Monday, March 2, 2015

the Dawkins Delusion

There's an interesting article in the Irish Times today, reprinted from the Financial Times, on the topic of the tendency people have to brag about themselves by retweeting complimentary tweets posted by others. The author, Lucy Kellaway, dubs the phenomenon 'the thirdpartybrag.'

What piqued my interest was not the tweeting, something I have no interest in. No, what caught my attention in particular were two lines. The first was 'a particularly prolific thirdpartybragger is the British scientist Richard Dawkins'; and the second 'has thirdpartybragging damaged the scientist’s considerable brain?' 

What struck me was how she referred to him; not the fact she called him a 'thirdpartybragger,' which she is perfectly entitled to do, and if he doesn't like it let him take to twitter and express his outrage (or perhaps wait for someone else to do so and then retweet it). Nor that he has a considerable brain which, even though I disagree with him on many things, he clearly has (considerable in the sense that he evidently a very intelligent man; I'm not suggesting that I think his brain is larger than usual, thereby giving him a very big head). No, it was the fact that she referred to him as a scientist.

Now, as far as I am aware, this gentleman pretty much became a full-time promoter of his own particular philosophy years ago; so wouldn't it be more correct to refer to him as a former-scientist? I mean, he doesn't teach science, he doesn't engage in research, and he doesn't advance the cause of scientific knowledge by publishing in distinguished peer-reviewed journals; but he does write books, give lectures, and make public appearances to further the cause of atheism. Can it be correct to still call him a scientist?

There surely must come a time when it is appropriate to refer to a person by their current occupation rather than their previous. So shouldn't he be called, if one is determined to drag his academic past in every mention of the man (which I know many of his fans, including himself, are), something like 'professional-atheist and former scientist Richard Dawkins' (if I'm mistaken and he still does a little science work, the phrase 'part-time scientist' could be used instead)? A little more cumbersome but I would think far more accurate. 

If I was into twitter, this is an idea I could tweet and see what the twitter-verse thought. Who knows, perhaps Richard Dawkins might even re-tweet it? Although I think probably not; 
after all, that would be less a third-party-brag and more a third-party-slag. And why would he want to do that?

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