Ophelia Benson has a piece over at Butterflies and Wheels about Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum’s new book Unscientific America. I haven’t read it yet so won’t comment on their argument. I will however note the following from Benson:
[New atheism] is a stupid term. We all know that. There is no such thing – it’s just that some existing atheists have written some books which did well, and they and other existing atheists have done other writing and speaking, and atheism has belatedly managed to get a little more public attention than it was able to get ten years ago. That’s all. That’s not such a coherent or organized or sinister phenomenon that it deserves its very own label, but CM and SK give it one anyway, and treat it as established and self-evident. The nonsense about the ‘big four’ or (why would we prefer?) the ‘four horsemen’ is just dopy journalistic jargon; it should be beneath them.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, new atheism does exist and the term is used positively by atheists. It is a coherent social phenomenon. Secondly, Dawkin’s himself has used the term “four horsemen” going so far as to title a documentary by that name (see here). So I guess we can accuse Dawkins of “dopy journalistic jargon”. She might not like the terms but plenty of atheists do and she can’t really thus criticize Mooney & Kirshenbaum for using them.