary response"
I don't agree that one person's response (an unreferenced generalisation about other people's opinions) negates a clear and neutral dictionary definition of the word. Mitch Ames (talk) 00:59, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

The term "activist" is sometimes used for a subject who is known for activism but for little else. Dawkins is a scientist who has written major books on science related topics. The article makes clear what Dawkins has done in relation to atheism (as if the reader didn't know already!), and there is no need to add some ill-defined label to the lead. Johnuniq (talk) 02:28, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

Mitch: I'm fine with 'activist,' but it'd most likely lead to edit-warring if I put it in. Semantics can't just be ignored.
Jonuniq: An encyclopedia is not the place to assume prior knowledge. And the article does go into detail about Dawkins' atheism, but it's not summarized well in the lede. That's what the lede is for, so it should be in there. (talk) 06:18, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
What about the word "campaigner" instead of "activist"? Mitch Ames (talk) 08:04, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Personally I think either "advocate" or "proponent" would be more accurate descriptions. - SudoGhost 08:31, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think either of words conveys the sense of actively going out and doing something to further the cause, which is clearly (in my opinion) what Dawkins is doing. Mitch Ames (talk) 09:02, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
I'll put 'activist' in if we can agree that it should stay and that we'll revert edits that remove it, but the problem is still that 'atheist' is never or almost never used as an adjective, so "atheist activist" is an odd phrase. Invariably, people will think it's supposed to read "atheist, activist" and change it. Advocate is the PC substitute, but it's weak. Categorically, he's a "religious activist," in the same way that two activists on opposite extremes of the spectrum are still "social activists" or "political activists," but that'll just cause confusion. I think "anti-religious activist" is the way to go. (talk) 01:46, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think such a description is necessary. danielkueh (talk) 01:49, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
Your disapproval is useless if you don't care to explain it. I'm adding "anti-religious activist" for now. (talk) 03:11, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
I would like to see a source that explicitly states that Dawkins is "anti-religious." He may be against the teaching of creationism in schools and against religious dogma but he is not against people having a religion or professing a religious belief. He does encourage closet atheists to "come out" but that is different from being "anti-religious." So unless you can provide a source, that statement stays out. danielkueh (talk) 03:32, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
From the horse's mouth (with my bold for emphasis): "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." Mitch Ames (talk) 03:55, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
Anyone who reads Dawkins's work or reads his interviews will know what he means when he makes statements like these. He is obviously referring to religious dogma or religious fundamentalism. That does not mean that he is an "anti-religious activist." For example, he thinks religion should be taught in schools [1], from an academic point of view of course. He is also known to have a "soft-spot" for the Anglican church as an institution [2]. Plus, he even celebrates Christmas and enjoys Christmas carols [3]. The point I'm trying to make here is that labeling him as an "anti-religious activist" oversimplifies his beliefs and positions. I would prefer a label such as "advocate of atheism," which is more neutral and is consistent with the rest of the article. danielkueh (talk) 04:06, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
The best description of his viewpoint: he prefers natural and scientific explanations to supernatural ones. I think the original intro was fine. If something has to be added, "advocate" is a perfect term for what he does and is more neutral than others:
A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. --Javaweb (talk) 04:59, 9 October 2011 (UTC)Javaweb

"Anti-religious activist" can only have a place here if it can be properly sourced as an expression all by itself. Without a source it would be a first class example of orginal research. DVdm (talk) 08:38, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't believe that using a specific phrase requires sourcing as an expression, unless we are attributing it as a quotation (which we are not). We should (and I believe, have) found reliable sources that he is both "anti-religious" (one who disagrees with religion) and an activist ("one who campaigns for change") against religion, so combining the two terms shouldn't be a problem - unless there is some specific meaning commonly attributed to that specific phrase that might not apply to Dawkins. I'm not aware any such specific usage - but I'm sure that if there is, you'll provide a WP:RS for it. I accept that the term "anti-religious activist" might have non-neutral connotations, which may cause neutrality or even WP:BLP concerns, but I really don't think WP:OR comes into it at all. Mitch Ames (talk) 11:58, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
I think this particular phrase requires very strong sourcing even without the quotation marks. Please have a careful read of wp:original research and specifically of wp:SYNTH. This is a schoolbook example, specially in a wp:BLP. DVdm (talk) 15:55, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
A recent NY Times profile called Dawkins, "the world’s most influential evolutionary biologist", "best-selling author and outspoken atheist", "profoundly original thinker, synthesizer and writer", "political liberal", "atheistic lecturer", and "evolutionary scientist". [4] Roger (talk) 21:34, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the link—that's a very good article with a couple of interesting pictures. For some strange reason, The New York Times did not use the terms "anti-religious" or "activist" in their quite long article that is full of descriptions of what Dawkins does. Johnuniq (talk) 01:14, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I've read WP:SYNTH, but I still don't think it applies to "anti-religious activist". DVdm, could you explain why you think it's a problem? An example, with explanation, such as those in WP:SYNTH would help. Mitch Ames (talk) 10:04, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
A reliable source saying that he is both "anti-religious" (one who disagrees with religion) and an activist ("one who campaigns for change") against religion, so combining the two terms shouldn't be a problem
Guys, can you tone down the goddamn hostility? It's amazing how everyone has an opinion on the matter after the discussion has already wound down. And Danielkueh, you don't dictate what stays out of the article.
The simple fact of the matter is that what he does is more than just advocacy, it's activism. He is actively campaigning against institutions of religion while simultaneously promoting reason and a view of the world rooted in science. The term "Bright" accounts for the second part of that sentence, but not the first.
This entire argument seems to be based on phenomena Dawkins himself has spoken out against:
There's no point to trying to water down his job description. He is very clear about his positions on religion in society, and his promotion of those positions fights fits the term "anti-religious activist" precisely. It is a strictly descriptive term. Put aside your prescriptive notions for a second to see that. (talk) 03:38, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Based on that Dawkins lecture, I would say that "outspoken atheist" is more accurate than "anti-religious activist". He spends a lot of time promoting atheism, and encouraging people to identify with atheism. He has a few put-downs of religion, and says that he despises religion. But he is addressing atheists, and he does not suggest any directly anti-religious activities. Not that my opinion matters. Just stick to what he calls himself, or what sources like the NY Times call him. Roger (talk) 04:57, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
The man tells religious audience members that they're hallucinating. He's done at least a couple of television programs that I know about completely excoriating world religions and their institutions. In that talk, he specifically brings up funding for a potential freedom from religion campaign, referring to the success of one he had previously spearheaded. What more is required? If we are to take what he says about himself into consideration, then the suggestion that he promotes atheism rather than campaigns against religion is directly contradicted by his self-characterization as a "militant" atheist, an atheist willing to "rock the boat," in the video above.
This is a tempest in a teacup, guys. The term is an apt one and its inclusion would improve the article. That's all anyone can really hope for. It's OR in as much as any novel sentence is OR. (talk) 09:55, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Oh, and Schlafly, the TED talk audience isn't a group of atheists, just part of what Dawkins calls the American intelligentsia in that clip. (talk) 09:59, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
In reply to "What more is required?". Answer: a good solid unambiguous reliable BLP-conforming source. DVdm (talk) 13:43, 10 October 2011 (UTC), Clarification. I am not dictating, I am merely following and applying WP polices here. I suggest you take the time to learn the core policies of WP such as WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:OR, and WP:BLP. This is not a blog site. danielkueh (talk) 14:10, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Correction, Danielhueh: you're being patronizing and WP:OWNING because I'm an IP. Mitch Ames has given you sources. It's unreasonable to expect the exact phrasing to turn up, especially when Dawkins is already listed as an activist on wikipedia. You're editorializing and nothing more. (talk) 18:44, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Alas, atheist is not the same as anti-religion, not even close. You'll have to (1) compile a new article List of anti-religion activists and educators first, then (2) make sure that Dawkins is and remains listed there, and (3) finally realise that Wikipedia is not a reliable source in the first place. And please, try to assume good faith: a comment like "you're being patronizing and OWNING because I'm an IP" is very off the mark. DVdm (talk) 18:58, 10 October 2011 (UTC) Yes, he is listed is an "atheist activist" on Wikipedia. So what's your point? With respect to Mitch's link, it does not support your WP:POV description of Dawkins as an "anti-religious activist."
Now before you start flattering yourself by speculating that I'm making this a personal issue against you simply because you are a non-registered user, I would like to invite you to read the following second paragraph from WP:BLP (I bolded the key words):
"We must get the article right. Be very firm about the use of high quality sources. All quotations and any material challenged or likely to be challenged must be attributed to a reliable, published source using an inline citation. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced—whether the material is negative, positive, neutral, or just questionable—should be removed immediately and without waiting for discussion. Users who persistently or egregiously violate this policy may be blocked from editing."
I have made my point clear that the description, anti-religious activist, is not the best description because it oversimplifies Dawkins's positions and approach. Plus, for many reasons, it is a potentially misleading term. It also qualifies as WP:OR. He may be an activist when it comes to promoting science and atheism. He may be against religious dogma/fundamentalism and its intrusion into science. But to say that he is an "anti-religious activist" is put to "2 and 2 together." Unless there is a high quality source that explicitly describes him as such, I'm afraid it is WP:OR.
At the end of the day, you just have to accept the fact that there is very little enthusiasm for your proposed description of Dawkins as an "anti-religious activist." End of story. Nothing personal. See WP:consensus. danielkueh (talk) 19:17, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm well aware of wiki policy, danielkueh. Please refrain from wikilawyering at me.
He is an activist, that much you admit is a possibility. He believes intelligence and belief in a personal God are mutually exclusive. He describes religion as the most evil force in all of history. Combining those elements is more akin to a basic calculation than synthesis.
There's no good reason for this to be contentious. The requisite facts are known. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a repository of tautologies, and Danielhueh + DVdm does not very little enthusiasm make. (talk) 20:26, 10 October 2011 (UTC), I'm not wikilawyering. I'm just informing and reminding you of the policies. Also, take the phase "very little enthusiasm" literally. With the exception of a few suggestions by Mitch, I don't see much enthusiasm or strong backing from "all the other editors in this discussion" for the inclusion of that description. Hence, there is "very little" enthusiasm. You are the only one that is strongly POV pushing for this. So unless all the editors change their minds, I don't think there is really much more for me or anyone else to add here. We're done. danielkueh (talk) 20:37, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Actually, without sources, combining those elements is the definition of WP:SYNTH. As such, I have no enthusiasm for inclusion. ArtifexMayhem (talk) 20:44, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Quite indeed. Enthusiasm to take wp:OR on board in an article seldomly surpasses one (identifiable) party. DVdm (talk) 20:59, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Allow me to remind you, danielhueh et al, that I started this conversation entirely to determine what phrasing editors would approve of. We are not "done" here, and again, you don't prescribe whether a conversation can occur on an article's talk page. Rejection of my preferred wording has nothing whatsoever to do with the lack of an appropriate characterization of Dawkins' atheist activities in the lede. If it has to be "advocate of atheism" to get a consensus, then so be it. (talk) 21:07, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm fine with the description, "advocate of atheism." It is already in the article. Thanks to Roger, there are good sources for it too. I would like to know what the other editors think. danielkueh (talk) 21:13, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
OK with me. If it is in the article already, then what are we doing here anyway? Discussing the place of punctuation w.r.t quotation marks is much more interesting. - DVdm (talk) 21:20, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I would go with "advocate of atheism". Activist is too ill defined and militant implies use of force or coercion which are utterly alien to Darkins' philosophy.--Charles (talk) 23:01, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

