Also Available in:

Children see the world as ‘designed’!

Much to Richard Dawkins’ chagrin, children infer from their own observations that there must be a Creator

by David Catchpoole

Photo stock.xchngschool children

Prominent misotheist Richard Dawkins has long argued (e.g. in his book The God Delusion) that belief in God is propagated through “indoctrination”, especially of children.1 But Dawkins is having to face up to some awkward facts. Awkward for Dawkins that is, because the facts point to children recognising that living things are designed, i.e. nature originated at the hand of a Creator God.2,3

For example, researchers at Oxford University (at which Dawkins himself was until recently the holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science) have earlier reported finding children who, when questioned, express their understanding that there is a Creator, without having had any such instruction from parents or teachers. As Dr Olivera Petrovich, who lectures in Experimental Psychology at Oxford, explained in an interview with Science and Spirit:

“I tested both the Japanese and British children on the same tasks, showing them very accurate, detailed photographs of selected natural and man-made objects and then asking them questions about the causal origins of the various natural objects at both the scientific level (e.g. how did this particular dog become a dog?) and at the metaphysical level (e.g. how did the first ever dog come into being?). With the Japanese children, it was important to establish whether they even distinguished the two levels of explanation because, as a culture, Japan discourages speculation into the metaphysical, simply because it’s something we can never know, so we shouldn’t attempt it. But the Japanese children did speculate, quite willingly, and in the same way as British children. On forced choice questions, consisting of three possible explanations of primary origin, they would predominantly go for the word ‘God’, instead of either an agnostic response (e.g., ‘nobody knows’) or an incorrect response (e.g., ‘by people’). 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? It’s an example of a natural inference that they form on the basis of their own experience. My Japanese research assistants kept telling me, ‘We Japanese don’t think about God as creator — it’s just not part of Japanese philosophy.’ So it was wonderful when these children said, ‘Kamisama! God! God made it!’ That was probably the most significant finding.”4

Today, nearly a decade since Petrovich’s study, there is now a “preponderance of scientific evidence” affirming that “children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them”.3

Dr Justin Barrett of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anthropology and Mind says that children have “a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose.” He cited one study where young children who were asked why the first bird existed replied “to make nice music” and “because it makes the world look nice”.3

However, Barrett and other evolutionists are endeavouring to claim it as “an evolutionarily useful skill”. That is, it’s something that evolution hard-wired into our brain. (A very common fallback position for evolutionists, which, unfortunately for evolutionary theory, completely destroys their claims of rationality—see, e.g., How your brain creates God? and C.S. Lewis on materialistic thoughts.)

According to Barrett, it is evolution that explains our “predisposition” to believe the world was created, and also the widespread public resistance to believing evolution.

“Children’s normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design,” says Barrett. “In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe.”

But then, how does he know that his own evolutionary belief is not due to its truth but because he evolved a predisposition to believe it? See this amusing clip from British comedian John Cleese:

Yes, and it’s especially difficult for people to believe evolution once they’ve been shown its falsity, and that the biblical account of the history of the universe makes sense of the evidence around us, as one leading creationist scientist can personally testify.

Unfortunately, a barrage of evolutionary pronouncements continue to dominate print and airwaves, as if “Darwin” is now established fact—signed, sealed and delivered. However, New Scientist, despite its overt evolutionary bias and proclamations, deserves some credit at least for confronting Richard Dawkins with this challenge: “If children have an innate belief in god [sic], however, where does that leave the indoctrination hypothesis?”2

But Dawkins glossed over the difficulty as if the contradictory facts weren’t awkward at all. “I am thoroughly happy with believing that children are predisposed to believe in invisible gods—I always was. But I also find the indoctrination hypothesis plausible. The two influences could, and I suspect do, reinforce one another,” he said.

Such wordplay doublespeak hardly does the former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science credit. But it does explain why evolutionists are so keen on indoctrinating students, even if it involves deception. New Scientist then related that Dawkins went on to suggest that “evolved gullibility” is behind children’s widespread (cross-cultural) belief in a Creator.

Au contraire, if there’s gullibility in evidence here, it’s not being demonstrated by the children, who can recognise Good Design when they see it.5

Published: 16 July 2009

References and notes

  1. Dawkins has in fact verged on equating religious education with child abuse, arguing there is a case for “protecting” children from the faith of their parents/teachers. Return to text.
  2. Brooks, M., Natural born believers, New Scientist 201(2694):31–33, 7 February 2009. Return to text.
  3. Beckford, M., Children are born believers in God, academic claims—Children are born believers in God and do not simply acquire religious beliefs through indoctrination, according to an academic, The Telegraph, 24 November 2008. Return to text.
  4. Bryant, R., In the Beginning: An Interview with Olivera Petrovich, Science and Spirit, 1999. Return to text.
  5. For a comprehensive compendium of design evidence in living things, Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s book By Design is just the thing for the thinking person’s library. And don’t just take our word for it—see this review. Return to text.