RE: Religion and evidence

From: Price, Ilfryn (
Date: Wed 18 Jan 2006 - 19:34:08 GMT

  • Next message: Kate Distin: "Re: Religion and evidence"

    Price, Ilfryn wrote and Kated replied:

    >> 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.

    Religion is our way of interpreting the world around us. It encompasses morality, explanations of death, how we respond to problems, how we spend our spare time, who we mix with . . . How on earth do you propose to isolate young children from all of that until an arbitrary age, 6 or otherwise? Every time you answer your children's questions about this vast swathe of topics, every time you set them an example by going/not going to a place of worship, or by making a moral pronouncement, or by praying/never praying, you are touching on religious matters. Doing so in a way that's consistent with atheism is just as much programming as doing so in a way that's consistent with a religion.>>>


    I would say religions (in general) are one way. Secular Humanism (for example) is another. I have never proposed isolation. I like Dawkins appeared to on the programme am horrified when I see the kids not only exposed but completely immersed in one particular religion. The other kids are explained as not just different but wrong.
    >> 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.
    Yes, that's my understanding too. Again I can't track down a reference just now.
    > 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
    > won't repeat here.>

    Can I just clarify this claim: the religion of our parents is almost as unshakeable as their language? I'd really like to hear more evidence in its support.>>

    Ah the scientific method. The range of unshakeability bears investigation obviously. To contrast Ben's Elvisian thought experiment the subject child is unlikely to have its life framed so completely in an Elvisian community as are kids growing up in a particular religious one. I suspect many of them may not have much chance. A trivial example. I recall a girl raised early as a strict catholic, who let it lapse in her teens, but felt compelled to give up sexual relations (after two abortions) in her early twenties because contraception was a sin.


    >> religion acquired along with language seems harder to shake of than many "stories" especially in its more fundamentalist
    > guises>>

    Harder to shake off than what? Your parents' approach to childcare? To politics? Education? Nutrition? Marriage? We're all undeniably stuck with a family script of some sort, but I'm not yet convinced that parental religion has any sort of special status within this. I am convinced by the evidence that we are genetically programmed to acquire a language. But genetically programmed to acquire a particular subset of our parents' memes, above all others? Again, I'd like to see more evidence for this.>>>


    And along with the language comes its symbol system and memeplex. Its not just our parents. For kids in relatively closed communities the religion is a huge part. More evidence / investigation by all means but once you accept the linguistic bit religion is hot on its heels. Remember it is not kids like your that Dawkins is taking pity on. It is those whose communities do not give them as many chances.

    >>> By and large (generalisation I admit) we do not bring science or politics or other meta memeplexes into kids' early up

    No, but that's partly because these subjects are too hard for them to understand: we don't hold back on them out of principle, but practicality. And, more to the point, these subjects are effortlessly easy to avoid. Questions about what's right and wrong, death, the meaning of life, etc. crop up all the time, even in the life of a young child. They cannot be avoided.>>>

    And religion isn't equally hard for them to understand??


    Of course those questions crop up. There are better ways of handling them than complete religious explanations especially where they involve threats about burning in hell or whatever if the poor kid doesn't pray harder. Again Kate not your kids but IMO and in fair agreement with Dawkins a lot of other less fortunate ones. Those poor kids are not just having their questions answered.




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