I've seen several claims that combining "activist" with "anti-religion" is WP:OR or WP:SYNTH [5][6][7] - even given that both individual terms are both well-sourced, as is Dawkins' explicit campaigning against religion - but I still don't understand why. Even if we all agree not to use the phrase, could DVdm and/or Danielkueh please explain why combining them is OR/SYNTH. What position are we synthesising that is not supported by a source? WP:SYNTH gives a couple of examples, and clearly explains the problem. A similar explanation here would be helpful. (This is not just another push to use that phrase. I'm happy to not use it if there's no consensus, but I would like to understand why it is SYNTH/OR, so that I and others don't make the same mistake again.) Mitch Ames (talk) 12:51, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Mitch, I'll try to give this one last stab. Dawkins is known as a campaigner and a activist. In many of the sources, he campaigns to promote science and atheism, or more specifically, coming out as an atheist. That is what he is an activist for. He is an atheist, not an anti-theist. He has said "he is against religion." But let's not oversimplify it. We know what he is talking about. He is clearly not against people having a religion, attending church, or singing religious hymns. What he is against is religious fundamentalism, its intrusion in schools and other walks of public life, and its special status in society. Hence, his TED talk of encouraging people "not to be so damn respectful." He may want children to grow up "unlabeled" so that they can make up their own mind as adults. He is not against them having a religion as adults if that is what they want. He does not even advocate the abolition of religion. He just wants people to think for themselves. So to call him "anti-religious," as if he was the secular version of the "anti-Christ," is already pushing is it a little bit. And to call him an anti-religious activist is to push it even more. That is not the basis of his campaign. There is a fundamental difference between promoting science and atheism and promoting soviet style persecution of religion. So unless there is a source that explicitly describes him as an anti-religious activist in every sense of the word, it is WP:OR. danielkueh (talk) 13:42, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for that excellent statement of the situation, which of course is totally correct.
Re the question by Mitch Ames: I'm not sure how could there be any doubt since WP:SYNTH is defined as the act of taking statement A and statement B and combining them to create a new statement that is not supported by reliable secondary sources. Dawkins has written works including The God Delusion so it is rather natural that there are lots of sources saying all sort of things of things about him. However, this article is not the place for editors to decide how Dawkins should be described, nor should descriptions be pulled from sources which are merely reacting to an argument by Dawkins (instead, use works by reliable secondary sources that have written about his life). Johnuniq (talk) 00:04, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
Danielkueh, you say that Dawkins is not an antitheist, but our article (citing OED) defines an antitheist as "One opposed to belief in the existence of a god". Are saying that none of the references support the statement that he is actively opposed to belief in the existence of a god? Mitch Ames (talk) 12:40, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
Mitch, I have already answered that question. Since there appears to be an emerging consensus in favor of "advocate of atheism" and not "anti-religious activist," I don't think I have much more to add to this discussion. danielkueh (talk) 15:21, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────It is never acceptable for editors to decide how to describe the subject of an article, and doubly so for a BLP. Above, Roger provided a link to a recent NYT article that is exactly the kind of reliable source that should be used as the basis for how an article sums up its subject. Please review that article and see what terms The New York Times thinks are suitable (hint: none of the phrases suggested above are present). Johnuniq (talk) 01:00, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

I'm fine with any of the descriptions used in the NY Times article that was given by Roger. I am fine with "advocate of atheism" only because it is already in the article and seem so mundane and conservative. Also, here is a link to an interview in the Guardian, which states that Dawkins "continues to vehemently advocate atheism." [8] danielkueh (talk) 01:10, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I see that my {{od}} makes it seem I was replying to you, when I intended my comment for those who are discussing the introduction of some new description (particularly the recent discussion about what an antitheist does). Johnuniq (talk) 02:09, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
No worries. I thought I may as well be consistent with WP:V and WP:BLP by providing a citation. :) danielkueh (talk) 02:16, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Revert by DVdm on 10-6-2011

DVdm reverted my punctuation edit on 10-6-2011, then messaged my Talk saying he "hoped [I] didn't mind", instead of opening for discussion here. His user page assures he monitors discussions initiated on users' Talk, but that isn't happening. So below is copied from my Talk. (DVdm if you are listening, I've obviously lost patience with you and find your Wiki behavior irritating and rude.) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 00:26, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't mind at all if you are right and I can learn something. But I have reviewed both quotes in their source materials, and the sentences in the article containing the quotes, and re-read MOS:LQ carefully, and don't know what you are talking about.
First, here is the basis for my change (which you reverted) from MOS:LQ:

On Wikipedia, place all punctuation marks inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material and outside if they are not.

