Dawkins approaches self-parody

This reads almost like a piece from The Onion. With minor adjustments it could be placed into The Onion successfully. He carefully surrounds his points with "I'm not sure" and "perhaps", so his remarks on the pernicious effect of Harry Potter on the young mind are not quite Onion material ... yet.

"I haven't read Harry Potter ... I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research." ...

But this stuff comes closer to Onion level (my emphasis):

... Prof Dawkins said: "Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

Ha ha, take that Theophanes!

# Constant - 12 posts
# Theophanes - 12 posts

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Keep Up the Good Diverse Posts.

Thanks for posting on something besides NAP,Deontology,Agorism,and other abstruse tantrum inducing doctrines of questionable validity. Not that you do posts on these subjects. I hope others will comment on stuff some of the subjects besides NAP,Deontology and Agorism.
Dave

Rumsfeld sez: NAP of questionable validity, bombs Iraq.

I gotta tell you, getting beat with an extension cord is far worse than being told you will go to hell if you steal.

True story!

Example of Religious Child Abuse

I can tell you that a priest telling a little girl her father is roasting in hell (true story) is far worse than a spanking.

Santa Claus

My parents tortured me with a belief in Santa Claus in my early years. I'd rather they have just knocked my teeth out.

This isn't anything new.

This isn't anything new. Dawkins has been equating religious childhood indoctrination to child abuse for over a decade. I talked about this issue in reference to Political Child Abuse over four years ago. And as I said then, and still say now, Dawkins has a point.

So parents must make a choice of which values to instill -- some would say brainwash -- into their children. And often these choices are binary: either parents raise their children with strong religious beliefs or they don't. If they do, many athiests and agnostics will criticize them for intellectual child abuse - perhaps condemning them to a life of pointless devotion to a non-existent deity. If they don't, many theists will criticize them for spiritual child abuse. After all, if the theists are right, not only are these parents depriving their children of true knowledge about the world, but they are also exposing their children to the risk of eternal condemnation. There are no rational means for resolving the conflict between these two views. Every educational choice is based on the parent's/teacher's own values, and every disagreement over what to teach children is fundamentally a disagreement over which values are correct/preferable.

I agree with Dawkins on both points: (1) The hypothesis that "the way we teach children about magic and fairy tales can influence their thinking about rationality, science, and the supernatural as adults" is a legitimate question and worthy of study; and (2) that religious indoctrination regarding punishment in the afterlife can be emotionally abusive, and more damaging than physical abuse. Neither of these points seems especially controversial, and certainly not "Onion material."

The only thing Dawkins said about Harry Potter was "I haven't read Harry Potter." Which seems like a pretty reasonable response for someone who hasn't read Harry Potter. My guess is that the interviewer was trying to elicit some sort of controversial reaction from Dawkins, and Dawkins did the responsible thing and said that he didn't know, since he hadn't read the book. The Telegraph did the irresponsible thing and tried to spin this into outlandish claims like "Harry Potter fails to cast spell over Professor Richard Dawkins" and "Harry Potter has become the latest target for Professor Richard Dawkins." Constant bought into this spin because Constant has a preexisting dislike of Dawkins, faulting Dawkins for being cautious and skeptical when speaking about things he does not know. Constant, on the other hand, would have us... eschew caution and skepticism when speaking about things we do not know. Onion material, indeed.

The only thing Dawkins said

The only thing Dawkins said about Harry Potter was "I haven't read Harry Potter." Which seems like a pretty reasonable response for someone who hasn't read Harry Potter. My guess is that the interviewer was trying to elicit some sort of controversial reaction from Dawkins, and Dawkins did the responsible thing and said that he didn't know, since he hadn't read the book.

Dawkins appears to be the originator of the line of discussion that inevitably touched on Potter. From the article:

Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

This (children's stories about spells and wizards) appears, then, to be a topic of his choosing. And while he mentions no book in this statement, there is one series of books which, if he means any book at all, he means, and that is the Harry Potter books. Dawkins, then, is the instigator, and the interviewer is following along closely, making only an exceedingly obvious connection, which anyone would make. This is the opposite of your suggestion that the interviewer is the instigator and Dawkins merely reacting to an uninvited line of questioning.

