(image from Why Evolution Is True)
Mason Crumpacker is the 8-year-old girl (now nine) who caused such a stir at the recent Texas Freethought Convention in Houston when she asked Christopher Hitchens a question.
Here's her mother's account of the event. It begins like this:
Finally, Mason’s mom Anne sends the following account of the episode:
“Mommy, I want to ask a question.”
I looked up from my cheesecake, “Yes?”
“No, I want to ask a question on the microphone. Can I?”
“I suppose.” Sip of coffee.“Is it a good question?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Is it respectful?”
“Well, how do I do it?”
I’m back to the cheesecake, “You’ll need to find the man with the microphone.”
And then, in one of my more embarrassing parenting moments, my eight-year-old daughter trotted off into the darkened ballroom of approximately one thousand hardcore atheists in pursuit of an answer.
I won't post the rest, but it really is a great read. Christopher Hitchens, who's currently dying of cancer, ended up spending 15 minutes talking to the girl.
On Friday, the Dallas News published an interview with Mason. You can read the whole thing here, but I'll just pick out a few of the questions and answers I thought were particularly fun. (Remember, this girl has just turned nine.)
Why did you decide to go to an atheist convention?
I thought it would be interesting to meet different freethinkers and see what they thought about the world. I just wanted to boost my intellectual curiosity.
How does a religion have to “make sense”?
If someone questions [a religious belief] and just says, how do you know this is right? The priest says: Well, it’s in the Bible, isn’t it? Everything revolves around the Bible. Some people believe that if the Bible says it, it’s true, completely true. If I do decide to believe in something, they should have further proof.
Without religion, how would children distinguish between right and wrong?
I personally think they would have their parents to guide them along the way. And if their parents were raised right, they could have an open mind, have fun and be safe.
Why did you decide it was important to ask a question of Hitchens?
Because I had just found out that he was dying, and he’s a brilliant man. And I felt that his knowledge of the world shouldn’t be wasted, and that someone should continue what he started.
Where will he go when he dies?
Did he answer you the way you expected to be answered?
Yes. He was very honest to me and very, very nice. I think all adults should be honest to kids with their answers and take them seriously. They’re living people, too. I especially hate when adults dumb it down for me.
So which are you, an atheist, an agnostic or a freethinker?
I wouldn’t say I’ve decided my religion yet. I’m going to kind of experiment around and see if there’s any religion I like in particular. But if I do decide to be a freethinker, the chances are very high. … I just want it all to make sense.
Is there anything that Hitchens has said or written that you don’t agree with?
I haven’t read Christopher Hitchens. I’m 9.
Why do you think we’re here? How did we get here?
By evolution. We evolved from tiny little microscopic cells, which formatted into bigger cells, which created the first fish, who slowly evolved into lizards, who became the dinosaurs. And then [they] kind of started over again but took a different path to becoming the first mammal, which became the chimp-like creature we call Australopithecus afarensis, who slowly evolved into Homo habilis, who evolved into Homo erectus, to Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon people who slowly gave way to who we are. [She turns to her parents.] Did I do good with that? … [She then translates each into French.]
These are the kinds of questions that occupy a lot of adult thought. People might want to know: Why aren’t you busy thinking 9-year-old thoughts? Why aren’t you just enjoying your childhood?
I am enjoying my childhood. I’m kind of shocked about that. I think questioning beliefs is good for a 9-year-old, since most 9-year-olds are halfway out of the house. It’s a good time to start questioning things and questioning their beliefs and making them become good people who know a lot about the world.
That's one smart little kid, isn't she? I particularly liked that, "I haven't read Christopher Hitchens. I'm 9."
Note that I just picked out some of the questions and answers from that interview. But it makes me a little more optimistic for the future if this is the kind of kids we Americans are raising.