January 22, 2013

Climate change, child abuse and nightmares

Richard Dawkins argues that religious indoctrination of children amounts to child abuse, and that child mental abuse - the instillation of irrational fear and feelings of guilt - is more painful and long lasting than some types of physical abuse.
Perversely marketed in a pseudo-scientific wrapper, the environmentalist religion shares both the sado-masochistic - sin, guilt, and hell - and the self-congratulating - liturgy, communion, and salvation - ingredients of Christianity. Poor children.
I wrote this five years ago. In these five years my now almost 13-year old son has asked me now and then about religion, politics and other aspects of collective human behavior. I have tried to answer truthfully to his questions. Sometimes I have given him more details than he had asked for. But I have never told him the scary details. I could have told him vivid stories about the horrors of religion, socialism, nationalism, racism or environmentalism. I have never had. I have tried to convey the irrationality of those beliefs while avoiding the terrifying details. And I have also told him about the good things the collective behavior of people has brought us and will keep bringing us in the future.

He has asked me about spiders and sharks much more often than about politics and religion. Given his views about those poor guys, I have always been reassuring. Still, there was the occasional nightmare. And before riding his sail to windsurf one day this last fall, he again wanted to talk with me and our instructor about "the sharks".

This is Corey Bradshaw in a blog post titled Scaring our children with the future:
Why is this happening? Why are people not doing anything about it? Why are there so many stupid people in the world continuing to emit greenhouse gases without considering my future (again, highly paraphrased from 5-year old syntax)?
You know, I couldn’t honestly answer, because these are the same questions I’ve been asking myself for years. Do you know what a 5-year old does when contemplating an uncertain and dangerous future that seems to have no solution? She cries. She has nightmares, and her na├»ve mind can’t comprehend why anyone would let this happen to her, or why her parents can’t spare her that fate. Her worst episodes lasted about 2 weeks, but the subject is brought up now again and again. I can only comfort her by saying that, “I’m trying”.
Some parents might think I was too forthright and that I should have protected her innocence until she was at least a little older. Bullshit, I say. This is bloody scary stuff and if the youngest generation doesn’t understand this, then we have no hope at all. We need to inundate schools – from primary to university – with the mind-blowing reality of what we’re doing to our only home.
I want to comment on only two of Bradshaw's mistakes, and leave aside the more obvious, sad ones. First, as it seems that Bradshaw doesn't cope very well with the concept and full practical and moral implications of externalities, I don't expect him to properly educate a 5-year old child on them. So, the prognosis on the comprehension issue is pretty bad. (Not than I am any better at that. I can't get my university students to correctly apply the concept even after theoretical analysis, numerical and nonnumerical examples related and unrelated to their everyday lives, and playing cards with them.)

Second, in the improbable case that welfare deteriorates in Australia, where Bradshaw lives, and other places, it is still in the hands of our childs' generation to overcome xenophobia and allow emigration to places like Europe where conditions will almost certainly improve.

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