Edit: Never mind; I am indeed doing the man an injustice, as shown by his comments here. I’ll leave the post up anyway, because I am still making a point I believe true, even if I’m arguing with a straw man.
Which is most unusual. But if his views are being presented at all accurately inthis article, then he has gone off the deep end. Short form: He is wondering whether the likes of Harry Potter and other fantasy stories are as harmful to children, producing as anti-scientific a worldview, as religion. He is intending to spend his retirement studying the effect, apparently. (Nothing is said of how he would measure such a thing, or disentangle it from other effects.)
Well, if this is his considered opinion, then I call bullshit! There is a huge difference between fiction straightforwardly presented as such, eg Harry Potter, and fiction presented as both fact and moral instruction, eg the Bible. And children are perfectly aware of the divide. (At least when they’re old enough to read Harry Potter on their own.) What is more, there is nothing more dangerous than to make of science such an idol, such a set of dogmas, that we cannot even for fun let our imaginations run a bit wild! What sort of idiot would ban imaginative literature in the name of making children think about the real world? The same sort of idiot who would ban it in the name of making children read the Bible, that’s who. And I seriously hope I am doing Dawkins an injustice here.
Science is, among other things, a flight of the imagination. Disciplined imagination held in check by experiment, certainly; but not stifled by a knee-jerk reaction of “This is superstition!” (Or even, “This is unscientific!”) Label fiction as fiction, yes, obviously. You cannot tell a child systematic lies and expect it to grow up to become a truth-teller. But to take away fiction entirely is madness. Imagination needs training, and where else shall we get it? Are we to ask children to try to imagine the evolutionary steps of the eye? They’ll have to glide on half-formed wings before they can fly; and we do want them to fly. Leave Harry Potter alone!