For both quotes, the period is part of the quoted material.
Second, let's take a look at the reason you gave for revert in your edit summary:

no complete sentence: "If the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside. The period should be omitted if is in the middle of a sentence."

You are quoting from MOS:LQ alright, but what part of it am I supposed to think supports your revert? The second part that starts: "The period should be omitted if ..." ? Well for one, your above quote from MOS is not correct. Here is the correct text from MOS: "The period should be omitted if the quotation is in the middle of a sentence." And if that is the part supporting your revert, it does not apply, since neither of the two quotations are "in the middle of a sentence", both of the quotations are at the end of sentences.
So I have no idea what your argument is for reverting me, it seems to me that you are completely wrong. But I want to be corrected if I am wrong, I want to learn. So please explain, and please be responsive to my points above. Thank you. Ihardlythinkso (talk) 05:30, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
There probably is no need to mention disagreements with other editors on this talk page.
It appears the issue concerns this edit by Ihardlythinkso which changed ". to ." with these two results:
Dawkins said that "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know."
...describing it as "not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one."
I am not ready to remind myself exactly what WP:LQ says over a minor issue like this, but consistency is good, and my first impression is that the quoted text looks like an extract, and (using Wikipedia's LQ style), the original (period after quote) seems best. I accept that the period is in the original statement, but we do not need to quote that period—I would argue that the quotation stops before the period and we are quoting a fragment. Johnuniq (talk) 01:37, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
"I am not ready to remind myself exactly what WP:LQ says"?? Then you really have no voice in this discussion, do you, because my edit, and the revert of it, each had basis specifically and entirely on WP:LQ. That said, if you want to throw MOS out the window, then I think you have a consistency problem with the whole of WP. (How does your argument even possibly make sense?) And as far as the issue being "minor", I was not the one to drag it into the limelight, I made a simple punctuation correction, and was reverted. Incorrectly so. Now you justify that by saying MOS should be thrown out of the discussion? I don't get your logic – AT ALL. Ihardlythinkso (talk) 02:53, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
"Fragment" seems to be the central support you and DVdm give when denying my punctuation edit. Okay, here is the only reference to "fragment" in MOS:LQ:

When quoting a sentence fragment that ends in a period, some judgment is required: if the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside.

Okay, now take a look at the complete source sentence from which one of the quotes is extracted:

But among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we do know.

The only word dropped by the article is the word "But". And you are calling what's left a "fragment". Okay. And so what does MOS:LQ say about it? And here too:

On Wikipedia, place all punctuation marks inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material and outside if they are not.

Really, if you want to make up rules and throw MOS out the window, than I cannot discuss this with you rationally, because whatever I point out about MOS you will decide you can arbitrarily ignore. If I'm reading MOS wrong, then let someone who understands MOS:LQ discuss this and correct me, instead of belittling the issue as "unimportant" and then telling us what "seems" good to you after admitting you didn't take time to read the MOS. (And, why did you even decide to come here and "contribute" if this issue is so unimportant in your view?) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 03:10, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
"the ... period after quote ... seems best. I accept that the period is in the original statement, but we do not need to quote that period ..." Since you admit you didn't read the MOS:LQ, here is the first sentence of it again, copied below, please read it carefully:

On Wikipedia, place all punctuation marks inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material and outside if they are not.

Now, what is your argument again? That MOS doesn't count? That you can ignore MOS if you want to while reverting my MOS-consistent edit? Becasue it's such an unimportant issue, but not so unimportant to keep you from coming here and supporting the revert of my simple punctuation edit? Really, please explain! Ihardlythinkso (talk) 03:38, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
In MOS:LQ, what do you think "quoted material" means!? It means the source material the quote came from. (Did you think it meant something different?) What? (But then, you said you never read the MOS:LQ, so why am I bothering to ask how you interpreted it? But then, you comment on it using terms "fragment" and phrase "quoted material"! Is your idea here to make your arguments so untracable that no one can follow them logically to refute them? What? Oh yeah, this issue is so unimportant, but you came here to refute my edit and support the revert. Oh yeah! That makes total sense!) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 03:50, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
The quoted fragment in
  • Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of intelligent design in science education, describing it as "not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one".
has no subject and no verb, so grammatically it is not a complete sentence. MOS:LQ says: "If the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside. The period should be omitted if is in the middle of a sentence." That is unambiguous. The key issue is complete sentence here. Now, when a subject ("it") and a verb ("is") would be added to the fragment, it would become a complete sentence, and the punctuation could be pulled inside the quotation marks. It would then go like
  • Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of intelligent design in science education, arguing that "it is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one."
Hope this helps. Cheers - DVdm (talk) 10:47, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Oops. I just noticed that I actually also undid another case of LQ, which was in fact correct. I hadn't noticed that. So I have corrected that now again:
  • Dawkins said that "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know."
Sorry for the confusion this may have caused. DVdm (talk) 13:59, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I'm just about to add to the confusion here: According to the British Standards Institution the comma goes inside only when the quotation is standing by itself as a full sentence. As, by consensus, British English applies to this article it would seem that User:DVdm had been right all along. The original BS is available as a .pdf download, but as it's £92 a pop (!), I haven't bothered, relying instead on the quotation contained in Peters, page 455, emphasis as in original.--Old Moonraker (talk) 15:27, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
"Subtle is the Lord." If I get this right, that means that both the following would be correct:
  • Dawkins said that "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know". <== OUT
  • Dawkins said: "Among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know." <== IN
The simple reason: in the first case the quoted fragment fails standing by itself since its first word is not capitalised.
And for the same reason, likewise:
  • Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of intelligent design in science education, arguing that "it is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one". <== OUT
  • Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of intelligent design in science education, arguing: "It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one." <== IN
I love this :-) DVdm (talk) 18:10, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't mean to add to the confusion, but wouldn't we use a comma instead of a colon (MOS:LQ)? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Danielkueh (talkcontribs)
;-) - DVdm (talk) 21:36, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Let's not change subjects please (comma versus colon) when other things are still confused. DVdm, why do you keep incorrectly quoting MOS? Here is your quote of MOS and your comment:

"If the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside. The period should be omitted if is in the middle of a sentence." That is unambiguous.

But here is the MOS:

... if the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside. The period should be omitted if the quotation is in the middle of a sentence.

