Richard Dawkins plans to spend his retirement writing a children's book comparing fairy tale explanations with scientific ones, according to an interview. This promises to be the most exciting children's book since The Bobbsey Twins and the Great Santa Claus Lie.
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.
Well, since he's outlining what would be the topic of a fifteen-year longitudinal study on cognition and reading experiences, I would guess that he'll settle for just waving his arms around and saying "wizards-bad-BAD." Which is pretty much what he did in The God Delusion.
RichardDawkins.net has video of the interview.
I disagree with Dawkins' idea, by the way. I think wizard books (and fantasy generally) convey the idea that the social universe is governed by regular rules, even if a physical universe can have different rules than our own. And the very notion that a physical universe might have different rules gives many opportunities to reflect on the nature of physical laws, which are in many cases hardly obvious to human perception. I think we want scientists to be a little bit anti-rational, to think that there might be organizing principles that they can't see with their eyes.
He also says this:
"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."
...which brings me to mind of Dawkins' LA Times editorial from last year, in which he advocated that Saddam Hussein be held for scientific experimentation.
I'm wondering whether we should be scaring children with Dawkins...