The study itself goes like this: in individual sessions, researchers gave children, ages 5 – 12, the opportunity to select 10 stickers out of a set of 30. The kids were told that 10 were theirs to keep, but they could choose to give away some to another child at their school who wasn’t being given any; on average, atheist children chose to give away more of their stickers than either the Christian or Muslim children did. So the news outlets are reporting this as a slam-dunk, proof that even as the world becomes more secular, we needn’t worry about passing on morals and ethics to the next generation.
But here’s the catch: they studied children all over the world, literally:
Among these children,
23.9% of households identified as Christian (n = 280), 43% as Muslim (n = 510), 27.6% as not religious (n = 323), 2.5% as Jewish (n = 29), 1.6% as Buddhist (n = 18), 0.4% as Hindu (n = 5), 0.2% as agnostic (n = 3), and 0.5% as other (n = 6).
And the study then comes up with the one conclusive table that’s meant to prove their point:
It astounds me this was published, in a credible scientific journal, and is being treated as a major research finding when there is no attention paid to the differences in culture between these three groups. The bulk of the “not religious” group were presumably Chinese children, whose culture is so different than that of the Turkish/Jordanian Muslim children, or the American/Canadian Christian children that it defies all reason to ignore this — not to mention the lack of adjustment for any other factor, such as a different age mix at the schools visited, different economic status of the children, the importance, or lack thereof, of stickers to children in different communities.