A password will be emailed to you.

Recently retired (from his chair at Oxford) atheist crusader Richard Dawkins is reportedly writing a book, aimed at children, which will warn that fairy-tales and fantasy stories could have “an insidious effect on rationality”:

The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in “anti-scientific” fairytales. Prof Hawkins[sic] said: “The book I write next year will be a children’s book on how to think about the world, science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking.

“I haven’t read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children’s author that one might mention and I love his books. I don’t know what to think about magic and fairy tales.” 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. “I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something for research.”

Now I do realise that the press likes to mine Richard Dawkins’s quotes to make him sound as nasty as possible – note his comment at the end about it being “something for research”, and the fact that he likes Pullman’s books (e.g. His Dark Materials), as evidence that he doesn’t sound as if he’s on a crusade against children’s fantasy. I really do hope that it is a media beat-up, because I regard children’s fantasy reading as crucial to development. Every day our children are being forced to grow up quicker, restricting the chance for the development of imagination, not to mention the stunting of metaphorical thinking and moral contemplation.

I had previously reported here on TDG that Dawkins’s next book would be a polemic against Intelligent Design, so I’m not sure what has become of that project. Or perhaps he includes that with the fairytales…