Do they believe in magic?

Richard Dawkins opinion of godWhatever would the world of religious journalism do without noted British evolutionary biologist -- and even more famous atheist -- Richard Dawkins? One might say the Oxford professor is God's gift to the British press.

Dawkins has made news again, both in the U.K. and over here, by announcing that he's got a new project: taking a look at "anti-scientific fairytales" like Harry Potter -- and the "Judeo-Christian myth." Including the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as targets is no shock -- Dawkins is a well-known foe of established religion in general. But going after the legions of Harry Potter fans?

Now that's something potentially newsworthy.

"Atheist Richard Dawkins warns Harry Potter could have 'negative effect on children'" is the headline of the (Daily) Mail Online story.

The anonymous "reporter" begins with this sassy lede.

Outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins is to warn children of the dangers in believing "anti-scientific" fairytales such as Harry Potter.

Prof Dawkins will write a book aimed at youngsters where he will discuss whether stories like the successful JK Rowling series have a "pernicious" effect on children. The 67-year-old, who recently resigned from his position at Oxford University, says he intends to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards."

But hold on -- aren't we really talking about a slight tempest in a tea-pot here? As would most scientists, Dawkins has a hypothesis about these stories -- he doesn't yet have a conclusion.

'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.'

However, the outspoken atheist said he hadn't even read Harry Potter and admitted he "didn't know what to think about magic and fairytales". He said the book will be "science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking" and will talk about the Judeo-Christian myth.' "

If the professor hasn't decided what he thinks about 'magic and fairy tales," why should the press? To attract a few more readers?

The Dawkins fairy-tale is also the subject of an article by Martin Beckford and Urmee Khan on the Telegraph website.

"Harry Potter fails to cast spell over Professor Richard Dawkins" is the come-hither headline on the Telegraph's website.

Beckford and Khan also seem to know the professor's mind -- even before he does.

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."

A few paragraphs later, the writers quote Dawkins as saying that he wishes to examine the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards."

"I think it is anti-scientific -- whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

Now there's a bit of real controversy, buried deep within the article -- how many parents bring up their children to believe in spells and wizards?

For a wonderfully thoughtful opinion on what happens if we follow Dawkins to his potential conclusion, read Scott Galupo's paean to imagination in the Washington Times. And stay tuned -- the collaboration between the highly press-savvy scientist and his apparently news-starved media friends will surely provide us with more fodder.

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