I agree with Dawkins .... that religious indoctrination regarding punishment in the afterlife can be emotionally abusive, and more damaging than physical abuse.

But what Dawkins actually says in the interview is:

It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse.

This really is not the same thing as "...can be...". The truth conditions of "...can be..." statements are far, far wider than the truth conditions of "...is... " statements. They mean quite different things. Pretty much anything "can be" whatever you like. For example, humans can be eleven-fingered. True. But it is not true to say that humans are eleven-fingered. Vastly different statements. One is true, the other not only false but absurd.

Constant has a preexisting dislike of Dawkins

No I don't. I admire Dawkins. He has tremendous credibility with me, on account of his books on the selfish gene and the extended phenotype. I'm rolling my eyes at these statements and suggestions of his not because of my general feelings about him, but despite them.

This (children's stories

This (children's stories about spells and wizards) appears, then, to be a topic of his choosing.

Yes, but regarding the one specific example he does give - which you decided to skip over when you quoted him with the use of ellipses - he approves of certain uses of magic and fairy tales:

"I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books. I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

He is talking about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, the first part of which was made into the movie, The Golden Compass.

So clearly Dawkins isn't against all forms of fantasy per se, but is concerned with what sort of message it sends, and how it is presented.

The Pullman books also

The Pullman books also happen to portray the deity and the religious as evil and immoral.

"All the history of human life has been a struggle between wisdom and stupidity. The rebel angels, the followers of wisdom, have always tried to open minds; the Authority and his churches have always tried to keep them closed."

So it is hardly a surprise that Dawkins approves.

I wonder what he thinks of C.S. Lewis....

Depictions of the deity in His Dark Materials

The Pullman books also happen to portray the deity and the religious as evil and immoral.

It’s not uncommon that authors would portray church officials, and even the church hierarchy, as corrupt. Pullman merely extends the theme to depict heaven as an all-too-human bureaucracy.

* His Dark Materials spoilers ahead*

That said, the only reference to “the deity” in the His Dark Materials series comes in the third book, is very brief, and depicts the deity as senile and infirmed, not evil.

However, I put "the deity" in quotes because there is a fair dispute about who should bear that title. The series focuses on “dust,” an omnipresent and mostly unseen force that seems to be both sentient and benevolent, and even has a personality. Thus, while Pullman has expressed opposition to traditional depictions of religious themes in children’s literature, it appears that he has created – inadvertently? – his own depiction of god. He’s merely depicting a god outside of The Authority and its church.

Eh?

Yes, but regarding the one specific example he does give - which you decided to skip over when you quoted him with the use of ellipses - he approves of certain uses of magic and fairy tales:

Pullman's trilogy is not about spells and wizards. The Harry Potter books are.

I'm not sure what your point is here. I was arguing that it was reasonable and virtually imperative to interpret him as meaning above all the Harry Potter books. You just pointed out that he likes the Pullman books (which are vastly different from spells-and-wizards type books). Thus you have excluded (from among the books he might mean) a certain book other than the Harry Potter books, and therefore you have narrowed down what he could have meant, and therefore you have increased the probability that he meant the Harry Potter books. So you're supporting my point here - the point about what he probably meant and could be reasonably taken as meaning.

If your point is to change your argument - if you are no longer arguing about whether it was reasonable to connect what he was saying to the Potter books but are instead arguing that Dawkins isn't against all forms of fantasy, against my claim that Dawkins is against all forms of fantasy...

where did I claim that Dawkins was against all forms of fantasy?

It stands to reason that Dawkins would love Pullman. His love for Pullman contributes mightily to the charge that Dawkins approaches self-parody. Let me spell it out. Dawkins is by now known for his hostility to religion. If I were to write an Onion piece or an SNL skit parodying Dawkins, then I would add in, it would be the funniest thing in the world to add in, Pullman as an exception, as an example of fantasy that Dawkins does not disapprove of. If you've read the books you'll know why.

Jerry Falwell

Seems to me the article took pains to misrepresent Dawkins position in an attempt to make him sound like Jerry Fallwell. Based on the article you sort of expect his next suggestion to be the banning of books in the name of science.

The article leaves one with no actual understanding of what Dawkins actual positions are and points in the wrong direction.

