Sexual assault victims’ organizations are slamming evolutionary biologist and leading atheist Richard Dawkins for comments he made about the inoffensiveness of “mild pedophilia.”
Dawkins made the remarks in a recent interview with The Times magazine. He said that during his time at a boarding school as a boy in the 1950s, a teacher “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts.” Dawkins described the incident as “mild pedophilia” that left him no worse off. Neither Dawkins nor the other boys abused by this teacher suffered permanent physical or mental damage, he said.
“I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm,” said Dawkins.
Dawkins also said that it was improper to judge the acts committed by this teacher by today’s higher moral standards.
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours,” he said. “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.”
His perspective on sexual assault drew strong criticism from numerous victims’ rights organizations, including Peter Watt, director of child protection at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
“Mr. Dawkins seems to think that because a crime was committed a long time ago we should judge it in a different way,” said Watt, according to The Washington Post. “But we know that the victims of sexual abuse suffer the same effects whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.”
“Mild touching up,” is not the same thing as rape or murder, he said.
Dawkins’s memoir, “An Appetite for Wonder,” will be released on Thursday.