In which various media outlets and bloggers prove that Dawkins

30 10 2008

makes for a very convenient strawman.

Dawkins responds:

Bloody Hell! All I said was that it would be nice to see some research. And even that was only a passing remark, a little cautious thinking aloud, prompted by the interviewer. Let me try to clear up a few misunderstandings, but what distresses me is the willful eagerness to misunderstand that is popping out all over several threads.

1. Some people, not you, have accused me of being against science fiction! Science fiction is not the same thing as Fairy Tales. They are poles apart, almost opposite. Fairy Tales allow MAGIC, which is arguably lazy because there are no limits to what spells can achieve. Science Fiction (I mean what I think of as good science fiction) is utterly different because it is DISCIPLINED, invoking limited, controlled, thoughtful deviations from the normal laws of reality. I yield to nobody in my enthusiasm for science fiction, and have often thought of writing a science fiction novel myself.

2. I didn’t even attack Fairy Tales, but simply speculated aloud on the thought that it might be interesting to do RESEARCH on how children might be affected by a diet of magic fiction.

3. Imagination. Do you SERIOUSLY accuse me of attacking imagination? Because if so I am mortally and gravely insulted and hurt. I mean that. I really do. Forgive me my quaint hope that my science books, from The Selfish Gene to The Ancestor’s Tale, are not entirely devoid of imagination.

My tentative view is that the sort of magic spell fiction that I had in mind for research — witches waving wands and turning princes into frogs — is conspicuously UNimaginative, precisely because it is so lazy — too easy to manipulate a plot when you are allowed to fool around with spells. But in any case I was not committing myself to the view that that sort of fiction is damaging. It could be precisely opposite. I merely entertained the thought that it would be nice to see some research on the question. You tell me there has been lots of such research by educationists. I am delighted to hear it. That is exactly what I had in mind. The reason I was unaware of it is that the question had not come to the front of my mind until the interviewer raised it. Thank you for making me aware of it. I hope it really is about magic spells in particular, and not about imaginative play, which is an utterly different matter

See also Ninglun.



2 responses

30 10 2008

You may have noticed I tagged it “diversions” though…

18 12 2009

“Because if so I am mortally and gravely insulted and hurt. I mean that. I really do.”

Poor sensitive soul. This coming from the man who regularly derides and insults anyone who doesn’t share his cut-and-dried attitude toward belief.

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