Children, God, and Intuitions

A new post on Evolution News and Views points to a Wall Street Journal article highlighting some psychologists’ attempt to suppress childrens’ intuitions. A snippet from the WSJ article:

By elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them — even children brought up as atheists. Kids aged 6 to 10 have developed their own coherent “folk biological” theories. …

Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched. They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection. The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects. Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones. A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels. The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died. So the next generation all had thin trunks.

Firstly, these psychologists are seeking how to change childrens’ understanding of the natural world. They are not asking why children invoke the God hypothesis. They are not asking how children come to this conclusion. Note that the last two options are the only scientific options for psychologists, since they would be investigating into the operations of the mind. The one they are embarking on – changing views – is not.

Secondly, I would like to consider the ethics of this situation. On what basis can a scientist rightfully suppress the conscience or intuition of another human being? If Charles Hodge is right that “There are many things which children and illiterate persons learn, and can hardly avoid learning, which need not be referred to the constitution of their nature”, then this issue needs serious consideration.


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