Dawkins: 'fairy tales could be beneficial'

Dawkins: 'fairy tales could be beneficial'

Richard Dawkins has defended his views on fairy tales on the BBC World Service, following reports of his appearance at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
 
The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail both reported that Dawkins told the festival that tales could be harmful to children if they teach children the world is shaped by supernaturalism.

Both newspapers reported Dawkins as saying it was "pernicious to instil in a child the view that the world is shaped by supernaturalism" and asking, "'Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasy of childhood…? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?"

But speaking on the BBC Radio 4 World Service this morning, Dawkins said the idea that he wanted to ban fairy tales was “absolute nonsense”.
 
He said that it is in fact a “very interesting question” to ask what effect magical fairy tales might have on a child’s mind.
 
He said: “On the one hand, you might perhaps rather naively expect to give children supernatural fairy tales would inculcate into them the idea that supernaturalism is real. On the other hand - and this I didn’t say [at the Festival] but I now say because it’s a very good point - it could be that fairy tales have a beneficial effect because the child learns that there are stories that aren’t true. The child learns to discriminate between the stories that are fun and wonderful, but not true, from those stories that are true.”
 
Dawkins said that there is “something wonderful about having your imagination tickled” and fairy tales can stretch the mind, as can science and science fiction.
 
“I’m really interested in research on the question on what effects fairy tales have on the child’s mind. On balance, I suspect it may be a beneficial effect rather than a bad effect,” he told the BBC.
 
Dawkins has previously questioned the impact of fairy tales. In 2008, he announced his intention to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in "anti-scientific" fairy tales. The Magic of Reality was published in 2011.