Dawkins, jewelry, atheism, symbolism

Have you ever looked at the website of the Richard Dawkins, and then I mean especially the store section: I recently noticed that “they” (I don’t presume Dawkins is selling stuff in person) sell jewelry. In itself there’s of course nothing wrong with that. But notice that The Richard Dawkins store sells jewelry in the form of DNA-strands, and Darwin’s sketch of the tree of life. These apparently are adopted as the symbols of the atheism that Dawkins is preaching. It’s interesting to see how science and symbolism here go hand in hand. But what is also interesting, is particular dynamics that is at work here. Creationism and Intelligent Design are taking evolutionary theory as a symbol for evil. Evolutionary theory symbolizes everything that in the eyes of creationists and ID-adherents is morally wrong in our contemporary society. Creationists and ID-people consider especially Darwin’s tree of life, representing common ancestry, a deeply problematic symbol. And now here you have Richard Dawkins who does exactly that: Dawkins takes DNA and Darwin’s idea of the tree of life, and turns them into – yes jewelry, I know, but also – symbols for atheism. Science, symbolism, and ideology are getting lumped together in the discourse of the new atheism. In my view a highly problematic combination and potentially dangerous because of its ideological undertones. Wacky stuff.

2 thoughts on “Dawkins, jewelry, atheism, symbolism

  1. I think I agree, to an extent, but I doubt these double helix earrings are the best example of this. Dawkins is, after all, a famous evolutionary biologist, so it need not be linked to atheism at all.

    On the other hand, I do see how there are efforts to blend science, reason, skepticism and atheism into one thing, the only justification for which is that christian fundamentalists reject certain parts of mainstream science (evolution, parts of geology, parts of cosmology). And while these fundamentalist Christians are by no means an insignificant minority in the States (the target audience for most New Atheism’s books), it does not even remotely justify this link between atheism and reason. This is where New Atheism shows the early signs of becoming an ideology, where non-New atheism isn’t. I see a lot of creationists on Twitter mocking evolution as “the atheists’ creation story”, and while this does nothing to invalidate the theory on a scientific level, they are right. (And if anything, it makes the ideological problems Christians may have with the theory stronger). So I think New Atheism is redefining “reason” and “skeptical” to mean “atheistic”, which creates an ideologically-infused false dichotomy between religion and reason/skepticism. There’s nothing inherently atheistic about believing in evolution, and nothing inherently atheistic about being skeptical about dousing, mediums and homeopathy either. Moreover, my hunch is that atheists are slightly overrepresented among 9/11 conspiracy theorists, so not all atheists are skeptics either.

    So perhaps the double-helix earrings could perhaps be part of New Atheism’s ideological symbolism, but if we widen our scope a bit I think it’s rather obvious, which, from a scientific vantage point, is a bad thing. It also estranges them (or “us”, as I think of myself as a New Atheist on many levels) from a lot of religious allies, who also oppose creationism, mediums, religious privileges, bad science and the like. I’d love to see a proper academic analysis of New Atheism as an ideology, as almost everything people write about it stems from muddled thinking. And it could be an eyeopener for the reason=atheism folks.

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