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Public School intellectual and expert on selfishness says “mild pedophilia,” causes no “lasting harm”

In case you thought the public school system was only into power politics or brutish ‘Muscular Christianity’ and  – except for Winchester, of course – couldn’t produce intellectuals (no this is not a story about Boris!) but only Wounded Leaders, think again!

For now along comes our favourite intellectual, Richard Dawkins (Oundle and Oxford) once more, to tell us we shouldn’t be bothered about a bit of “mild touching up”.

That’s how the famous biologist and atheist describes the sexual abuse that apparently occurred among his former classmates. In a recent interview in that other powerhouse of the truth The Times, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”

Well that’s a relief. Thank God (oh no, forget that please – Dawkins says there isn’t one! Sorry… how stupid of me). Let’s try again:

Thank Oxford for this phenomenal brain and source of limitless empathy who has spent most of his life seeding the idea that selfishness built into our genes and the survival-of-the-fittest (and definitely not any cooperation!) interpretation of Darwin, which these days looks as broad a perspective as a glance out of a narrow window in All Souls College.

Will he be an expert at long-awaited governmental enquiry into alleged sexual abuse in the bowels of the establishment? God knows (sorry again) we need someone to sort that mess out – doesn’t look good for the Old Chaps, does it?

Lets hope he is called. I’d love to see how the Survivors respond – it should be enough jam his Twitter box for a while.


  1. Nick, as a convinced atheist myself I do wonder whether you aren’t overdoing the anti-Dawkins thing. I welcome the publishing of a few books by Dawkins, Hitchens, etc as an antidote to 2,000 of Christianity in which, before the European secular Enlightenment, we had superstition, heresy and witchcraft trials, torture on demand, Old Testament fire and brimstone from the pulpit and fines for people who didn’t go to church. Surely we are the people of the Enlightenment, not of Christianity. Free speech, freedom of action (within reason), independent judiciary, habeas corpus, etc etc. I understand your concerns about the “rational man project” but aren’t we losing sight of the original enlightenment impulses? I lost my faith at the avowedly Christian Christ’s Hospital when a housemate of mine was severely beaten for making a serious point about religion but couched in rather impudent language, to an avowedly religious housemaster. If you can only defend your religion by beating out dissent or resorting to clever sophistry (as our two chaplains did) I pondered, then I want none of this mumbo-jumbo with its baffling Father, Son and Holy Ghost dogma. I’m not averse to Eastern sects such as the Hinduism that you encountered, since I believe that these practices are designed to balance your life better in the here and now. But the dogma-filled faith that I was force-fed at school still seems like a massive puzzle. Perhaps I’m just too logically minded!

    Comment by David Redshaw on 11/08/2015 at 8:20 pm
  2. Thanks for this, David – really important points and I sympathise with the drift.

    What I see, however, is that the Enlightenment – especially in what Chomsky calls the “Anglosphere” – morphed into The Rational Man Project by being bolted on to ‘muscular’ Christianity. In the process it lost its wisdom and values while following the hyper-masculine god Progress.

    This involved a twin sacrifice of our most basic nature, what I call the ‘Indigenous’ inside of us: our sexual and emotional/ intuitive nature. Christianity fails by exiling our sexuality including the feminine (where is God the mother?) and The Rational Man Project only succeeds by splitting of vulnerability, emotion and imagination.

    Boarders suffer from these twin sacrifices as wounds to their souls, but together they know how to make a society for for making money and keeping things in their place, which is now on the point of collapse. Dawkins is a perfect product of this – even an ex-boarder – and his snarling superiority I believe is misplaced anger about it.

    The philosopher John Gray points out that both the Enlightenment and Christianity have a common philosophic base in Humanism. All very well up to a point, but full of hubris. So someone like Dawkins is rooted in progress rather than purpose.

    He champions the now worn out competitiveness interpretations of Darwin, not seeing how evolution wants us to respond to the environment and self-regulate in order to align with its purpose. Not having a sense of the whole or of purpose, he confounds organised religion – so many of the absurdities of Christianity are easy to see through since they belong to a mythic stage of consciousness (see Ken Wilber) – and misses any concept of spirituality in his arrogance. He poopoos vulnerability and fails to see that the abuse of children is against Sacred Law. If we cannot protect our innocent children what progress have we really made?

    Interestingly, many wise elders in indigenous societies see widespread child abuse as a symptom of a society that has parted from Sacred Law; tragically, as they have been devastated by modernism many remaining indigenous societies are now rife with child abuse alongside drug and alcohol abuse, in the Americas and Australasia in particular, as their own behaviour expresses the symptom of the problem – classic psychological systemic acting out.

    Comment by Nick Duffell on 14/08/2015 at 2:24 pm
  3. Nick, I’m trying to understand what you say (as a non-psychiatrist) and I think I’ve kind of got a handle on it, but as far as Dawkins goes, can I protest that I don’t think he’s trying to endorse a “law of the jungle” society. I’ve not read The Selfish Gene but in The God Delusion he summarises the theory of the selfish gene and is at pains to emphasise that the selfish gene is just one part of an overall picture in what he calls a “glorious misfiring” in which, far from making us more selfish, mankind has been blessed with the ability to empathise with groups outside our own family, tribe and indeed species. Have I got this wrong? By the way, I don’t agree with his acceptance of mild “groping” at boarding schools although I do agree with him that the psychological abuse imposed on children by heavily religious parents (in the bible belt of America for instance) may be just as bad. There were two “mild gropers” among the masters when I was at boarding school but they were dealt with very quickly after complaints. I’m not sure how much lasting damage was done. I was surrounded by heavily religious relatives when young, and indeed my sponsor to Christ’s Hospital, although a kind man, was fanatically religious, and so it was some years after leaving that I learned to be at all free thinking. I understand the need for the “female principle” that you speak of which exists in some (but not all) religions. But I tend to cleave to the late Tony Judt in his book Ill Fares the Land when he says that we have seen the demise of faith religion but are still struggling to put the ethical society in its place, not helped, as you observe by the onset of Friedmanite neoliberalism for the last thirty-five years. Is faith religion relevant any longer? Can we expect people to believe this stuff in this day and age? How do we move on?

    Comment by David Redshaw on 16/08/2015 at 7:46 pm
  4. David, I appreciate how you are wrestling with this.

    I think we have to revisit the inner purpose of religions, which for me has psycho-spiritual context. The organizers of religions as wells as the detractors like Dawkins always miss the inner point while focus on the outer – or literalist – interpretations. Check out this for a linking of psycho-spiritual and the political:

    Comment by Nick Duffell on 17/08/2015 at 2:04 pm

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