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Born believer

by drizzle
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drizzle
#1
Nov4-09, 04:16 AM
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is it the right place to post this?
I just thought it's intresting..
Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford's Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose.

He says that young children have faith even when they have not been taught about it by family or at school, and argues that even those raised alone on a desert island would come to believe in God.


"The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children's minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God."

In a lecture to be given at the University of Cambridge's Faraday Institute on Tuesday, Dr Barrett will cite psychological experiments carried out on children that he says show they instinctively believe that almost everything has been designed with a specific purpose.

In one study, six and seven-year-olds who were asked why the first bird existed replied "to make nice music" and "because it makes the world look nice".

Another experiment on 12-month-old babies suggested that they were surprised by a film in which a rolling ball apparently created a neat stack of blocks from a disordered heap.

Dr Barrett said there is evidence that even by the age of four, children understand that although some objects are made by humans, the natural world is different.

He added that this means children are more likely to believe in creationism rather than evolution, despite what they may be told by parents or teachers.

Dr Barrett claimed anthropologists have found that in some cultures children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them.

"Children's normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design. In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ic-claims.html
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Garth
#2
Nov4-09, 06:08 AM
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In one study, six and seven-year-olds who were asked why the first bird existed replied "to make nice music" and "because it makes the world look nice".
Is this not a leading question? In other words do not young children, wanting to please the questioner, therefore find an answer that seems to fit the 'why' question?

Garth
redargon
#3
Nov4-09, 06:13 AM
P: 348
Interesting, but a few things that bug me when reading the excerpt in your thread:

Surely they would believe in a god or gods or some kind of equivalent creator, not necessarily God (as in a christian view).

Also, I think that a child will assume anything has a puporse or should have a purpose, but if that thing was created by a being or a person or just is, is not something that I think they would contemplate until they became able to perform abstract thinking at a later age. By asking "why is a bird here", the 'why' will give the person being asked the question the initiative to assume that there is an answer and therefore a purpose for birds. It's almost a loaded question actually. If you just said "bird" and pointed at one, a child or anyone else would respond with a yes or a no or a maybe or confusion, they wouldn't immediately want to tell the purpose of the bird. The 'why' question forces a 'reason' response.

I also do not believe that evolution is such a hard concept to grasp, depending on your age as a child. A child can see things grow and surely understands cause and effect, to a certain degree if it has been experienced. A small kitten becomes a big cat. A tree without fruit or leaves in winter looks very different to the same tree with leaves and fruit and summer. So telling a child that dogs looked different a long time ago wouldn't be too far fetched in a what a child understands in comparison to divine creation, I would assume.

redargon
#4
Nov4-09, 06:13 AM
P: 348
Born believer

ah, beat me to it garth :)-
Wallace
#5
Nov4-09, 06:38 AM
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I think the fact that religion has emerged in every single known human culture indicates that there is some strong reason for that. This kind of study, even if it has some inevitable flaws and biases, sounds interesting.

Suppose we were able to get to the point where it is clear that religious belief gives a significant evolutionary advantage (a proposition that is very plausible in my opinion), to the point of possibly playing a significant role in the emergance of our distant ancestors as the dominant huminoid species (as compared to Neanderthals or others). If we did get to this point, what would that knowledge tell us? If we can rationally find the origin of an irrational belief that has none the less been at the cornerstone of human development, what do we do?

I think it's a very interesting area. My own view would be that only an atheist would be able to truly consider these questions clearly, but what does an atheist do if they can prove that atheism is an evolutionary dead end?
waht
#6
Nov4-09, 01:39 PM
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You couldn't put a group of kids alone on a desert island, because they are not old enough to fend for themselves - they need an older guardian to look after them. If that is the case, the bias lies in the guardian who will instill values and some sort of social norms.

Religion is transmitted that way, from parents to child who are very prone to what the parent tells them.

I'm not sure what will happen if religion is absent from a child's life. I suspect the majority grows up being atheists and agnostics.

Although in tribal societies, religion was a form of strict social norms, which held the tribes together, and that made them stronger. They were held together by fear of deviating from the society's ideals, and the fear of punishment of course.

So given a group of kids starting out with tabula rasa, (clean slate) , a social hierarchy would form based on dominance and submission. The next confident kid, with gifts of eloquence, would come up with an extraordinary idea (hulu is a sun god) and then would transmit that to the others.
Ivan Seeking
#7
Nov4-09, 02:24 PM
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It seems evident to me that the idea of evolution would not naturally occur to a child. What is not clear is why one would assume design rather than timelessness - that things have always been here.

A person of faith might argue that a prediposition to belief in a deity or designer is the result his existence. That is to say that this study would tend to confirm what religions have taught all along - that we are born with an awareness of God [or, god, if you prefer]. Ironic, eh?
Pattonias
#8
Nov6-09, 08:46 AM
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Although, I don't necessarily believe all the conclusions that can be made by evolutionary world views; I never had a problem understanding where the idea came from or how evolution works. It seemed like a perfectly logical conclusion from a young age. I was raised a Creationist, but I have developed much different perspective as I have grown older.
I don't recall ever having difficulty comprehending the evolutionary thinking. I think your understanding would have a lot to do with how you were raised.
Moonbear
#9
Nov6-09, 07:43 PM
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Quote Quote by Garth View Post
Is this not a leading question? In other words do not young children, wanting to please the questioner, therefore find an answer that seems to fit the 'why' question?