See the difference? I am totally not knowing why you are quoting the latter part of the MOS. Because it does not apply to anything here. MOS is talking about the physical location of the quote in the sentence using the quote. That is not applicable here at all.
Also, MOS does not say what to do, if the fragment does *not* communicate a complete sentence! (So I think the MOS is ambiguous on that point. Earlier MOS:LQ states to include the period if it is part of the quoted (source!) material.
The argument from Moonraker that the sentence cannot stand by itself due to lack of capitalization ... I really don't think MOS means that when it says: "if the fragment communicates a complete sentence". The use of word "communicates" is key. If the MOS wanted punctuation perfection in addition, it wouldn't be expressed that way. So that is an odd interpretation to demand capitalization to "communicate".
I see now that the second quote ("not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one") is a fragment that doesn't communicate a complete sentence, so I'm okay with the period OUT. Thanks for your apology re the first quote ("among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know.") - but again I can't buy the idea that MOS requires capitalization to "communicate a complete sentence". (Where are we on that?) Ihardlythinkso (talk) 07:47, 12 October 2011 (UTC) p.s. You "love this", I'm just trying to get it right (i.e. learn); but editors who want to marginalize w/ "this is unimportant" comments ought to steer clear. (Of course it is not as important as ARTICLE CONTENT for Christ's sake, it would be stupid to think otherwise. But that's apples & oranges, and if someone can't distinguish apples & oranges, that is stupid, too.)
Ah yes —Facepalm3.svg Facepalm—, I think I misinterpreted that. Sorry. Anyway, I think that the current state of the quotes in the article is ok, so perhaps we can just discard a part of my silly comments. - DVdm (talk) 08:05, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

Wyndgade Country Club

The new Richard Dawkins#Wyndgade Country Club section is not suitable for a biography outlining the important features of Dawkins' life. Yes, it is silly that the US is in its current state, and it's absurd that some club would have this confused reaction. However, Wikipedia should not be used to right wrongs or highlight the news of the day. There must be a hundred similar silly stories associated with Dawkins, and this article is not the place to list them, however interesting or topical they are. Johnuniq (talk) 23:36, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

agree: should be pulled for WP:NOTNEWS and WP:UNDUE DP76764 (Talk) 23:43, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm, if I had noticed that the same text had been added to The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True#Wyndgade Country Club before I wrote the above, I would have just removed the text from this article. I'll wait for any other thoughts, but particularly in view of the duplication I think removal would be fine. I see that the info is also at Sean Faircloth#Richard Dawkins Foundation and Center for Inquiry#Wyndgade Country Club and Richard Dawkins—that is not how articles should be used. Johnuniq (talk) 23:45, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I just noticed this section. When was it inserted? It seemed rather left-field and does not appear to add anything to the article. danielkueh (talk) 23:51, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
It was added two hours ago by one editor here, and tweaked by two other editors here and here. Johnuniq (talk) 00:58, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I think WP:BRD would be the best guide at this point. danielkueh (talk) 01:23, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
What happened to the comments I had posted here a few hours ago? Sgerbic (talk) 05:22, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
The history page shows that your only contribution here was the single comment I am replying to. Glitches can occur (very rarely), but I have never heard of a message disappearing after it became visible. One problem does arise if someone edits a talk page, then previews it, and when happy, clicks "save", then closes the browser window: you have to wait until the edit is actually saved because an edit conflict may occur, and the edit will not be saved unless further action is taken. So, sorry, but would you please post again. Johnuniq (talk) 06:48, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I also don't think we need this here, although it surely needs to be mentioned in the books's article. DVdm (talk) 13:18, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

(←) Clearly fails WP:NOTNEWS. Get rid of it, but consider keeping a much slimmed-down version (one sentence) in the article about the book. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 13:58, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

No justification at all: it obviously fails the WP:RECENT test. In view of the uncited reports that someone acting for Dawkins is going to mount protests and sue, I think there's a possible WP:BLP issue as well. I'm going to implement the clear consensus, right now. --Old Moonraker (talk) 15:21, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
Cross post: User:Daniel J. Leivick has done it, while I was havering away here—thanks!--Old Moonraker (talk) 15:27, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
Sorry guys, didn't notice the discussion here. I found this same section posted even less appropriately on the O'Reilly Factor page. I removed it there, but it still exists in the article for Dawkin's latest book. --Daniel 15:42, 14 October 2011 (UTC)


Dawkins' education should be added. All the page references is "MA, DPhil (Oxon)" and mentions the subjects he studied and who he studied under. But what are his actual earned academic degrees? In fact, that information is nowhere to be found on the internet, so if he truly earned degrees, they should be listed on this page. Did he actually earn genuine degrees from Oxford? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jmh2114 (talkcontribs) 01:50, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

  • Michael Powell (September 20, 2011). "PROFILES IN SCIENCE". New York Times. After graduating in 1962, he studied with Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Nobel-winning scientist, and taught at the University of California, Berkeley. He returned to Oxford in 1971.  Text " RICHARD DAWKINS

A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy " ignored (help) So he got a DPhil (phD) from Oxford in 1962. You know that because he did post-doc work with a biological sciences Nobel Prize winner. His field was ethology: The study of animal behavior.

  • L Drickamer; D Dewsbury (2009). "Chapter 8". Leaders of Animal Behaviour — The Second Generation. Cambridge University Press.  A volume of invited autobiographical chapters by ethologists, including Chapter 8 for Dawkins. Covers his education in detail.

Although he wrote this description, it was published by Cambridge U and they would be well aware of his Oxford experience, as would his fellow Oxford Dons who would have read it. That's what I found in a short Google search. Hope it is helpful. --Javaweb (talk) 03:05, 15 October 2011 (UTC)Javaweb

Please stick to one spelling convention

See this edit. See guidelines. I believe this was discussed before and is now in an archived discussion. I notice that one editor is from the UK, another probably from the US. I don't have an opinion if British or US spellings should be used but we should choose one style and document the choice. --Javaweb (talk) 21:56, 21 October 2011 (UTC)Javaweb

The second line of the article wikitext has {{Use British English}} (which can be seen as a hidden category, if the option to see them is on in preferences). However, that edit was for a field in {{Infobox person}} where the only permitted spelling appears to be "Organization". Discussion on whether the infobox should be "person" or "scientist" has occurred before, for example above. Johnuniq (talk) 22:48, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. I have started a discussion on the infobox person page requesting both spellings be accepted by the macro. --Javaweb (talk) 18:51, 25 October 2011 (UTC)Javaweb
It's worth mentioning that "organization" is British English too, as is "organisation." SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:02, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
3:2 favor "organisation" though (BNC).--Old Moonraker (talk) 08:29, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Do any organizations in the UK use the spelling of the word sceptical for example? From what I have seen skeptical is the more common usage in the UK. IRWolfie- (talk) 20:47, 10 December 2011 (UTC)

Went back to the BNC for this; answer was "frequently": 754 for sceptical compared with 13 for skeptical. --Old Moonraker (talk) 17:48, 12 December 2011 (UTC)
fair enough. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:17, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

Sean Faircloth info not needed here

It belongs in the Dawkins Foundation article. --Javaweb (talk) 16:42, 12 December 2011 (UTC)Javaweb

Agree: it fails WP:TOPIC. --Old Moonraker (talk) 17:55, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

Work section

This section needs serious revision. I would like to point to the fact that Dawkins, as a scientist, was an ethologist with publications in this field in academic journals like Science and Nature. Therefore, the Work section should begin with an Ethology subsection and a thorough description of his work in ethology is essential. The article in its current form misrepresents Dawkins as merely a popularizer of science as it ignores most of his peer-reviewed academic publications and therefore does not take him seriously as a scientist. (talk) 18:22, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

You can also be bold and make the changes yourself, see WP:BOLD. IRWolfie- (talk) 20:53, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Infobox width

Under the awards section of the infobox, can the formatting of the Zoological Society of London entry be modified somehow? It is causing the rest of the infobox to be unnecessarily wide. --Bongwarrior (talk) 01:53, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

I see what you mean, and just replaced "Zoological Society of London" with "ZSL" which seems ok. It improved (reduced) the width quite a bit. Johnuniq (talk) 02:18, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Thank you, I considered doing that but I didn't know if an abbreviation would be acceptable or not. It looks a lot better. --Bongwarrior (talk) 03:34, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Apparent Responsibility for the Slave Trade

Surely the current revelations about his distant ancestor's involvement in the slave trade deserves a separate section? Dawkins said a reporter had called him and named a number of his ancestors who he said were slave owners.