Dawkins is to blame

Dawkins, no one else, is the one who makes sure we hear him label it "child abuse". Calling something "child abuse", especially in the current environment, is quite a strong statement. In the current environment people are getting sent to jail for child abuse and parents are losing their children for child abuse. Dawkins is deliberately choosing to use this highly charged language, doubly charged because of the current social and legal environment. The very real ramifications of what he is saying are quite serious. It is in no way unreasonable to interpret him as meaning, ultimately, that children must be taken away from parents if the parents attempt to pass on their religion. This is a reasonable interpretation even if he were to literally say "I do not mean that". If a person contradicts himself, then it is up to the listener to decide what he really thinks, and the listener doesn't have to go with the very last thing the person said.

I was addressing Harry Potter in that comment

That comment was in response to the Harry Potter comment and is not with regards to the issue of whether they misrepresented Dawkins on child abuse.

"It is in no way unreasonable to interpret him as meaning, ultimately, that children must be taken away from parents if the parents attempt to pass on their religion."

I do think that Dawkins is being a bit too loose in use use of the word child abuse here. It is certainly his responsibility to prevent any miscommunication and he's failing. We know he can do better based on his other writings so ...

Oh, and I think it is child abuse to incalculate a child in the belief that he'll go to a heavenly reward if he murders some Jews. In fact, it's also and endangerment to the Jews in question and therefore "their business".

So if "passing on your religion" involves those kinds of activities then I don't see anything bad about preventing that. It's going to come to blows sooner or later anyway.

Worse than physical abuse

The sentence "It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse." was followed by another sentence to make it more specific. "I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

So obvious that he was not making a blanket statement. One would need to go into specifics to find out exactly what he means. I would have followed up with a question on what Dawkins thought was physical child abuse and which forms were "as bad" or "worse". I would have also asked, "You just said "even worse" but now you say "as bad". Which do you mean and did you misspeak in the first sentence? Can you give specific examples?" He might come back and say that scaring young kids with hell is worse than spanking. Who knows.

What Micha said

I agree with Dawkins on both points: (1) The hypothesis that "the way we teach children about magic and fairy tales can influence their thinking about rationality, science, and the supernatural as adults" is a legitimate question and worthy of study....

Sounds good to me.

For what it’s worth, I recall a study about the reading habits of scientists – not what they read today, but what they recall reading as kids. Lots of serial novels, it seemed – comic books, Hardy Boys, etc. But also sci fi/fantasy. I recall someone saying, “If you want your kids to grow up smart, read them fairy tails. If you want them to grow up brilliant, read them MORE fairy tails.” This much, at least, would seem to point away from the idea that telling kids magical stories impairs their later analytical skills.

Can I find this study? 'Course not. Probably heard it on public radio sometime.

(2) that religious indoctrination regarding punishment in the afterlife can be emotionally abusive, and more damaging than physical abuse. Neither of these points seems especially controversial....

The question of whether emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse seems pretty academic, doesn't it? Surely the degree of harm imposed by either type of abuse would depend upon the degree to which it was inflicted. And do we really face many circumstances in which people choose between the two?

So, putting aside the more-oppressed-than-thou issue, does anyone dispute that emotional abuse is bad, or that some people seem really burdened by concerns about heaven and hell? Now, maybe these burdened people are simply predisposed to obsession, and therefore would have grown up burdened in any event. That is, maybe religion is just the form, not the cause, of their burden. But I find it a worthy topic for reflection.

[C]ertainly not "Onion material."

While I have a soft spot for Dawkins, I’d have to agree with this assessment. Onion-worthy is a pretty high standard, even for Dawkins.

Dawkins For Nobel Peace Prize

Dawkins continues on the path trail blazed by Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomski, and Linus Pauling.
First you do something creative and get recognized. This is followed by euphoric self-delusion of generalized importance similar to that held by movie and rock stars and qualifies them as an expert in all political and social affairs. Most old half-senile, bony fingered old farts know that no one gives a damn what they think but if one of these geezers hits the right political note, he can gain additional adulation or at least notoriety. Sometimes they can even get a Nobel Peace Prize. I nominate Dawkins for a Nobel Peace prize for fighting childhood psychic trauma.

Dave

Damn

# Theophanes - 12 posts
# Constant - 11 posts

Damn!