Richard Dawkins — wizard or ogre?

How does one enter into the mindset of Professor Richard Dawkins? His recent sally against all that is “supernatural”, speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, would have us believe that children must be raised as sceptics, trained in scientific rigour, and that childish things such as fairy tales with their dose of improbability, must be “put away”. He himself successfully achieved this rigour at an early age, he tells us.

Scientists, of course, have always believed in their own brand of magic, and not just because of its older roots in alchemy. Innumerable wizards populate the world of modern IT and we can be sure that the mood at NASA or at CERN when hitting the target can be described as nothing less than magical.

Here Dawkins misses the point, surely. All these highly successful scientists were children once. Where and how did they learn to open their imaginations to visions and dreams soaring high above daily routines, if not in that wondrous hour of storytelling which leads them into sleep?

A prince turning into a frog is too improbable, says the wise professor. Just as improbable as oxygen and hydrogen turning into water? Or iron filings arranging themselves in sonar fields? Plants and organisms tracking the lunar cycle? Surely what matters to the growing child is to learn to open the imagination so that the mind can fly across boundaries, whether on magic carpets or in school laboratories.

To impose what is “correct” for the imagination to play with, and deny what is “incorrect”, is a tyranny that serves no purpose. The expansive dimension of the creative, imaginative mind, proclaims that there are no boundaries. And yes, magic carpets will still get you there.

CJM June 2014

Posted By C J Moore to C J Moore on 6/09/2014 01:11:00 pm