Thursday various

  • I just assumed we were past the whole “Harry Potter is bad for children!” But I guess Richard Dawkins didn’t get that memo:
  • The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in “anti-scientific” fairytales.Prof Hawkins said: “The book I write next year will be a children’s book on how to think about the world, science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking.

    “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.”

    I do like that he’s willing to think about the issue critically. He’s actually not saying the books are harmful; he’s saying the possibility of their detrimental effect on children should be examined closely. But still, the underlying assumption — that children read these fairy tales and believe in them, that they are unable to differentiate fantasy from reality — seems to me rather flawed. It’s an assumption we usually see from fundamentalist Christian groups who are afraid that witchcraft will poison the minds of our youth. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see it come from the other side of the aisle.

  • Twilight Body Glitter — now there’s something with a detrimental effect! [via]
  • “Michael Platt’s editorial on July 21, 2008 may have inadvertently left the impression that General Motors in some way supported neo-Nazis.” Regret the Error has many more. [via]
  • A helpful Guide to Understanding Flow Charts, courtesy of xkcd.
  • Job discrimination against World of Warcraft players? I don’t play — watching The Guild is about the closest I get — but even so, what worker doesn’t sometimes lose focus or have erratic sleep patterns? These recruiters might want to check out the counter-argument.

3 comments to Thursday various

  • As a true blue, card carrying atheist (as well as someone who hates the Harry Potter phenomenon), I must respectfully ask Dawkins to shut the fuck up. Fantasy and myth-making are vital parts of the human experience which play important roles in social development. And they don’t necessarily have to lead to blind allegiance to organized religion, either. The dude needs to lay off and stop giving the movement a bad name.

  • Fred

    Out of curiosity, can I ask why you hate the Harry Potter phenomenon?

    I think there are more deserving YA books out there, but I generally enjoyed the books and all but the first couple of movies. (I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen the second one all the way through.)

  • Well, maybe “hate” is a strong word. But it’s never seemed in the least bit interesting to me, so I guess it’s always been a little personally annoying to me for the whole culture going gaga over something that’s just so… boring. Of course, the insanely rabid fans and fandom/fanfic don’t help, either.

    And then there’s the “at least it’s getting kids to read” argument, which I don’t totally buy. Sure, they’re reading the Harry Potter books or the occasional other blockbuster that comes along (Twilight, etc.). But is it really a gateway to a life of reading? I haven’t really seen that in my experience of working with college kids every day, but your mileage may vary on that one, I suppose.

    I guess the bottom line for me is that it seems to be a lot of hype without a lot of substance. Pretty much the same reason I dislike, say, American Idol.