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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Richard Dawkins – Children in the Atheist’s Den, part 1 of 8

Please note that this essay is being moved and will be shortly reposted at True Freethinker

1 comment:

  1. Your argument seems somewhat disingenuous. The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures have - since their introduction by Michael Faraday in 1825 - been about inspiring children to become interested in science. It has never been a platform for atheism or a venue for indoctrination. What's the difference? Aside from the fact that the lecturers (including Dawkins) can back up what they say with evidence (more on that later), there are no explicit or implicit threats or rewards. They're saying "this is how it is, if you're intereted, go and find out more". They are not using arguments from such authority figures as parents, teachers, clergy etc. to say "this is how it is, if you disagree you'll be punished or fail to receive some magnificent reward in the afterlife."

    Surely, Dawkins does not present every scrap of evidence for the things he says in the lectures. This is because there is no time and because the lectures have to be entertaining as well as informative. If the children go on to enrol in a biology course or study it on their own, they will quite easily come across the evidence for the statements made.

    You seem to mischaracterise the views of several people. I won't deal with these in full in the interests of brevity, but to claim that any of the people you mention would argue that "Darwinian orthodoxy shall not be questioned nor challenged in the public classroom and no other options are to be tolerated" is an outright lie.

    What these people actually argue is that only science should be taught in science classes. Creationism and its alter-ego Intelligent Design are demonstrably not science and are therefore not appropriate for inclusion in science lessons. I don't think Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Myers or Hitchens would argue that religion shouldn't be taught in schools: just that religion isn't science and shouldn't be taught as such. Dawkins, as it happens has explicitly supported the teaching of religion.

    Teach religion all you like: although I (and most likely, all of the above) would argue that if you're going to do that, you should teach all religions), but keep it seperate from science. They aren't the same thing.

    But back to what seems to be the main point of this article. You write:

    "[Dawkins'] lectures for children are meant to convert children into the worldview of absolute materialism."

    This is simply untrue. They are meant to educate and entertain. It seems likely that Dawkins would be pleased if some of the children were inspired to a scientific career and to live a life questioning *everything* (scientific and religious). This is a very different position to wishing to convert everyone to a "worldview of absolute materialism" or anything else.

    "He makes this apparent by appealing to authority..."

    No, he does not. He does not explicitly present *all* the evidence to support every single point he makes, for reasons stated above: time constraints and the need to be entertaining. However, that evidence is freely available in the public domain and anyone who wishes to search for it can do so. He's not hiding anything, he just doesn't have time to cover it all (and few of the kids would be interested in that level of detail anyway).

    " presenting very narrow and convenient arguments...selective evidence...caricturizations [sic]....passing off mere speculation as fact, etc."

    You'd need to qualify this with examples before I could comment. It's surprising that you don't do this.

    I for one found Dawkins' lectures entertaining, informative and inspirational when I saw them back in 1991. I didn't see them as an attack on religion (I don't remember him mentioning religion at all during the lectures), but as a set of charasmatic lectures on an important part of biology.


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