Tainted Science

Boredom sucks. This weekend was quite boring, and when I wasn’t working on my website, I was mindlessly clicking bookmarks. I have tons of bookmarks. Some of these deal with atheism, some with politics, some are humorous sites and some are religious.

One of my many religious bookmarks is an almost innocuous sounding place, science-spirit.org. Today, while reading posts in alt.atheism, my memory was jogged regarding something I skimmed over this weekend.

In the Beginning: An Interview with Olivera Petrovich

Young children see the world with fresh minds that embrace both scientific causality and metaphysical speculation, and their conceptions show striking similiarities across widely differing cultures, says Oxford psychologist Olivera Petrovich.

by Rebecca Bryant

Please read the interview before continuing, I’ll wait.

After I finished, something she said at the beginning stood out.


My approach to this is very strictly empirical.

That sounds great! I’m thinking you’re looking at this without bias…super!

But that one sentence is the only time I have this thought. In the same paragraph, she tells us that,

I’m interested in children’s spirituality as it develops in their encounter with the physical world, not through the teaching they may receive in bible classes and so on. I’m not at all looking at the cultural transmission of spirituality.

I’m sorry, but that last sentence really did me in. Is there any other way for a child to learn spirituality? Any?

Looking at her study, and granted I’m sure the interview doesn’t include the entire process, I’m very curious as to how she draws her conclusions. Also, by putting so much emphasis on the Japanese angle to her “cross-culture” studies, she seems to think we’ll just follow along and nod our heads.

This is absolutely extraordinary when you think that Japanese religion — Shinto — doesn’t include creation as an aspect of God’s activity at all. So where do these children get the idea that creation is in God’s hands?

Um…I dunno, maybe they learned it somewhere else??

It’s an example of a natural inference that they form on the basis of their own experience.

It’s a natural response to someone who has been told about “God”. If you take a young child who has never been indoctrinated into a religion, or has been exposed to any religion whatsoever and asked the same questions and received the same replies then yes, I would believe you were on to something.

And then to compare children and adults really isn’t necessary. Adults know more words to describe “God” than children, but it’s basically the same ideas. What a breakthrough.

Something else about this struck a nerve,

There’s also a lot of research showing that very young children are quite good at handling temporarily hidden objects.

I’ve read up on child psychology in the years past, and I remember quite well that this isn’t true. Hidden objects play hell on young children, they don’t understand the concept that the object is still there, it’s just not seen. Peek-a-boo anyone?

From what I took away from this interview, the researcher is skewing her results to match her own ideology. She talks like it’s all science, but it just doesn’t make too much sense to me. I’ve been wrong before. If anyone at all ever sees this, please point out where I’m going astray.