After the reporter quoted the biblical verse about the Lord "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" Dawkins said he ended the conversation.

However, he said the reporter rang back and suggested Dawkins may have inherited a "slave supporting" gene from his distant relative. See <>. (talk) 16:55, 19 February 2012 (UTC)C. Hitchens, Zardoz80.42.230.249 (talk) 16:55, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

My mind has instantly categorised this as irrelevant nonsense. I think it's your job to convince us otherwise. HiLo48 (talk) 07:34, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Absolutely. No way should such trivia and bull**** be in this article. Dougweller (talk) 07:45, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Almost a pity we can't use it! If the suggested new section were included, it would be a demonstration of just how inane some of these detractions are becoming.--Old Moonraker (talk) 10:41, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
This is truly bizarre. Dbrodbeck (talk) 12:29, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
The revelation is trivial. The only difference between this, and the depiction of Dawkins in South Park, is that South Park is intentionally ridiculous. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 12:34, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

The revelation isn't trivial enoungh NOT to warrant an inclusion in the article, because the research from the reporter was done on primary documents that are not accessable on the internet and can only be verified by actually physically visiting the archives in question to view certain historical documents. It's the job of a Reporter to uncover such facts through research, and clearly they have. Clearly he is in fact related to a slave trader and like most of us, isn't aware of some of the darker sides of his own Ancestry. Colliric (talk) 12:40, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

Wow, someone (maybe) has someone (maybe) bad in their past. Who gives a rat's ass, seriously. This is at best muckraking, let's move on. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to include this. Dbrodbeck (talk) 12:54, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
It is in fact a good peice of information to include in the rather breif description of his ancestry. Colliric (talk) 13:05, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
It is, in fact, trivia. We have a pretty good indication of what other editors think above. You might want to read WP:UNDUE and WP:RECENTISM Dbrodbeck (talk) 13:24, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
The description of his ancestry is deliberately brief. The page is about Dawkins, not his family. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 15:11, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

RfC: Atheist or agnostic?

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
There are sound arguments on both sides. Whilst there is no doubt that Dawkins identified himself in the interview as agnostic, it is important to realise that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive terms; although Dawkins does not call himself "the world's most famous atheist", he does not deny that he is actually an atheist. The community consensus, by a roughly 3:1 ratio, seems to be for retaining the term atheist in the article. Closed by RfC nominator Yunshui 

This discussion as been listed at Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons/Noticeboard.

Should Dawkins be described as an atheist, an agnostic, or an agnostic atheist? (See section immediately above for context) Yunshui  07:02, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Atheist - I think all this "agnostic" thing is widely blown-up recentism. We all know that nothing from above described conversation is new, he has said the same thing many times in past, even in his book. If he accepts that "one can't disprove god" doesn't make him agnostic ( There are numerous talks and debate videos, where Dawkins refers to himself as Atheist.

    For being 6.9, Dawkins has referred to himself as agnostic atheist, where technical correctness is required. But for all practical purposes anyone 6+ is De facto atheist (Dawkins's video explaining it Also as per Dawkins, that there are very very few people who are 7, so if we want to be technically correct, then practically every atheist is an agnostic atheist. So I think we should keep the current wordings of referring him as Atheist. Abhishikt (talk) 07:31, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Agnostic. If the transcript above is correct then Dawkins says he calls himself an agnostic. It is absolutely wrong (and I think against WP:BLP) for us to classify him a something different. In terms of religious beliefs, it is completely wrong to suppose that 3rd parties can trump self-identification. NBeale (talk) 08:53, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Pity that you didn't read above paragraph. As I said, "for all practical purposes anyone 6+ is De facto atheist" is what Dawkins says in the video he made. It's even in his book 'The God Delusion'
And what Dawkins wrote in his book carries more weight than what he talked in some interview. Abhishikt (talk) 09:18, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist: In his chapter on "The Poverty of Agnosticism" in The God Delusion Dawkins allows that "temporary agnosticism in practice" is a legitimate response until evidence of the deity's non-existence (or existence) is found. Meanwhile, he is happy to rely on probability to declare himself an atheist. Later in the chapter he expands on this, counting himself a de facto atheist, only agnostic about God to the same extent that he is agnostic about fairies at the bottom of his garden.

    A previous commentator has mentioned WP:BLP as a reason to to label him as an agnostic here, but surely to do so would be directly in opposition to his own view, as expressed in TGD, and hugely presumptive on our part—completely the opposite of WP:BLP in fact. --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:21, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

