Atheist Richard Dawkins’ ‘Mild Pedophilia’ Sex Abuse Claims Spark Furor

Sep. 12, 2013 8:21am Billy Hallowell

Outrage and confusion over atheist scientist Richard Dawkins’ recent comments about “mild pedophilia” continue to abound. His contentious statements were made in a recent Times Magazine interview during which he discussed the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
In his upcoming autobiography, the 72-year-old evolutionary biologist described his own ordeal, noting that he does not believe that it had a lasting impact on his life. His comments on the matter, of course, have created quite a bit of contention among experts and advocates who feel that what Dawkins said is patently damaging and wrong-headed.
Headliner Richard Dawkins, founder of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, spoke during the National Atheist Organization’s ‘Reason Rally’ March 24, 2012 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images North America

In the Times interview, he recalled how one of his former school masters once put him on his knee and “put his hand inside” of his shorts. Here’s how the event is written about in his coming memoir, “An Appetite for Wonder” (as per the Friendly Atheist blog):
One day — I must have been about 11 — there was a master in the gallery with me. He pulled me onto his knee and put his hand inside my shorts. He did no more than have a little feel, but it was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing. As soon as I could wriggle off his lap, I ran to tell my friends, many of whom had had the same experience with him. I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage, but some years later he killed himself.
Clearly a traumatic event, the atheist took a different take on how it should be understood.

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours,” Dawkins told the Times. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”
Then, he added that he believes that the experience didn’t do him or any of the other students who were abused by the teacher “lasting harm.” The Daily Mail adds that Dawkins also essentially distinguished between varying levels of pedophilia.” In the scientist’s view, “mild touching up” should not be compared to other violent acts that include rape and murder.
The interview and his comments almost instantaneously sparked angst and outrage.