Fairytales are "statistically too improbable" and parents should consider not telling them to children as they "do not foster a spirit of scepticism", the world's most famous atheist has said.
Dr Richard Dawkins appeared to slam fairytale authors like the Brothers Grimm for not pausing to think - "Would, on the balance of probabilities, a wolf trick a little a little girl into thinking it was her granny?"
He made the comments at the Cheltenham Science Festival, where he also said the religious view of the world's creation was "second rate" compared with the scientific view.
"I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism," he said, according to The Times (£).
"Even fairytales, the ones we all love, about witches and wizards or princes turning into frogs. There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog. It’s statistically too improbable.”
But the former atheist stopped short of demanding parents stop altogether telling their children fairytales.
He said: "Many people would say you destroy the magic of childhood if you tell them that princes can’t turn into frogs. I’m genuinely uncertain.”
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Dawkins later took to Twitter, protesting how his comments had been construed, denying he had called for a ban and saying he had only sought to ask "what effect fairytales might have on a child's mind".
Interesting Q what effect fairytales might have on children. Might foster supernaturalism. On balance more likely to help critical thinking.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) June 5, 2014
"He thinks it's an interesting Q what effect fairytales might have on child's mind." Oh, so he wants to ban fairytales. Quick, tell BBC etc— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) June 5, 2014
At the festival, Dawkins also described how his powers of sceptical deduction had begun at an young age, making him an early advocate of the belief, uncommon among small children, that Father Christmas is just something made up by their parents.
Descibing a time from his childhood, he told the audience: "There was a man called Sam dressed as Father Christmas, going ‘ho ho ho’ and all the children were enthralled. Then he left, and I piped up ‘Sam’s gone’.”Suggest a correction