I fully accept that when Dawkins wrote TGD he was correctly described as an Atheist. But people's religious views are not immutable. TGD was torn to shreds widely criticised by almost every serious reviewer and Dawkins appears to have responded to this criticism. He has also had discussions with people he really respects such as Martin Rees. Consequently now, when asked by Anthony Kenny "Why don't you call yourself an agnostic then?" Dawkins replies "I do!" and when Kenny objects that "You're described as the world's most famous atheist." Dawkins says "Well, not by me!". Hence he does not currently describe himself as an atheist. Or is the position of the "Dawkins defenders" that Dawkins is publicly lying at his own university to one of the most respected philosophers? I'm not sure that this wouldn't be libellous, and is surely against WP:BLPNBeale (talk) 15:52, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
NBeale - That's utter nonsense, and I strongly suspect you know it is utter nonsense. Dawkins has always said he cannot be certain that there is no god, and now he places himself at 6.9 on the spectrum of theistic probability. That is hardly a watering-down of his position, much as you would like to be able to claim that he is wavering, and much as the headline writer in the Telegraph would like to claim it as an "admission", as if it's something new, and the next step is conversion to christianity. Calling himself an agnostic is by no means incompatible with being an atheist. In the recent debate, he clearly uses the word "agnostic" to counter someone who is trying to push him into an absolutist position that he does not hold, and as far as we can tell has never held. No shift in position. He is an atheist. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 18:49, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - I'm not extremely knowledgeable about the article's subject so if I say thing that is not accurate, please feel free to clarify. However, my understanding is that reliable sources overwhelmingly refer to Dawkins as an atheist, and that he is considered by some to be the "most well known" atheist. It is also my understanding that the "agnostic in the technical sense of not being able to say with certainty that God does not exist" has previously been addressed by Dawkins and/or reliable sources, who then still conclude that Dawkins is an atheist. What I gathered from what I read in the transcript is that Dawkins considered himself "technically" an agnostic only by lack of definitive knowledge, in a way that supports his being an atheist. Therefore I do not see why this would supercede the fact that Dawkins is a self-described atheist, something that is reflected by reliable sources. - SudoGhost 10:33, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • We should reflect what the sources say. That means saying both along the lines of "Darwin has described himself as an atheist (ref), but in an recent debate said that technically he was an agnostic and was a 6.9 on the scale 1 for God existing and 7 for God not existing (ref). He is often referred to as a famous atheist (ref)". This is a good example or why we should not be putting either term in an infobox. The question is much too nuanced. Also, being an agnostic and an atheist are not exclusive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bduke (talkcontribs)
  • Atheist is the appropriate single-word term. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 12:59, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist best describes him. Dbrodbeck (talk) 13:27, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic - The idea that we should ignore his clear description because it's new and therefore overwhelmed by the many years of people saying he's an atheist means we'll have to wait until there are enough reliable sources to counter balance the plethora of sources who say he's an atheist. He's changed his mind or clarified his position, either way he knows best.Momento (talk) 22:28, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - He is squarely within the meaning of the term. But if he continues to go soft on the issue, then I would consider calling him a "former atheist". I would not call him an agnostic. Roger (talk) 22:56, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Both -- I don't think we need to pick and choose here. I propose that we write something such as "Although Dawkins has been identified as an atheist, he has also described himself as an agnostic when he described "add his quote on probability of 6.9, etc." The quote is optional. danielkueh (talk) 23:00, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic The right course in subjective matters such as belief has to be to use the person's own most recent description. Unless there is real doubt about the reliability of the report logic says that the subject must the the best and most reliable source. Others may be wrong, or the subjects beliefs may well have changed. Take Malcolm Muggeridge, whose views changed very dramatically from agnostic to Christian - it would have been absurd to have kept calling him an agnostic after his conversion just because the majority of sources (including things he had previously written) said so. Where there is doubt, an appropriate formula would be X says this, others have disputed that, or X says this although they wrote something else in ...., or whatever. In this article, I do not see much of a problem. The section in question could suitably be titled Criticism of Religion and the opening sentence just say that Dawkins is a prominent critic of religion. It is his activities in this area that are really notable, and the degree to which they may be driven by his own beliefs certainly important but in the end unknowable except through his own mouth. Anything else is just POV, frankly, however eminent the commentator. It would be much better, and make for a much clearer entry, if Dawkins' own position formed a discrete paragraph or section beginning with his most recent statement of his position and then quoting previous statements that were different - if he now calls himself an agnostic and was previously consistent in saying atheist that may well be significant in itself. But little is likely to be gained by repeating the point. --AJHingston (talk) 23:15, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist obviously; Dawkins describes himself as atheist and his ideas as atheist with considerable regularity and consistency (and unnecessary vitriol, in the eyes of many). The idea that he's "really" an agnostic or "has become" an agnostic is recentism, and is grossly undue weight on a quibble, a case of hairsplitting. It may be something worse, too. I don't detect any agenda-pushing pattern on the part of RfC proponent Yunshui, but off-wiki there is an ongoing controversy that is virtually guaranteed to inspire some people to arrive here to !vote "agnostic" on this, just to make a point, for an anti-atheism agenda. Even if this RfC is well-meaning, the timing makes it essentially worthless unless it closes as "atheist". When Dawkins, as a scientist, logically has to concede that science never actually totally proves anything in the absolute sense, only establishes probability (e.g. science cannot prove that the sun will rise tomorrow, only that it's very, very, very probable), and that thus scientific atheism can be construed on a technicality as a form of agnosticism that is a tiny hair short of absolute atheism, he is not making a statement that he considers himself an agnostic, he's simply not blatantly lying about the nature of science. When Dawkins, like many people, doesn't speak with perfect clarity in an interview or live debate, this doesn't mean their well-thought-out writings have been invalidated; the opposite is true, and only tabloid journalism interprets a verbal hiccup as a "smoking gun". Trying to change his article here to call him an agnostic would be a massive viewpoint-pushing exercise. Interestingly (to get to the controversy I mentioned) it closely mirrors Dawkins trying to tell Christians they aren't really Christians if they have any secular attitudes (yes, he recently really did that, and is being pilloried for it). The Dawkins-critical Telegraph article about this that I just linked to being spread around the Internet by both Christians of all politics and conservatives of all religions as an Internet meme shortly before this "let's label Dawkins not-really-an-atheist" nonsense shows up here seem far too conveniently coincidental. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 23:21, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist. It's mathematical. 6.9 rounds up to 7. I can't believe we are arguing about this. A new low in a Wikipedia "religion" discussion.--Bbb23 (talk) 00:08, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist obviously. It would be absurd to mislead readers by describing the author of The God Delusion as "agnostic" due to the author's comments about "6.9" in a recent event. Johnuniq (talk) 03:49, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • But then you're not updated on what's the real issue. It is not the "6.9". That is old news. The rationale for making the labeling an issue at this junction is Dawkins asserting that he calls himself an agnostic, and distancing himself from the atheism label. Now that we're clear on the facts, will that be reflected in your position? Or your reasoning? __meco (talk) 13:50, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • The first duty of an encyclopedic article is to not mislead readers. Whatever Dawkins means by the words he recently used, anyone at all familiar with him knows that the English word "atheist" is the appropriate description. The fact that a scientist is not prepared to state that he unequivocally knows some empirical fact (with no possibility at all of any new information ever expanding on the issue) is not a reason to misuse English. Johnuniq (talk) 23:37, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist of course. We shouldn't even have to debate this, it's just another attempt to discredit him. Dougweller (talk) 07:40, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Is that even relevant? Do we reject information on other people based on our perception of why it was forwarded or highlighted in the sources? __meco (talk) 13:42, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment. I'm not going to bother submitting a "vote" here, I'm simply going to make an observation. In the recent debate which is the cause for the present RfC, Dawkins is asked "Why don't you call yourself an agnostic then?" His response: "I do!" Dawkins is then confronted with this statement: "You're described as the world's most famous atheist." To this he responds, "Well, not by me!". Then he repeats, "..not by me." __meco (talk) 09:14, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment regardless of the outcome of this "vote" we should remove him from the "atheist" categories because WP:BLPCAT explicitly states: "Categories regarding religious beliefs or sexual orientation should not be used unless the subject has publicly self-identified with the belief or orientation in question" and Dawkins has very publicly said that he does not describe himself as an "atheist" but as an "agnostic".NBeale (talk) 10:25, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Rubbish. He described himself as not "the world's most famous atheist", which is a very different thing from saying he is not an atheist. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 13:18, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
So you really believe what he meant by that response was that sure he's an atheist, but not the world's most famous atheist? In other words, he was just being modest about his prominence as an atheism poster boy? __meco (talk) 13:34, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
He was (1) being modest and (2) (more importantly) refusing to be pushed into an absolutist (7.0) position that he has never claimed to hold. At 6.9 he is still as atheist as it is possible to be. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 14:37, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
I find your interpretation of the conversation really, I mean really, far-fetched. __meco (talk) 14:52, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Actually in a recent court case that he initiated he WAS described by his own lawyers as "the world's most famous atheist". To describe him as not being so is absurd and just repeats nonsense from the press without understanding properly what being an atheist is. It is not at all far fetched to believe that a deeply philosophical man who is aware that he is being described as "arrogant" all the time should be carefull to appear modest in public. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Neilj (talkcontribs) 01:09, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment. Dawkins as a logical thinker understands that the non existance of a god or gods can never be conclusively proved, hence he is technically agnostic. Effectively though he is as atheist as anyone can be.--Charles (talk) 13:40, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
'why don't you call yourself an agnostic then? - 'I do' (gasps in the twittersphere commented the independent - and at the wp talk page by the look of it )- as someone who can read english that is pretty clear - Sayerslle (talk) 13:44, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic Atheist. The RFC is a complete waste of time. He characterizes himself as an atheist. In only the strictest sense is he be an agnostic atheist (i.e "you can never be 100% sure") as he has previously pointed out in his own books. That he is an agnostic atheist is nothing new at all. IRWolfie- (talk) 14:50, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Actually cancel that, Agnostic Atheist is a more accurate description which he labels himself as in the sources. IRWolfie- (talk) 19:49, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
He appears to self label as defacto atheist. IRWolfie- (talk) 11:52, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist, no doubt. He promotes atheism to the point of him even designing the "Scarlet A", which represents atheism, not agnosticism. He clearly has spoken numerous times that he is not agnostic, and that agnostics should instead consider atheism. – Richard BB 15:13, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • None of the above If he has said both at different times, then that's what we write in the article. If it's too hard to put something in the Infobox, just leave it out. Trying to describe complex people with single words is often impossible. HiLo48 (talk) 19:36, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist. Without any doubt what so ever. He has just made it absolutely clear on his website . His own description should suffice. He quotes from The God delusion.Saying
    “Strong atheist: ‘I know there is no God . . . and 6 was “Very low probability [of existence of gods] but short of zero. De facto atheist. ‘I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.
    “I’d be surprised to meet many people in category 7 . . . I count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 – I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden.” — Preceding Neilj (talk) 21:50, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic, Agnostic atheist or the very most Agnostic/Atheist: He clearly says in the video ( that he's been labeled as an Atheist by others and that according to himself he is not an atheist but neither is he the 50-50 type of agnostic. If he says there is a very very low probability that god exists, that automatically makes him a NON-atheist. I think we can safely say he is Agnostic. It is irrelevant what he is according to the definition of Level 6 Atheist that he gives to himself. His level 6 Atheism is not Atheism at all according to the Dictionary or Wikipedia definition of Atheism. By standard definition, he is an agnostic. --Arad (talk) 21:50, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Actually on the wikipedia article this is covered: Atheism#Positive_vs._negative. Also from the PvN article: he regards himself as a "de facto atheist" but not a "strong atheist" on this scale. The God Delusion, page 50–51. You will many people that will not say there is definitely no god but still classify themselves as atheists, being certain there is no god is not the definition of atheism. IRWolfie- (talk) 21:56, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

