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Justin M. Stoddard

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A Question of Abuse?
January 15, 2007 — 2:43 pm

I have great admiration for Richard Dawkins, as many of you may know. Like Carl Sagan, he has done everyone a great service by making science obtainable to the lay person. And, like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins has spent a great deal of time fighting against irrational beliefs held by many in our society. Though he comes across many magnitudes more harshly than Dr. Sagan when he attacks religion, I find myself quite taken by his rhetoric.

Dr. Dawkins makes absolutely no apologies for the way he brings his arguments to bear. For example, in the recent Beyond Belief seminar, Neil deGrasse Tyson took Dawkins to task for his delivery methods:

You’re professor of the Public Understanding of Science, not professor of Delivering Truth to the Public. And, these are two different exercises. One of them is…you put the truth out there and like you said, they either buy your book or they don’t. Well, that’s not being an educator, that’s just putting it out there. Being an educator is not only getting the truth right, but there’s gotta be an active persuasion in there as well. Persuasion isn’t “here’s the facts, you’re either an idiot, or you’re not.” Persuasion is, “here’s the facts, and here is a sensitivity to your state of mind and it’s the facts and the sensitivity when convolved together creates impact.”

And I worry that your, your methods and your, your, your… how articulately barbed you can be, ends up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence than what is currently reflected in your output.

To which Dawkins replied:

I gratefully accept the rebuke. Just one anecdote to show that I’m not the worst in this thing. A former and highly successful editor of New Science Magazine, who actually built up New Scientist to great new heights, was asked, “What is your philosophy at New Scientist?”

And he said, “Our philosophy at New Scientist is this. Science is interesting; and if you don’t agree, you can fuck off.”

Unlike Neil deGrasse Tyson (whom I also greatly admire), I’m not overly concerned with the way Dawkins conveys his message. I think he, like Sagan, fills a role in the scientific community.

Where Professor Dawkins and I part ways, however, is his notion that the religious indoctrination of youth equates to child abuse.

The following clip was recently put up on Richard Dawkins’s site to lend credence to the whole idea of “religion=child abuse”:

Now, personally, I’m border-line disgusted by this clap trap. I’m not so blinded by my own personal disgust, however, as to believe that every one of these kids is going to grow up believing this tripe. I was taught many of the same things when I was younger, but I grew out of it. In point of fact, I don’t remember taking much of it all that seriously.

I ran across a very telling comment in response to the above video on Dawkins’s site:

A bunch of zombies singing a zombie song to continue to feed their delusional zombie nation. They’re turning our kids into vegetables.

But, they’re not our kids, are they? I mean, if they were turning your kids into zombies, that would be an entirely different matter, wouldn’t it? Though we might find it repugnant, these parents have every right to raise their children according to their world view. When you start evoking the phrase “child abuse”, it means you are wholly prepared to act upon said phrase. After all, if the child is being “abused”, society must take action against the abuser.

Do we take all of these kids away from their parents and put them in nice secular homes? Do we force these children to be secularized by mandating an education in science? Do we force the parents to attend secular counseling? I mean, what are you prepared to do in order to stop this “child abuse”? How far are you willing to go in order to ensure the “greater good”?

Listen, there are real, traumatic examples of child abuse in the name of Christian faith out there. One only has to read Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child to understand the lengths that some believers will go to twist scripture to conform to their dementia. These are the people society needs to be looking at, not the church goers in the film above.

So, yeah, there are many of us out there who believe that marketing ideas like these to children is repugnant:


Or even…

But we also realize that this is a battle of ideas. Nonsense like this cannot be countered with claims of “child abuse”. It is countered in the marketplace of ideas. It is countered by the genius of Carl Sagan or Ann Druyan or Neil Tyson and even Richard Dawkins.

If we continue on with this idea of “child abuse”, the consequences could be dire:

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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