It’s been said that no publicity is bad publicity. Richard Dawkins is in the news for his recent comments on pedophilia. In an interview the famous evolutionary biologist noted that the “mild pedophilia” he experienced as a child did him no “lasting harm.” You can read the full story at Salon.
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. 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.”
As a general rule, it is true that it is futile to judge our ancestors by our current standards, however I’m not sure I’d say that Dawkins childhood was really in another “era.” And while the sort of pedophilia he describes may have happened in that era, it was not acceptable then as it is not now. The difference is that then, just as Dawkins is now doing, society would have hushed it it up and minimized it, telling the child to “get over it.”
It’s hard to be angry at Dawkins. He is, in many respects, a victim who is still living in the narrative of the 1940s and 1950s during which this event took place.