May 21 2012
Children are born believers in God, academic claims [Excerpts]
Dr Justin Barrett, a senior researcher at the University of Oxford's Centre for Anthropology and Mind, claims that young people have a predisposition to believe in a supreme being because they assume that everything in the world was created with a purpose.
"The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children's minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"If we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God."
In one study, six and seven-year-olds who were asked why the first bird existed replied "to make nice music" and "because it makes the world look nice".
Another experiment on 12-month-old babies suggested that they were surprised by a film in which a rolling ball apparently created a neat stack of blocks from a disordered heap.
Dr Barrett said there is evidence that even by the age of four, children understand that although some objects are made by humans, the natural world is different.
He added that this means children are more likely to believe in creationism rather than evolution, despite what they may be told by parents or teachers.
Dr Barrett claimed anthropologists have found that in some cultures children believe in God even when religious teachings are withheld from them.