Sunday, September 02, 2012

A thought about thinking

I quote from an interesting article in Science Daily that summarizes a large scale comparative anthropological study of belief patterns:
Legare and her colleagues reviewed more than 30 studies on how people (ages 5-75) from various countries reason with three major existential questions: the origin of life, illness and death. They also conducted a study with 366 respondents in South Africa, where biomedical and traditional healing practices are both widely available....... 
Among the adult participants, only 26 percent believed the illness could be caused by either biology or witchcraft. And 38 percent split biological and scientific explanations into one theory. For example: "Witchcraft, which is mixed with evil spirits, and unprotected sex caused AIDS." However, 57 percent combined both witchcraft and biological explanations. For example: "A witch can put an HIV-infected person in your path."
Legare said the findings contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge. 
"The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures," Legare said. "If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children."
I was interested to learn that not only were scientific explanations more common among adults than children (who had not had time to learn the science) but so too were supernatural explanations. Kids apparently have to learn to fear witches and evil spirits. 

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