Archive for December 19th, 2008

Admittedly, I had very little respect for Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist, especially after he basically called my beliefs moronic.  But now, he has lost of it.  He has become increasingly warped and fundamentalist in his views on science and humanity.

Did you ever notice that when you start gravitating toward one end of the political spectrum (Fascist vs Communist), their ideals tend to become very similar.  Well, Dawkins’ atheist fundamentalist views are beginning to look a lot like religious fundamentalist views.  Interesting.

See Dawkins speak about magic and fairy tales:

Here is an interesting article that was emailed to me:

Thursday November 27 2008
The trouble with Harry…

“They turn frogs into princes, peasants into princesses, and always have a happy ending, so what could possibly be bad about fairytales? Well, lots, according to controversial scientist Richard Dawkins.

The author of several books including The God Delusion and Climbing Mount Improbable, Dawkins is concerned that fairytales could have a “pernicious effect” on children.

So grave are his misgivings about the scientifically shady subject of fairytales that he intends to thoroughly research the effect they have on young minds.

“I would like to know whether there is any evidence that bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards has a pernicious effect,” Dawkins said. “So many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes and I’m not sure whether that has a sort of insidious effect on rationality.”

For the average adult trying to entertain the kids on a car journey, the rationality of a tall story isn’t much of a concern. But Dawkins has a knack of shedding his scientific light into the strangest of places and has already sought to dissuade adults from believing in God and children from believing in Santa Claus.

Contrary to Dawkins’ views, research suggests that fairytales actually help children to make sense of, and deal with, the real world.

“There is lots of research out there to say that fairytales are helpful for children,” says Jarlath Killeen, a lecturer in Victorian Literature at Trinity College Dublin.

“Fairytales are a way for children to work out their aggression, and they teach children things about how to grow up.”

But fairytales come in for a lot of flak and Richard Dawkins isn’t the first to question their suitability. Both liberals and conservatives have all had strong opinions on the books that children read.

“There is an extraordinary sensitivity around children’s reading material,” says Killeen. “Liberals have been fearful that the likes of Enid Blyton will make children racist, and conservatives have been fearful that the likes of Harry Potter will involve children in the occult.”

Psychologists suggest that instead of being a danger to children, fairytales and fantasy can actually help them to cope with the dangers of the real world. Psychologist John Sharry runs helpme2parent.ie and believes fairytales don’t cause anxiety — they relieve it.

“I would definitely disagree with the idea that fairytales might be harmful,” he says. “All humans — including children — use myths and metaphors to make sense of the world and to communicate with each other. It’s a fundamental part of who we are, and I certainly don’t get a sense that fairytales or magic do any harm to children.”

While adults worry that children will be frightened by what they hear, the fact is that children are smarter than we think and can distinguish myth from reality.

“Most children don’t believe literally that the fairies or monsters they read about really exist,” says John Sharry. “In fact, stories and make-believe can actually help children work out their fears and anxieties.”

Jarlath Killeen suggests that Dawkins is simply missing the point, and that no amount of science will ever quash the need for fantasy.

“Ultimately, fairytales aren’t addressing scientific questions anyway: they are addressing the purpose of things, the meaning of life.

“And they are promoting the creative and imaginative elements of humanity, which is a part of us that can’t be ignored.”

Librarian Denis O’Shea has been lending children books for 30 years and agrees that fairytales will always exist in one form or another.

“We don’t see traditional fairytales being borrowed so much anymore but other types of fairytales have grown in popularity: Artemis Fowl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and Lemony Snicket are all very popular with the older kids, and for younger children the likes of the Cecily May Barker fairy books are huge. Fiction is such an important thing for children and they really don’t mind what it’s based on, as long as it’s engaging and humourous.”

Ultimately, Prof Dawkins intends to write a book for young people where he will debate the merits of mythical versus scientific thought.

“I plan to look at mythical accounts of various things and also the scientific account of the same thing … the scientific one will be substantiated, but appeal to children to think for themselves; to look at the evidence. Always look at the evidence.”

But Richard Dawkins might be well advised to look at the evidence himself.

Based on the fact that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, it’s unlikely that too many fantasy-fuelled children will be queueing up to buy Dawkins’ anti-fantasy tome.”

So instead of magic teaching kids about the dark arts, they teach them not to be rational.  Sounds like two sides of the same bad coin.  In my experience, kids soon learn that magic wands don’t exist and there really are no monsters under beds.  Let them learn on their own.  If anything, this increases scientific inquiry.

And isn’t Dawkins missing the points of these tales.  They are not scientific textbooks (nor are they religious scripts), but stories.  Stories.  Should we not allow children to read William Blake because he uses metaphors?  Shakespeare outlawed for his magical Midsummer Night’s dream.  Dawkins, you have officially gone off the deep end.

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