Garth
I agree. The question itself presumes things are created for a reason to ask "why."

Also, it is impossible to isolate children from all religious influences, even if the parents do not have any such beliefs. These attitudes are too prevalent in society for one to entirely isolate a child from such ideas.
gunch
#10
Nov7-09, 12:10 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking View Post
It seems evident to me that the idea of evolution would not naturally occur to a child.
I'm pretty sure it naturally occurred to me. I was raised by Christian parents who didn't impose their views on me, but if asked they would simply state that they believed in a god. I think it was in 4th grade that a teacher first mentioned evolution in a class in reference to how animals develop and I distinctly remember thinking that it was a waste of our time to dedicate several weeks to this concept as it was rather self-evident when you realized that parents passes on their traits to their children. Of course I wasn't raised in a completely controlled environment so had been exposed to religion and atheism, but as far as I know the first time I heard of evolution I simply used it to refer to an idea I had already thought about.

I don't think the issue is that children are "born believers", but that they make deductions based on their prior experiences and when you're little all creation you have experienced have been by some human for some reason, so if they're asked about the creation of birds they will instantly imagine a creator with human-like characteristics. A human would make something because it pleases them, and as they like birds for their song, then they assume that the creator of birds must have made them so they can sing. Children, if prompted for a reason, guess that the reason something was created is to have a purpose because that is why humans create things.

I remember before I learnt English, but used a computer, whenever I closed an application it would ask me "Are you sure?". I didn't know what sure meant, but I figured that the computer was annoyed that I terminated our game (having seen similar behavior in other children) and asked if I was annoyed. For quite some time I was certain "sure" meant "annoyed". This is not proof that computers possess humanity, but rather that children tend to overextend the lessons learned from their experiences because they haven't learned where to draw the line yet.

Also I don't really see why this even matters. Even if concept A is harder to grasp than concept B, that doesn't mean that B is right. Especially since you haven't considered C, but even if A or B is true, A could be true. General relativity and quantum field theory doesn't come easy to most six year olds either (I know the article doesn't make a conclusion using this fallacy, but I don't see any other reason for the study than to use/imply this argument).
marcus
#11
Nov7-09, 01:39 PM
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The Templeton Foundation has a goal of blurring the borders between science and religion.

Here is news of the £1.9 million grant:
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~theo0038/Anth...%20summary.htm

To convert to dollars, multiply by 1.66.
It is over $3.1 million.
marcus
#12
Nov7-09, 02:16 PM
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The idea of a creator god is not a genetic, inborn, part of human nature, IMHO. In some cultures the gods exist/existed IN nature and are or were to some extent subject to the conditions of physical existence.

The idea of a Creator, particularly one with conscious intentions (which can serve to explain phenomena to children) is not hard-wired in the brain---I think rather that the Creator idea is a brilliantly creative cultural invention.

The Romans originally had practical gods to be invoked in various circumstances that the gods covered---war, planting, marriage, childbirth, burial etc. Or so I believe.

In northern European religion, the gods got into various scrapes with giants and stuff, but no personality or intelligence was responsible for creating the whole physical universe. As in Roman religion, the World was taken for granted. Please correct me if I am wrong.

In traditional Chinese religions there can be spirits and things you are supposed to do to deal with them and ensure good fortune, but on the whole it's practical, as I understand. They did not think it was necessary to have a Creator. Nobody needed to be there to set things up and establish the natural laws.

In pragmatic polytheisms, I gather that supernatural agencies and beings exist, one can reverence them and sometimes obtain their aid. But it doesn't seem necessary to have one who creates existence. Existence simply exists, and is how it is.

I think the report of Justin Barrett's work gives people the impression that creatorial monotheism is part of inborn human nature.
Somehow genetically hard-wired. Surely that can't be right. He must be saying something else, something a bit more sophisticated with more logical qualification.
Freeman Dyson
#13
Nov14-09, 11:19 AM
P: 216
Religious myths may be innate to the human mind. That is why they are universal.

"Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God."

-Cicero

Some have even suggested a God gene.

Look up collective unconscious by Jung:

"Like the instincts, the collective thought patterns of the human mind are innate and inherited."

"It seems to have originated outside historical tradition in the long-forgotten psychic sources that, since prehistoric times, have nourished philosophical and religious speculations about life and death.

These elements, as I have previously mentioned, are what Freud called "archaic remnants"-mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual's own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind.