For the convenience of participating editors (and potential sourcing), here's Prof. Dawkins' own take on this particular issue. Yunshui  21:58, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

  • What gives anyone here the arrogance... ... to think that they can accurately describe another person's religious views in one word in an Infobox? To people who seriously think about it (and Dawkins has thought about it more than most of us), religion and how we see it can be a very complex thing. It obviously needs more than one word. It's not compulsory to use every Infobox field. I prefer to see them used for little more than name, dates of birth (and death if appropriate), and nationality (although that leads to some fights here too). Just leave the Infobox field blank, and write a lot about Dawkins' views in the article. After all, he has written a lot about it. It's one of the reasons this article exists. HiLo48 (talk) 22:31, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
    Whilst I agree that the issue is more complex than the "atheist or agnostic" label makes it seem, part of the problem is that Prof. Dawkins is widely known for his religious views (or, more accurately, lack of the same). Leaving them out of the infobox makes little sense; he is (somewhat regrettably) covered in the media far more nowadays due to his stance on religion than his work in biology. I totally support covering the issue in more detail in the article, as well. Yunshui  23:14, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
    Good news! The mention of religion in the infobox was removed quite a while ago. The infobox mentions "advocacy of atheism" under "known for", which would be hard to disagree with. Johnuniq (talk) 23:37, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Good news, everyone! (I didn't want to be the only person reading your comment in this voice) - SudoGhost 01:30, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Are you suggesting that we should remove the religion infobox from all articles? IRWolfie- (talk) 12:07, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic - religious belief is a purely personal matter, and only 2 people can justifiably judge it: yourself and, depending on your views, God. Dawkins clearly describes himself as an agnostic, multiple times in print and in person. What more do you want? How can you possibly claim that others know better than Dawkins himself (ie. citing 3rd parties)? Voomie (talk) 23:51, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist Are you all out of your minds? Words are used in a variety of ways. Consider a political philosopher: in a seminar, he might describe himself as an analytical Marxist with Rawlsian contractarian leanings. While standing on the picket line in solidarity with striking workers, he might call himself a "fighter for the working man" or somesuch. In a debate, the key thing is you clearly describe your position. Consider the Russell/Coplestone debate, where Father Copleston asks Russell, "Perhaps you would tell me if your position is that of agnosticism or of atheism. I mean, would you say that the non-existence of God can be proved?" and Russell responds "No, I should not say that: my position is agnostic." Describing the position one defends in a dialectical context is very different from one's self-description, given that the philosophical terms used are often deliberately slightly wooly. Consider a Christian debater in a similar discussion saying that he defends theism. Does that mean he has put Christianity to one side and is now a subscriber to "bare theism"? Obviously not. It boils down to this: does Dawkins believe there is a God? No. Then Dawkins is an atheist. Which is handy, considering he self-describes as an atheist all over the damn place. —Tom Morris (talk) 09:55, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist per an overwhelming amount of wp:secondary sources. If Dawkins says he's agnostic, we have a mere wp:primary source, and we all (should) know that is as much as no source. The article could of course say that Dawkins is generally considered to be an atheist[with sources], although on ocassion he claims to prefer being called agnostic.[with source] - DVdm (talk) 16:51, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
I don't think that the instance we're discussing here is anywhere near enough to support "on occasion claims to prefer being called agnostic". As User:DVdm notes, any change would need justification from reliable, secondary sources. --Old Moonraker (talk) 17:34, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
[9] - independent ie. - has ,' "Why don't you call yourself an agnostic?" Prof Dawkins answered that he did. ' - And dawkins saying so ' is as much as no source'.? Sayerslle (talk) 09:13, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
There's plenty of secondary sources that say that Barack Obama is a Muslim, an atheist, and/or a socialist, but we go by what he officially proclaims in that case. That is what we usually do. This is a situation where the primary source should outweigh any secondary sources. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages) 16:13, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  • (Atheist/)Agnostic, if the man self-proclaims as an agnostic, then we should label him as an agnostic. Wikipedia is a neutral source, we report facts, and we don't sugarcoat subjects. Given the coverage of this, it deserves at least a mention in the page, whether we change him from officially being an atheist to officially being an agnostic or not. PCHS-NJROTC (Messages) 15:58, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist. Dawkins has spelled it out that he is agnostic about the Christian god (or any other) in the same way that he is agnostic about Russell's teapot, while functioning as an atheist in the how-he-lives-his-life sense. That means that he should be described as an atheist. As all the RSs describe him. Often prefixed with "world's most famous". For us to describe him as an agnostic would make us look idiotic. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 16:44, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic - if he calls himself agnostic, the page must reflect that. The Red R (talk) 19:20, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
This RFC is meant to establish a consensus about that. Don't go about changing it untill we have a consensus. - DVdm (talk) 19:23, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - obviously! This discussion is absurd. Dawkins is very careful not to say he has proof of the non-existence of god, just as he has no proof of the non-existence of fairies at the bottom of the garden, and in that context he says he is agnostic. His use of the word "agnostic" arises in context, and should be understood in context. Can't you all see that? You can't take the word out of context and apply it as a single label to a man who is clearly, obviously, famously, avowedly, proudly an atheist. In any case, there is no conflict between being agnostic about proof of god's existence and being an atheist. Being agnostic is the only possible honest answer to the question he was asked, so that's what he said. Dawkins is an atheist by any sensible definition of the term. Gnusmas (talk) 19:44, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
  • All or none of the above It's sad that we have posts saying "We must say agnostic in the Infobox because that's what he said himself" AND "We must say atheist in the Infobox because that's what he said himself". Obviously he has, at different times, said both things. Why are some of you narrowing in on just one statement? Stop trying so hard to compress the complex views of a complex man into one word. HiLo48 (talk) 19:51, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
The infobox doesn't actually contain either word. It's a matter of what word is used in the text of the article, where inevitably the complexity of a human being is going to be summarised from time to time in a word or two. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 19:56, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
I second HiLo48's sentiment. I don't think it is up to us to decide which label is appropriate. I believe we should just describe what is verifiable, which in this case, is all of the above. danielkueh (talk) 20:10, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Which is the beauty of labeling him as an atheist leaning agnostic rather than an atheist, since that's pretty much how he self identifies. (talk) 02:31, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - as he mentioned in his comments, it wasn't him who termed himself an atheist; and he says that he is a 6.9 out of 7 which to me is more closer to an atheist than an other words he is 99% sure there is no god whereas for an agnostic, he is 50% sure there is no god and 50% sure there is one..Atheist is what he is. Every atheist will have atleast a 1% doubt just like every theist in times have a 1% doubt on the existence of god.--Stemoc (talk) 03:16, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - Dawkins has said he's a cultural Christian[10] and tooth fairy agnostic but "atheist" describes him best. Why Richard Dawkins is still an atheist --Jisis (talk) 21:30, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - ”Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of [--] is unknown or unknowable”. --Thi (talk) 21:48, 29 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - unlike many (most?) people, Dawkins completely understands that theism/atheism is about a person's belief in the existence of a deity or otherwise, and gnosticism/agnosticism is about the opinion on whether the existence question can be conclusively answered. These are different axes, although Dawkins himself conflates them in his simplified scale. He is not only widely described as an atheist, but he frequently and clearly applies that label to himself. Laballing him as an agnostic/atheist or even just as an agnostic would be accurate, but an unfortunate side effect would be that idiots who don't understand the difference between the axes of theism and gnosticism would read such a label as imparting Dawkins with a greater degree of god-belief than he actually has. Dr Marcus Hill (talk) 11:45, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Why the hell is this discussion even taking place? - For all practical purposes, Dawkins is an atheist. Describing him as an agnostic is just pedantry. — Hyperdeath(Talk) 14:57, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
    • It's an encyclopaedia's job to be pedantic. HiLo48 (talk) 22:42, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Not when pedantic = misleading. Squiddy | (squirt ink?) 00:55, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist: Dawkins has primarily self-identified as an atheist. Miniapolis (talk) 15:30, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist: he is not using agnostic as a label, but as a description of his position that he is open to evidence to clarify what is the (currently unknown) true underpinnings of reality. Agnostic is too simple a term for his position as it will be misunderstood without additional clarification. SkyMachine (++) 01:08, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

