Fairy tales could be harmful to children if they teach children the world is shaped by supernaturalism, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has been quoted as saying.
The author of the bestselling The God Delusion (Transworld) told an audience at the Cheltenham Science Festival that it was "pernicious" to teach children about facts that were "statistically improbable" such as a frog turning into a prince, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Dawkins is quoted as saying: “Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are? Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?" He added: “I think it's rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism – we get enough of that anyway.” He also said he never believed in Santa Claus as a child.
Dawkins' views have been greeted with scepticism on Twitter, with former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen noting “Richard Dawkins [is] not getting it that fantasy is not about reality, it's about 'psychic reality’". Rosen has since accepted on Twitter that Dawkins did not say what the several media sources reported him as saying.
Agent Jonny Geller noted that the authors' comments come “when only one in eight Dads read to their children”.
Reacting to the Telegraph piece today (5th June), Dawkins claimed on Twitter that his views had been misrepresented. He said: “It IS pernicious to inculcate supernaturalism into a child. But do fairytales do that? It's an interesting question. The answer is probably no.” In another Tweet he said: “Fairy tales, as well as charming, can be good training in critical thinking. Children learn to see through a certain class of falsehoods.”
However Dawkins has previously cautioned over fairy tales. In 2008, Dawkins announced that he was 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.