This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The improbable frog: a rant.

Much has been said about Professor Richard Dawkins' recent words on the subject of fairy stories.

“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?...

“Even fairy tales, the ones we all love, with wizards, or princesses turning into frogs or whatever it was. There’s a very interesting reason why a princess could not turn into a frog – it’s statistically too improbable.”

(May I just point out here that if a thing is statistically improbable it actually means that it can happen, not that it can't?)

Still, Professor Dawkins words were produced in the heat of a moment so we can't expect them to have been very carefully considered.

His later tweet, though, in response to the uproar, really should have been:

“Might foster supernaturalism. On balance more likely to help critical thinking.”

And he's right, stories about wizards might help critical thinking.
The essential thing about fairy stories, though, is that they're about people (even if sometimes they're dressed up as frogs, giants or witches).

And people? They do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons and non-reasons, and one of the most important things to bear in mind is that logic and critical thinking may not get you anywhere near understanding any of it.

But, you know something?
A fairy tale just might.

Word To Use Today: dawk. This is a Northern English dialect word for a hand.



  1. Yes, exactly....the fantastical stuff is just decor...the stories are about real people and sometimes very nasty things they do to one another. But the good Prof is apparently now saying fairy tales are okay!

    1. Is he? Good for him for thinking it is possible that he may be wrong.