The man admitted he is an agnostic. The debate is over!!! (talk) 03:26, 6 March 2012 (UTC)ArchangelV2 —Preceding undated comment added 03:06, 6 March 2012 (UTC).

Now the man is an Atheist Agnostic? Please. He is either one or the other. He cannot be both. He has clearly identified as an Agnostic ergo he is an agnostic. Call it what it is.--ArchangelV2 (talk) 03:55, 6 March 2012 (UTC)ArchangelV2

Actually, it's quite possible to be both, just as it's possible to be an agnostic theist or a gnostic athiest. One spectrum takes a position on whether we can know the truth of metaphysical claim or not, the other takes a position on whether on not a deity exists. In other words, an agnostic atheist like Dawkins believes the evidence shows that there is no god, but does not claim that this is necessarily something we can know. Read the articles on Atheism and Agnosticism for a more detailed explanation. The mistaken idea that "agnostic" means "a person who thinks there might/might not be a god, but isn't sure" is the reason we're having to have this discussion in the first place... Yunshui  10:58, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - almost any atheist can, if you want to split hairs, be defined as an agnostic. He has described himself as a "6.9" or thereabouts frequently. I suppose a useful comparison might be someone who defines himself as a 5.9 on the Kinsey scale - do we call him gay, or bisexual? If they usually describe themselves as gay, we wouldn't use that sort of a statement to relabel them. Neither should we use this interview to change the way we describe Dawkins. Guettarda (talk) 13:20, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • atheist per Guettarda who wrote almost exactly what I was going to write. JoshuaZ (talk) 14:26, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist - yes, he used the word agnostic to describe himself, but look at the context, which also includes the phrase "de facto atheist". The Kinsey scale analogy is right on. eldamorie (talk) 14:59, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic - If he calls himself an agnostic, how can we call him anything else? He specifically said "no" when asked if he called himself an atheist. Its irresponsible, and illogical, to call him something he directly denies being. Jack Douglas123 (talk) 15:29, 6 March 2012 (UTC) Jack Douglas123 (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic.
And enough of those were vandalism that I've blocked him. He seems to be here just for this !vote, so he may be a sock or evading a block or ban. Dougweller (talk) 16:04, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
As a matter of fact, he did not say "no" when asked if he called himself an atheist. He said "not by me" when told he was "described as the world's most famous atheist" [11]. That's a completely different issue. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 17:12, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist This is a silly argument. Virtually every atheist is an agnostic (a de facto atheist on Dawkins' scale). Its impossible to prove a negative (such as that God does not exist), so for an atheist there is always a possibility that the evidence for God (or gods) could come forward that would turn them into a theist. What Dawkins said was that he is an agnostic about God in the same way that he is an agnostic about Santa Claus or leprechauns. Its impossible to prove that they dont exist, it is just very, very unlikely based on the complete lack of evidence. Ammorgan2 (talk) 22:52, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment I note with interest the number of people here proving my point above about the danger of using "agnostic" due to the fact that most people don't understand that the word doesn't mean "somewhere between theist and atheist" but actually operates on a different axis altogether. Dr Marcus Hill (talk) 10:34, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist. Richard Dawkins is an atheist by definition, and he identifies himself as an atheist, and he is famous for being an atheist. If we were choosing between “atheist” or “agnostic atheist” then we might something to debate, but this one’s a no-brainer. ~ Robin Lionheart (talk) 18:25, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Agnostic as per his own description, which outweighs the secondary sources. Other language Wikipedia articles have accepted the change(often worded as "he currently self-identifies as an Agnostic", to give a concession to his past identification as "Atheist" or more accurrately in his books as "Agnostic Atheist") due to the citations and have proceeded to provide descriptions of the controversy as part of their articles, see my description below. This article itself must comment on the controversy and indicate that he has self identified as such. Colliric (talk) 23:43, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Reliable sources, including the The Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Washington Post seem to disagree. He does not "self-identify" as an agnostic, but from his own words, "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden." - SudoGhost 23:52, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Are you daring to suggest The Daily Telegraph is less reliable in reporting his words than those? Quote "I do!", so regardless of "the extent" which is what your quote is about, his answer to the direct question was just "I do!". So either he's a very bad self-identifying Atheist(given that the direct answer from that point of view should have been "No, not really, I'm Atheist") or a self-identifying Agnostic(that leans, in his own words, close, but not that close, to atheist ideas). Colliric (talk) 00:11, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
Reliable sources, including "The Richard Dawkins Foundation", specifically state that he is a self-identifying atheist, even in light of the recent events. Snippets of quotes taken out of context don't change this, especially when reliable sources themselves address this supposed sudden change to agnosticism, and explain why this is not the case. I'm more inclined to believe The Richard Dawkins Foundation on what Richard Dawkins said than a "conservative-leaning newspaper" that seems to be extremely critical of Dawkins. - SudoGhost 00:45, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
The Daily Telegraph recently made a scurrilous and pathetic attempt to smear Dawkins by insinuating that his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather owned slaves, that he might have inherited a gene for supporting slavery, and that slave money might have purchased his “estate” (a small, struggling farm his family owns part of).[12] So I will dare to suggest that the Daily Telegraph’s yellow journalists do seem less reliable. ~ Robin Lionheart (talk) 01:16, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
  • Atheist: the spectre of contextomy strikes again: whenever he has said he's an agnostic, it's always been qualified like the "fairies at the bottom of the garden", and that, for his own purposes, he is an atheist. Dawkins agrees that to say "there definitely is no god" is to deny the principles of scientific enquiry, and would therefore say "it's very improbable that there is a god" instead (like any other atheist), which for all intents and purposes still means atheist. Sceptre (talk) 04:17, 8 March 2012 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.