“Richard Dawkins on fairy tales: ‘I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism’ “
5 June 2014
At some point, Richard Dawkins is going to reveal a viewpoint that is itself so pernicious, so inhumane, and so extreme that all but his most ardent supporters will be embarrassed. I suspect this most recent revelation of the eminent evolutionary biologist’s heartfelt prejudices is a step toward that point.
“I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism – we get enough of that anyway.
“Even fairy tales, the ones we all love, with wizards or princesses turning into frogs or whatever it was. There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it’s statistically too improbable.”
He apparently confronted such a backlash in the wake of his remarks (at a science conference, no less) that he felt compelled later to “clarify” them on Twitter. He seems to have discovered that in taking on the likes of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the Monkey King, he is losing the plot of his own book, and perhaps a few readers he respects.
I think that Dr. Dawkins misses an even larger point. When we tell children fairy tales that include the supernatural, we do not cause them to recoil from science and discovery. Rather, we awaken them to the understanding that there are still things out there that we do not understand, things that are possible but unproven, and that themselves provide a motive to explore, to discover, to find the unfound. Is that not, after all, what a scientist does? Do we not risk reducing science to sawdust in the mouths of our children if we do not provoke them with wonder and curiosity about the unknown and undiscovered? How in the name of anything Dawkins holds sacred does that serve humanity?
I do not think that Dr. Dawkins is an evil man. I think that he is sincere in his belief that his arguments are made for the betterment of the world. It is possible, however, that in the twilight of his career the author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion is frustrated that despite his best efforts, so many intelligent, thinking people continue to entertain the possibility of God, of the supernatural, of magic, and that this frustration is bubbling to the surface.
I wish him peace and happiness, hope he continues his work, and in return ask that he and his followers allow the rest of us to live our lives, teach our children, and read to our families as we see fit.