Harry Potter and the Rationalists of Teen Skepchick
(This post was cross-posted from Splendid Elles while wearing a backwards Harry Potter baseball cap and chewing gum.)
Here’s a chat log between me and one of my friends last night:
[21:29] Amar: richard dawkins is attacking harry potter
[21:30] Elles: That was random.
[21:30] Amar: but true
[21:31] Amar: hes going crazy
[21:32] Elles: …?
[21:33] Amar: hes a loon
[21:34] Elles: I see.
[21:34] Amar: 🙂
Since I was busy sorting out some technical difficulties with Skype I decided there were more important things to worry about than what Richard Dawkins thought of Harry Potter. I figured that my friend was probably just saying random stuff to get my attention.
Let us first note three things about our three sources:
- The Telegraph spelled “wizardry” wrong and called Dawkins “Prof Hawkins”. A missing R I can understand. But I checked my keyboard, and you can check yours. The D is nowhere near the H. News sources have spelling errors all the time, but to not notice that you just called him “Prof Hawkins”, well, let’s just say it looks like they weren’t all too careful with the article. Wouldn’t it be cool of Stephen Hawking were a gnome, though?
- NewKerala makes two errors in the first two paragraphs. First of all, Dawkins never said anything about doing any research into this. Why would he? He’s a fraking biologist, not a sociologist (Insert Star-Trek-Nerd “I’m a doctor not a…” joke here). Also he no longer is the Charles Simonyi Professor for something-or-other having just retired.
- It’s the Daily Mail. ‘Nuff said.
Now on to the actual quote… except all these news sources have taken these quotes out of order and put them all over the place so I don’t know which order they’re suppose to go in.
Looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something for research.
I haven’t read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children’s author that one might mention and I love his books. I don’t know what to think about magic and fairy tales.
Notice how he never explicitly says “Harry Potter is bad!” He talks about fantasy in general and uses Potter as an example.
Inconveniently, I can’t seem to find anything that has the full, in-context quotes so we really can’t tell what Dawkins really meant, although it seems that this is all just a much-ado-about-nothing.
It has brought up an interesting question, so let us disregard what Dawkins thinks or doesn’t think.
Harry Potter is interesting and if you don’t agree you can…
I love Harry Potter.
I have a book display from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in my room, I have all seven books, I have all the movies (and I wouldn’t be too doubtful that I had at least the first part of Sorceror’s Stone memorised), I used to have a small cult-following on a Harry Potter forum I used to go to because I knew so much about it, I have a Gryffindor robe, I have a Ravenclaw scarf that I knitted myself, and I have an autographed photo of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.
No, not nearly the level of obsession as some Potter fans, and I haven’t re-read the series in a while (I need to get on that), but yes. I know what it’s like to be a Potter-nerd, more so when I was younger than I am now because school takes time away exponentially as you grow older.
It is quite obvious that the vast majority of children will at least grow up to understand that it is all fiction.
But there is something about that enchanted world of Hogwarts that did make me want to open the mail box one day, telling me that I was a witch and that I could go off to Hogwarts, a place that seemed better than where I was.
I wanted to go to the world of Harry Potter. I wanted to believe. Badly.
I could understand it whenever my HP friends in real life or on the Internet started getting into Wicca. I always thought it was a load of rubbish, but I dabbled with a few spells… which never worked.
I will actually agree with the fundies… HP led a lot of kids to get into Wicca. But just because you’re a Harry Potter fan does not necessarily mean that you will become a Wiccan, and I seriously doubt that the majority of Harry Potter fans ever really get into that Wicca stuff.
If a kid went and read Harry Potter and wasn’t able to understand that it was fiction, the fault does not lie in the parent for letting their child read Harry Potter, but for not teaching their child how to distinguish fiction from reality. And, something that comes up with people of faith, for not teaching them the radical idea that just because you want something to be true makes it true.
If Harry Potter in any way contributes to irrational thinking the fault lies not in Potter, but in ourselves for not being capable of (or willing to) differentiating between fiction and reality.
Though I like reality a lot there is nothing wrong with a little bit of escapism as long as you come back when it comes time to come back.
One more thing, if Dawkins really does have something against Harry Potter, I’m not going to rearrange my bookshelf so that his books are further away from my Potter books, but I will confront him about it next time I see him. If I want to annoy him enough I’ll also have a backwards baseball cap on and the biggest wad of chewing gum I can find in my mouth.