Sunday, 22 June 2014

“Is Richard Dawkins the Ultimate Grumpy Old Man?” The Telegraph Asks

Are fairy tales pernicious? Richard Dawkins seems to think so. Paul Friedrich Meyerheim (1889): The Frog Prince. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

Richard Dawkins obviously likes being in the limelight regardless of what kind of limelight it happens to be. Recently, he made headlines in the UK press (and elsewhere) by issuing a warning on the dangers of reading fairy tales to children.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Dawkins said:

"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

Now, Darwinian evolution is statistically improbable, but obviously that does not prevent him from believing it as truth.

And without Darwinian storytelling there would be no evolution.

Moreover, some Darwinian stories are very fishy.

Dawkins believes that 400 million years ago, our ancestors were fish. And 300 million years ago they were frogs. This, of course, is statistically not only improbable but also impossible, but it does not seem to bother him.

An article in The Telegraph says that Dawkins “has completed his transmutation into a parody of himself… in recent years it has been like watching Michael Jackson gradually become weirder and weirder.”

Dawkins also took on Father Christmas a.k.a. Santa Claus as an example of superstition.

It seems that the only kind of fairy stories that Dawkins approves of are the Darwinian kind even though they are statistically and biologically impossible. But belief in them does not require faith in a transcendent Creator, who sets the rules.

This, I think, is the real issue.

In the Telegraph article, Jake Wallis Simons makes a different conclusion:

But then, perhaps I’m taking Dawkins too seriously. In his early dotage – he is 73 – he has clearly allowed himself to become the country’s foremost grumpy old man, which in itself is a great British tradition. In the final analysis, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I would think that there is more to it. Dawkins simply abhors anything that might suggest that there is a Creator to whom he is accountable and he tries to deny it at any cost.


Simons, Jake Wallis. 2014. Is Richard Dawkins the ultimate grumpy old man? The Telegraph. (5 June).