If Dawkins' public relations skills seem lacking in this area, they are positively abysmal when they come to building support for science. Remember that Dawkins is professor of the public understanding of science. He has a chair funded by the Microsoft multimillionaire Charles Simonyi. If I were that guy, I'd withdraw the support, not because I disagree with Dawkins, but because I think he is setting back the cause of science.
Basically Dawkins is saying if you are religious, then science is your enemy. Either you choose God or you choose science. No wonder that so many Americans say they are opposed to evolution. They believe that evolution is atheism masquerading as science, and Dawkins confirms their suspicions. Indeed Dawkins takes the same position as the most ignorant fundamentalist: you can have Darwin or you can have the Bible but you can't have both.
Dawkins is in some ways a terrible representative for atheism, which I'm glad about because a bad cause deserves a bad leader. He is also a terrible advocate for science, which I'm sad about because science deserves all the support it can get.
Having debated Christopher Hitchens, I’d like the opportunity to debate Dawkins. I think I can vindicate a rational and scientific argument for religion against his irrational and unscientific prejudice. When I wrote Dawkins to propose such a debate, however, Dawkins said that “upon reflection” he decided against it. He didn’t give a reason, and there is no reason.
In his writings on religion, Dawkins presents atheism as the side of reason and evidence, and religion as the side of “blind faith.” So what’s he afraid of? How can reason possibly lose in a contest with ignorance and superstition? I have written Dawkins back offering him the most favorable terms: a debate on a secular campus like Berkeley rather than a church, with atheist Michael Shermer as the moderator, and a donor ready and willing to pay both our fees.
So I hope Dawkins takes me up on my challenge to an intellectual joust. If you want to encourage him, write Dawkins and send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll forward your thoughts to our wavering atheist knight. He may want to pattern atheism on the gay rights movement, but surely he doesn’t want the world to think that he’s a sissy.