These manifestations are what I call the archetypes. They are without known origin; and they reproduce themselves in any time . or in any part of the world-even where transmission by direct descent or "cross fertilization" through migration must be ruled out."
qraal
#14
Nov14-09, 01:59 PM
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Quote Quote by marcus View Post
The idea of a creator god is not a genetic, inborn, part of human nature, IMHO. In some cultures the gods exist/existed IN nature and are or were to some extent subject to the conditions of physical existence.
The gods themselves had an origin, thus "Theogony" was an accepted myth in Greek paganism.

The idea of a Creator, particularly one with conscious intentions (which can serve to explain phenomena to children) is not hard-wired in the brain---I think rather that the Creator idea is a brilliantly creative cultural invention.

The Romans originally had practical gods to be invoked in various circumstances that the gods covered---war, planting, marriage, childbirth, burial etc. Or so I believe.
Yes and no. Some were more cosmic than others, particularly Zeus.

In northern European religion, the gods got into various scrapes with giants and stuff, but no personality or intelligence was responsible for creating the whole physical universe. As in Roman religion, the World was taken for granted. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Aside from uniquely northern European geographic features - realms of Fire and Ice - the Nordic gods were much like the Greco-Roman ones. Both had to contend with usurping Giants.

In traditional Chinese religions there can be spirits and things you are supposed to do to deal with them and ensure good fortune, but on the whole it's practical, as I understand. They did not think it was necessary to have a Creator. Nobody needed to be there to set things up and establish the natural laws.
Well that's where your summary comes unstuck. The early Chinese religion was monotheistic and China had a few revivals of ethical monotheism from time to time, even prior to Western contact.

In pragmatic polytheisms, I gather that supernatural agencies and beings exist, one can reverence them and sometimes obtain their aid. But it doesn't seem necessary to have one who creates existence. Existence simply exists, and is how it is.
Most polytheisms have a Creator Spirit - the Egyptian pantheon for example was seen as aspects of the one underlying Spirit. So monotheism isn't odd, just usually de-emphasised in polytheisms.

I think the report of Justin Barrett's work gives people the impression that creatorial monotheism is part of inborn human nature.
Somehow genetically hard-wired. Surely that can't be right. He must be saying something else, something a bit more sophisticated with more logical qualification.
Creator Sky-Gods appear through a multitude of human societies. I think they're a "strange attractor" in systems of explanation that rely on analogies to human agency. Hard-wired? Not so sure.
Freeman Dyson
#15
Nov14-09, 02:32 PM
P: 216
How does one explain the dream narratives we share? I'm sure we have all had similar dreams. Teeth falling out, being naked or dressed inappropiately for work or school, etc.. When did we learn these narratives? Where did they come from? Why are they invoked?
qraal
#16
Nov15-09, 09:53 PM
P: 775
Quote Quote by Freeman Dyson View Post
How does one explain the dream narratives we share? I'm sure we have all had similar dreams. Teeth falling out, being naked or dressed inappropiately for work or school, etc.. When did we learn these narratives? Where did they come from? Why are they invoked?
Anxieties that come at the appropriate age I guess. Just how such things translate into dreams that all (?) have is anyone's guess since the genome doesn't hold enough information to "store" them in any way. Perhaps they're neurological "strange attractors" that our common pattern of neurogenesis "finds" along the way. Thus they're not stored "as genes" but come into being because of our genetic similarities.
Freeman Dyson
#17
Nov15-09, 10:28 PM
P: 216
Quote Quote by qraal View Post
Anxieties that come at the appropriate age I guess. Just how such things translate into dreams that all (?) have is anyone's guess since the genome doesn't hold enough information to "store" them in any way. Perhaps they're neurological "strange attractors" that our common pattern of neurogenesis "finds" along the way. Thus they're not stored "as genes" but come into being because of our genetic similarities.

Exactly. How they translate into dreams is what the puzzle is. I think dreams are symptoms. Of things like anxiety. Like you said.

Our genome was smaller than thought but that doesnt at all mean these dreams couldnt be in there. How could we calculate how much room they would take up?

When Carl Jung was a kid, maybe 8 or 10, he started doing something strange. He was an odd and introverted kid. He had some troubles and one day out of the blue grabbed a piece of wood and started carving.

Another incident which occurred while still boy involved him engraving a tiny “mannequin” into the end of the wooden ruler from his pencil case and placing it back inside. Afterward he added a stone which he painted with two different colors into upper and lower halves and then hid the case in the attic, in essence as his own private confessional booth. Frequently he visited with the wooden man he had created, often bringing tiny notes with messages inscribed on them in his own secret language. He always associated this act with having a calming effect on his young life, and later realized that this ceremonial procedure was not so different from the bizarre totems erected by native tribes all around the world. This innocent element of ritual practice, which he did not know or understand at the time of creating his little wooden friend, would later help open up his mind to the territories of psychological archetypes and collective unconsciousness.
He had created his own totem. As a child he had created his own religion. Just for himself. A religion that has already existed all over the world since the beginning of civilization. How many times do you think this scene has played out in history?
Tor Hershman
#18
Jan23-10, 06:09 AM
P: 4
Well, this will not help, but.....there are a bunch of God/Devil/Dipstick thingys in it.....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_m6qC6FCiY0


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