Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Born believers?

Reasonable Doubts has an interesting new podcast titled Are We Born to Believe?  
Some atheists have argued that children are naturally non-believers. Were it not for indoctrination at the hands of parents and clergy children would never pick up supernatural beliefs on their own and religion would wither and die. But a growing body of research in developmental psychology suggests just the opposite. Children have a natural inclination to believe in invisible, immortal, super-knowing agents who are responsible for design in the natural world. For this first part in a series on the evolved origins of religious belief the doubtcasters review two books  (Justin Barrett’s Born Believers and Jesse Berring’s the Belief Instinct) which make the case that religious belief is not only natural–it is almost inevitable.
The podcast tackles some interesting theory of mind issues, as well as some of the latest research in developmental psychology

The idea that we are born believers has interesting implications.  Many atheists want to believe that if we could only eradicate religion, people would suddenly become more rational, moral, etc.  However, this has not empirically been the case.  In countries with low rates of religiosity, such as Sweden, there is still a great deal of belief in mysticism, pseudoscience, "new age" philosophies, and the like.

An interest point made near the end of the podcast is that all of this research points to one thing -- children gravitate to supernatural explanations on their own.  Any parent knows that!  However, children still need to be indoctrinated into all of the twisted dogma of religion, which is what people like Richard Dawkins mean by "there is no such thing as a Christian child."

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