Sunday, 8 June 2014

Richard Dawkins and Fairy Tales

 The amateur theologian and philosopher Richard Dawkins has been back pedalling after his comments against the practice of reading fairy tales to children have been widely criticised by some people who actually knew what they were talking about and had some evidence to support their views. He made the comments at a literary festival in Cheltenham. A link can be found here

Interestingly, there were some reflections on storytelling, willing suspension of disbelief, the meaning that fantastic tales can carry etc. in my last post about Godzilla, which was posted before these comments of Dawkins were reported. Anyway.....

I had to laugh when I heard that Dawkins said that children should not be read traditional fairy stories as, for example it was ‘extremely statistically improbable’ that a frog should turn into a prince. For this same Dawkins believes that hydrogen atoms turned into people, including princes, by random processes which utterly defy probability and cannot be demonstrated. 
Imagine the kind of bedtime stories that would be told if the old bigmouth had his way..... 
'Now listen carefully children. Once upon a time there was Nothing, then the Nothing exploded and made everything, including time and the laws of physics. Then the particles from the Big Bang clumped together and made stars, and the stars made heavy elements like iron, oxygen and tin. Then some of the stars blew up and showered bits of star dust everywhere, then some of the bits stuck together and made the earth (with its perfectly balanced moon). A load of water came to earth from somewhere and together with some volcano gas and sparks made the first amoebas, some of which turned into sponges, worms, jellyfish, snails, fish, frogs, reptiles, birds, apes and then finally you and I.  And there was no designer or god of any sort, it all just happened. Because it did.
This is not make believe, although I AM going to MAKE you BELIEVE it.
Good night children (depending on what we mean by 'good' in an evolutionary sense) and remember THERE IS NO GOD.'

He talks about 'improbable events' but famously refuses to debate with people such as Stephen Meyer who dare to challenge him on the mathematical probability of the processes which supposedly led molecules to man evolution, which is the Fairy Tale that Dawkins demands that all children are indoctrinated with from the earliest age. Meyer’s Book ‘Signature in the Cell’ used only mathematical arguments to show that the existence of the information on the DNA molecule is profoundly statically impossible without a designer. It is not a religious book, yet while both men were on US book tours, Dawkins refused invitations to debate Meyer’s arguments in public, writing him off as a ‘creationist’. Dawkins has elsewhere advised his followers not to enter rational debate with Christians or creationists but to abuse and insult them.

He says that instead of being taught traditional tales, which as one expert said can carry some moral and social values (e.g. Little Red Riding Hood teaches young girls to beware predatory male adult strangers) they should be taught ‘scientific rigour’.  However, as we saw over the Michael Reiss affair, in which Dawkins and others at the Royal Society forced an innocent man out of his job for merely suggesting that Darwin dissent in the classroom should be met with politely and a request for evidence. The Dawkins line is that children must be taught that Darwinian evolution is an unchallengeable dogma that may not be questioned. Even the fact of the existence of scientifically literate disagreement may not be acknowledged in the classroom.

Traditional Fairy Tales are introduced with the phrase ‘Once upon a time...’ which sets the scene for a willing and temporary suspension of incredulity. Dawkins' Fairy Tales are introduced with ‘This is supported by Mountains of Overwhelming Evidence-so don’t ask naughty questions, just believe!’
As I often say, people should read Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and see how often phrases such as 'may we not believe?...I have no difficulty in imagining...I can hardly doubt....' occur to make up for the lack of evidence. Indeed, one of the biggest Fairy Tales of all surround the idea that molecules to man evolution is somehow supported by rigorous scientific facts and repeatable observations. Dawkins is of course one of the greatest purveyors of this Mythos.

Dawkins’ back pedalling is interesting. Like a crafty politician he is always testing the limits to see how much of his agenda the public will tolerate. Just testing the water, although if he is able to drive the climate of opinion just a little further towards a totalitarian intolerance of Christianity.....? When it turns out he has gone slightly too far for the current climate of opinion, he uses the classic 'Oh I was misunderstood...taken out of context....only being ironic.....' strategy after being caught out and revealing his true heart of darkness. He doesn't REALLY want the children of believers taken into care. 'I only said teaching children about Jesus was tantamount to child abuse......' 
But on the other hand, His real target is  of course not traditional children's stories of dragons, witches, dwarves and ogres (although of course like all good atheists he hates the C S Lewis Narnia stories) but is the Christian religion, which he regards as a ‘pernicious’ Fairy Tale’. He wants the teaching of Christianity as truth to children banned. Outlawed. Criminalised. He is careful not to put it in quite so many words. 

Do not be deceived. Take a look at 20th century history to see what hard line atheists actually do when they get into power. One of the first things they always do is take complete control of the ideas to which children are exposed.

PS Dawkins doesn't want children to hear about princesses being rescued from dragons in enchanted castles in case it gives children ideas he finds unacceptable. So how does he feel about shoot-em-up computer games, World of Warcraft, Tour of Duty, Grand Theft Auto etc?


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