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Inoculating Children Against Supernaturalism

I was asked to write a guest post for the Parents Beyond Belief blog. It’s up now, so go take a look.


Kids Without God

I went through the “kids” section of the American Humanist Association’s new Kids Without God website in just a few minutes. I applaud the effort and hope that it greatly expands. The videos section contains five video clips from Bill Nye and a purple dragon cartoon. There are many other kid-friendly videos on YouTube that foster critical thinking and an appreciation of science that my boys (ages 8, 6, and 4) have enjoyed. It would be nice to have just one site that would aggregate these videos — will “Kids Without God” become this site? I’d suggest that they offer a way for parents to recommend videos to the site. I would offer a number of videos for inclusion. Here’s a start — a YouTube playlist of 101 of my boys’ favorite Freethought videos.

Cold sweat

That’s what I broke into watching parts of this, and nearly fainted.


Kids are born naturalists

Ethan, 1 yr., 9 months old

Tom Rees has summarized a recent study called “Developmental Changes in the Use of Supernatural Explanations for Unusual Events,” which finds that younger children are more likely than older children and adults to offer natural explanations for miraculous stories.  People are more likely to offer a god as an explanation for the improbable only after about age 12.

A counterblast of fact

Apparently some people get their pre-ordered books from Amazon faster than others, but I did get an email this morning notifying me that my copy of Dawkins’ new children’s book, The Magic of Reality: How we know what’s really true has shipped.

Here is Dawkins on BBC Newsnight.

Paxman: Do you really care that there are a lot of stupid people around?

Dawkins: I do, actually, yes. I really do. I care that children are being misled by those ‘stupid people.’ I think that children deserve to know what’s true and what’s wonderful about the world into which they’ve been born. It really is true and it really is wonderful, and it’s such a crying shame if children are denied that by ignorant and stupid adults, as you’ve described them.

An excellent point

In New Jersey a seven-year-old girl was subject of a religious ritual in which she watched a goat get decapitated and was fed a chicken heart. She reported nightmares of the experience to her teacher. The mother is now in prison for cruelty to a child. The author asks,

What if a 7-year-old child told her teacher that she got nightmares after going to church and hearing about Hell? What is the likelihood that the teacher would notify the state Division of Youth and Family Services? I’m thinking it would fall somewhere between less-than-zero to zero. In this country we should not elevate one religious belief/ritual over another religious belief/ritual.

I can’t wait

Neil deGrasse Tyson has agreed to host a revision of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. The 13-hour series originally aired in 1980 and is the most widely watched series on public television. Sagan’s story of the universe was eloquent and awe-inspiring, but more importantly, it was based on the most current science available as opposed to mythology or holy texts. Now Tyson, whom many say is the Sagan of our time, is taking up the baton and re-presenting the wonder of our origins with updated science, improved visual effects, and his trademark warmth and enthusiasm. The updated Cosmos will air on Fox sometime in 2013.

Cosmos was a bit before my time, airing when I was just in kindergarten. I watched it for the first time only a year ago with Ethan, who found it interesting despite its relatively slow pace.  I’ll be glad that an updated version with today’s CGI, high-def video production will be available to my boys and their generation.

Here’s Tyson talking about how parents can encourage scientific exploration and critical thinking in their children.