RE: Religion and evidence

From: Price, Ilfryn (
Date: Wed 18 Jan 2006 - 13:02:12 GMT

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    Price, Ilfryn wrote:
    > I hope your advice includes not force feeding the kids religion before the age of say 6 so that they are free to make their own
    > choices later rather than programmed.
    > If
    >>Oh, suspicious one. Book two is "Gifted Children: A Guide for Parents
    > and Professionals" (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, April 2006). And thank
    > you. I've been wondering how with a clear conscience I could get a plug
    > in on such a completely irrelevant list.
    > Ok, maybe not a *totally* clear conscience.
    > Kate>

    >Obviously the book isn't about religion at all. Why would it be?>


    I did not imply that it was. In my book sensible advice for Parents of gifted children (and others) would be to avoid religious programming up to the age of perhaps 6. Here I agree very strongly with Dawkins and his Gerin Oil metaphor. Six comes from the Jesuit quote about "give me the child til 6 and I'll give you the man" (that may be a paraphrase). There may be as Chris speculates other phases to the process and people on this list who have had opposite experiences.

    >But there are some interesting points, memetic and otherwise, in your

    Do you really believe that children under the age of 6 cannot ask questions about what they are told? My children are 3 and 6, and I can tell you that this is not my experience!>


    No they obviously spend that time asking lots of questions. They also accept a lot of the stories, some of which they question later (e.g Santa or tooth fairies in the households that do Santa or tooth fairies)


    Up to round about 6 (again the precise age is irrelevant and probably varies -) kids appear to be genetically programmed to acquire language. One of mine spent the period from two to four in Norway and acquired one language (with a strong local dialect) to talk to her playmates and another to talk to parents, their expat friends and English speaking kids. She was not 'translating'; she was simply communicating and acquiring two sets of sounds to do it. She switched in mid sentence at times. The (Norwegian) ability faded after she left Norway.


    My point (and others have made it) is that along with the language kids acquire a (the?) complex of meta-memes of a particular society. I have seen claims but don't have the original evidence that they lose the ability to pronounce particular phonemes characteristic of other languages.

    One language at least stays for life (minor exceptions and major but fortunately rare accidents excluded obviously). Religion is not necessarily quite so 'infectious' as language but makes a damn good shot of it in many cases; hence Dawkins' arguments which I won't repeat here.

    >I "force feed" my children with all manner of my own prejudices,
    beliefs, attitudes and morals, all the time, consciously and unconsciously. We all do. Why should religion be any different? Presumably you would "force feed" yours with atheism, amongst other things. It's what we do as parents. If we honestly believe something to be true then of course that's what we tell our children.>


    Of course we do. That's life and, arguably, memes. "Gerin oil" is potentially so infectious that it might be sensible guidance for the parents of bright kids to protect them from, at least, over-exposure.

    >BUT this doesn't preclude our also telling them that other people have
    different attitudes, and expecting to have to justify our own when our children ask questions. You can imagine that as the ceaselessly-questioning children of a former RE teacher and a goalie for a Sikh hockey team, mine have a better grasp of some other faiths than many children their age. They also know that most of their friends and relatives do not go to church or believe in Jesus. Just as they know that lots of other families make different choices about lots of things from us. I don't see why religion should be given special treatment in this context.>


    Your kids are probably lucky vis a vis many who are raised to believe that only their closed religious community is the right one.

    >I also don't get why religion, or anything else, should be seen as
    something with which we are "programmed" as small children. Case in point: my own parents "force fed" me with no claims about God, positive or negative, although they did assure me that Santa and the tooth fairy existed. Yet not only did I shed these latter beliefs at the normal sort of time, I don't even impose them upon my own children. Our family doesn't "do" Santa and the tooth fairy, although of course they know that most other families do.>


    Because religion acquired along with language seems harder to shake of than many "stories" especially in its more fundamentalist guises. There was a time when witches etc were equally infectious. We` are past that so why not treat religion the same way. By and large (generalisation I admit) we do not bring science or politics or other meta memeplexes into kids' early up bringing. Many do end up "brain washed" with one particular religion".


    You were lucky. I did not, so far as I know, force-feed my kids (now 24 and 26) either way and as far as I am aware they have not seen any need or reason to start believing. What you or they or any other adult chooses to believe is OF COURSE their own business.

    <This is where I get back to meta-representation, I guess. We can meta-represent: we can reflect on what we are told, wonder whether it's true, test it out for ourselves, synthesise information and observations from a variety of sources. We aren't mindlessly "programmed" by our memes. We select them as they compete for our attention.>


    Unfortunately many of those kids who end up programmed with a particular meta-representation (fill in the particular religion of choice) don't find it easy to question it later on. Raise kids with the ability to reflect and question YES. Programme them with unquestioning addiction to "gerin oil" NO.


    BTW this is a general point, not a suggestion that you personally are or were doing so to your kids.



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