On Wednesday evening, at a debate in Oxford, Richard Dawkins will be gathering the plaudits for his long and productive intellectual career. It is the 30th anniversary of his hugely influential book The Selfish Gene. A festschrift, How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think, has been published this month, with contributions from stars such as Philip Pullman.
A week ago it was the turn of the US philosopher Daniel Dennett, second only to Dawkins in the global ranking of contemporary Darwinians, to be similarly feted at a series of lectures and debates across the UK launching his book on religion, Breaking the Spell. The two make quite a team, each lavishing the other with generous praise as the philosopher Dennett brings to bear his discipline on the scientific findings of Dawkins.
The curious thing is that among those celebrating the prominence of these two Darwinians on both sides of the Atlantic is an unexpected constituency - the American creationist/intelligent-design lobby. Huh? Dawkins, in particular, has become their top pin-up.
There is no doubt some truth to this. It's hard to win converts by calling people who don't agree with you stupid.