Perhaps the most outspoken person against the idea of religious indoctrination of children is Richard Dawkins. When writing about it in The God Delusion or talking about it in interviews and such, he becomes quite venomous toward those who would teach their children their own system of beliefs.
What I find interesting is that he doesn’t seem to even realize that he is begging the question. While Dawkins is a renowned biologist, one thing that those who have critiqued such works as The God Delusion or The Blind Watchmaker have all concluded is that Dawkins is a very poor philosopher and a worse theologian.
On the latter point, I’m betting Dawkins would be grateful of that as he has quite a negative view on the entire concept of “theology” as an acceptable area of study. I find this also to be quite ironic as the books mentioned are, essentially, books on theology in quite a real sense. Theology being the study of God and his books being basically treatises of the conclusions he’s come to after…well…studying God, it seems he fancies himself a theologian, though he despises the very field of study he has endeavored to engage in.
But, I digress…
The main point I wanted to make was with respect to Dawkins’ views on the indoctrination of children. As noted in The God Delusion, Dawkins states:
“Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.”
Once again, the irony is almost tangible. My guess is, from reading his book, that Dawkins would have no problem teaching children about Darwinian evolution, natural selection, random mutation, etc. Yet, isn’t this also, by definition, a form of indoctrination? Well, not according to Dawkins. You see, these things are proven facts. Right? Well, they’ve been sufficiently proven to Dawkins and that seems to be all that really matters. If he approves of the subject matter in question, then indoctrination is not a problem.
But, say those who leap to Dawkins’ defence, the things Dawkins approves of are so because they have been scientifically proven. Really? Hmmm. Interesting. I wonder…what exactly would be the scientific evidence we have for such things as the “multi-verse” theory? That is the theory put forth to overcome the argument from design (i.e. the apparent design and fine-tuning of our universe for intelligent life is evidence of a divine creator) by positing an infinite number of universes, therefore it is highly probable that one of these universes should be fine-tuned in such a way as that in which we find ourselves.
I have yet to see any evidence of such a multi-verse. What’s more, many proponents of such an idea will often claim that no evidence even can exist because the laws of physics would be different in those other universes which would, by definition, make it impossible for us to observe, test, measure or otherwise even know that they exist. That’s convenient, isn’t it? And this from the group that often likes to remind us that to make a theory tenable, there has to be a way to disprove it. In other words, if there are no possible circumstances under which a theory can be proven false, then it is not a legitimate theory to begin with.
Yet, Dawkins (whether or not he believes in the multi-verse theory) seems to have no venom or strong feelings whatsoever toward proponents of this view. He accepts it as a theory that has some merit to it and should be looked into (though I’m not sure what that would mean, since it’s been determined to be impossible). The same logic does not apply to theology and other beliefs that actually have things like archaeological evidence, eyewitness testimony, historical records, etc.
I guess, in the end, the way we should determine what we should teach our children is to send all of our intended curriculum to Richard Dawkins and have him look it over. As long as he agrees with everything, or at least doesn’t have a major problem with it, we are free to indoctrinate our children with that information. If Dawkins doesn’t like it or it has anything to do with anything outside the material world, it should be thrown out and left untaught.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
How are you indoctrinating your children?
Grace, love and peace.