Reading fairy tale stories to children may harm them by enforcing a false belief in the supernatural, according to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Dawkins, a professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, warned of the dangers of teaching children "statistically improbable" facts from fairy tales by encouraging a belief in Santa Claus, wizards and princesses.
He suggested children should be taught scientific facts rather than fictional fantasy at a young age. "I think it's rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism," he reportedly said. "We get enough of that anyway."
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Dawkins questioned whether the delight of fairy stories might hold children back, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"Is it a good thing to go along with the fantasies of childhood, magical as they are?" he said. "Or should we be fostering a spirit of scepticism?"
Dawkins told the audience he had stopped believing in Father Christmas when he was just 21 months old after realising a man called Sam had donned a costume.
Dawkins also described his 'flirtation' with religion until the age of eight. "I think I did believe it up to the age of eight or nine, when preachers said if you really, really pray for something it can happen," he said. "Even moving mountains – I believed it could really happen."
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