Is this Clutching at Straws Month? Because I don’t know how to dress or what to buy for it. I do know how to celebrate, though. Just publish a study that counters traditional beliefs. And don’t ask questions that might uncover flaws.
The latest example emerged this week in the July issue of Cognitive Science. Three researchers alleged that young children who are “exposed to religion” — gotta love that wording — have trouble telling fact from fiction.
This claim is in an appallingly brief, 291-word article in the Huffington Post — which, true to form, swallows and regurgitates the stuff without chewing. We’ll get to that in a bit.
First, here’s how it went down:
Researchers presented 5- and 6-year-old children from both public and parochial schools with three different types of stories — religious, fantastical and realistic — in an effort to gauge how well they could identify narratives with impossible elements as fictional.
The study found that, of the 66 participants, children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school were significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.
By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (e.g., Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorizations.
“In both studies, [children exposed to religion] were less likely to judge the characters in the fantastical stories as pretend, and in line with this equivocation, they made more appeals to reality and fewer appeals to impossibility than did secular children,” the study concluded.
Now let’s dismantle this, starting with the sampling. I don’t often resort to italics, but c’mon — sixty-six subjects? I saw several times that many kids yesterday at one Vacation Bible School. A sampling of 66 children is pretty small for an attempt to generalize to all children.