Date: 27/09/2020
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Pseudsday Tuesday

God knows what kids get up to at summer camp. God and Nabokov, who may be one and the same. Richard Dawkins doesn't believe in Him - God, that is - and so his camp is of an altogether different kind. From The Sunday Times:

India Jago, aged 12, and her brother Peter, 11 [...] are among 24 children who will be taking part in Britain’s first summer camp for atheists.

The five-day retreat is being subsidised by Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, and is intended to provide an alternative to faith-based summer camps normally run by the Scouts and Christian groups.


While afternoons at the camp will involve familiar activities such as canoeing and swimming, the youngsters’ mornings will be spent debunking supernatural phenomena such as the formation of crop circles and telepathy. Even Uri Geller’s apparent ability to bend spoons with his mind will come under scrutiny.

The emphasis on critical thinking is epitomised by a test called the Invisible Unicorn Challenge. Children will be told by camp leaders that the area around their tents is inhabited by two unicorns. The activities of these creatures, of which there will be no physical evidence, will be regularly discussed by organisers, yet the children will be asked to prove that the unicorns do not exist. Anyone who manages to prove this will win a £10 note - which features an image of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory - signed by Dawkins, a former professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

That would be one of those £10 notes that "promise to pay the bearer" with gold that doesn't exist. And what if the unicorns only come to life if you don't believe in them? And what the heck is a "professor of the public understanding of science"?

The whole point of organised kids' camping is to rebel, with secret chats about Rude Things among the guy ropes. What will these children, doubtless innoculated against Christianity from the cradle, rebel against? One thing's for sure, if I were a twelve-year-old boy and some camp leader tried to tell me there were no unicorns, I would get the horn and give it to him straight.