Faeries, Elves, and Magic Spells

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.

It turns out, however, that he was actually getting this from several news sources.

Let us first note three things about our three sources:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

However…

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…

Ahem.

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.

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.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Hey, I am a Potter nerd too! 🙂 I have reread the first six books around 10 times. I can, in a lot of details, recite the plot of the books, though not in a particular order, which was an annoyance to my brother because he wanted me to get right to the point when he wanted me to remind him of the plot. I also have a Deathly Hallows poster pasted on the wall right besides my Earth/Mars comparison poster. I have rewatched the movies in DVD after watching them in theaters for every Potter movie. I also go to a Potter website and stuff. It seems like I am not as Potter nerdy as you, though.

  2. Hi,
    Thats was the coolest part by you IBY. I like your way of comment. “Deathly Hallows poster pasted on the wall right besides my Earth/Mars comparison poster” WOW! Thats just shaking at my imagination… Thanks buddy…!

  3. I’m a scientist, not a sociologist!

    Harry Potter is one of the shared experiences of our generation’s childhoods. I know a lot of people my age, who were literally growing up with Harry (I’ve had more than one book come out on or near my birthday), feel that the end of the series was the end of their childhoods. A lot of people claim it’s not great writing, but it’s good enough to trigger the imaginations of a generation of children. And fantasy and science fiction don’t make anyone less rationalist. It’s an escape; we don’t need the appearance of magic in our real lives because we get our fix elsewhere.

    I honestly wouldn’t mind if people went over to Wicca instead of Christianity. It’s a far more gentle and liberal faith. We rationalists can at least get on with them, which is more than can be said for the kind of people who think Harry Potter is evil.

  4. Hey, I’m a skeptic and I still love to read fantasy more than anything. When I was little I desperately did want to believe in magic, and maybe that was related to the amount of fantasy I read, I don’t know. But I definitely was aware that it was fiction.

    You know what I’d love to read? A fantasy novel in which magic is real, but someone still approaches it with a healthy amount of skepticism. After all, just because some laws of physics are being broken doesn’t mean everything is possible, and you could still study it scientifically and find the rules and patterns that do apply. That would be nice.

  5. Posted by 1minionsopinion on October 27, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    When I read the article, I got the impression that Dawkins wants to maybe explore the difference between mythical stories of events and the actual basis for the stories. Some of the emphasis would be on religious stories taught by parents to be literal truth when there’s little scientific evidence to support it.

    But, even I find it interesting how freaked parents get over Harry Potter thinking that their children would really become witches and wizards because they’ve read the books. I’ve written up a couple different posts on my own blog about that type of thing. I think largely it’s an irrational fear on the part of the parents and the more they freak about it, the more interested the kids will be in checking out a book on Wicca just to see what the fuss is about.

  6. Posted by Santiago on October 27, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Ah, but what if he was using a Dvorak keyboard layout? Then the D would indeed be right next to the H.

  7. Posted by Funkopolis on October 28, 2008 at 12:22 am

    So THIS is the “Emma Watson Dawkins” post everyone’s been looking for…..

  8. Musesusan: Ponder Stibbons from the Discworld novels does just that… he wants a world that makes sense, but he lives in a world that changes to make better stories.

  9. Posted by John Morales on October 28, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Inconveniently, I can’t seem to find anything that has the full, in-context quotes

    Someone posted the clip on YouTube.

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