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Are fairy tales bad for children? Richard Dawkins claims they could be

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In a talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival, renowned evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins said that fairytales are harmful to children.

The Daily Telegraph quoted the author of The God Delusion as saying that fantastical stories “inculcate a view of the world which includes supernaturalism”.

“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.”

However in response to the story, Dawkins spoke to Radio 4 on the matter and said that the comments were taken out of context.

Taking to Twitter, Dawkins also responded with the following tweets:

Dawkins, 73, however, did say that children should be taught scientific rigour from an early age, as he himself stopped believing in Father Christmas when he was just 21 months old, and stopped believing in religion when he was eight years old.

“I think I did believe it up to the age of eight or nine, when preachers said if you really, really pray for something it can happen. Even moving mountains, I believed it could really happen,” he said. “I grew up. I put away childish things.”

While he conceded that parents who allow their children to believe in God shouldn't be considered guilty of child abuse as it was "a bit stronge", he did add that “when you tell a child to mind their Ps and Qs otherwise they'll roast in hell, then that is tantamount to child abuse.”

Dawkins is renowned for being a staunch critic of religion and has described it as a "cop-out" even though he refers to himself as a "secular Christian".

Last January, in a debate with the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, he described religion as a "betrayal of the intellect, a betrayal of all that's best about what makes us human".

In August 2013, Dawkins tweeted "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."

His comments sparked outrage on the social networking site from writers such as Caitlin Moran who tweeted 'I's time someone turned Richard Dawkins off and then on again. Something's gone weird."

He became known world-wide after causing controversy with his views on the 2001 September 11 terrorism attacks, stating that the strikes on the United States showed that a harder line must be taken with believers.

(Images: Rex Features)