Dear Prof. Dawkins…

“Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?”

“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”

The likelihood of me ever meeting Prof. Dawkins is very slim, and I would imagine my kind of research wouldn’t interest him in the slightest, but if i was to meet him following his, rather extraordinary, statements at the Cheltenham Science Festival, I would like to say this.

Prof. Dawkins, Richard if I may, as a scientist you seem not to checked your data set very thoroughly. You state that  “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.” Correct, it is statistically too improbable, but that is not the reason for the story, at least the non disneyfied versions anyway.

Fairy stories teach us many things, but a belief in the supernatural, in my opinion (for what it is worth), is a long way down that list.

They teach us that bad things happen to good people (Beauty and the Beast), that sometimes we can’t always have what we wish for (The Little Mermaid), and if we do, it doesn’t always go well (Pinocchio). We see that sometimes good acts aren’t rewarded, and sometimes we can get hurt for trying to help (Rapunzel’s prince). Stories like Hansel and Gretel tell us as children that the world can be dangerous, and those that are supposed to care for us sometimes fail us.

Fairytales can be a child’s first glimpse at some of life’s toughest lessons, but also have a wonderment that can spark imagination and curiosity. Armed with this arsenal of ideas and images, perhaps later a natural need to question and scepticism will grow.

Surely even the most hardened scientist can see that exposure to such information as this doesn’t lead to an unquestioning blind faith in everything supernatural, the statistics (to paraphrase) don’t add up to that either…

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