Blinded by Science

Andrea noticed this study over at the always fabulous Fox News. As she said, we always knew this and now science does too. According to the study, kids are better behaved and adjusted when their parents are religious, as long as their parents are generally agreed on their religion.

The thing that jumped out at me about this study was their examination of causation. The study wasn’t designed to identify the causation of the effect, but they were speculating about it:

Bartkowski thinks religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home,” he said. Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response,” he said. Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said. University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who was not involved in the study, agrees. At least for the most religious parents, “getting their kids into heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard,” Wilcox said. But as for why religious organizations might provide more of a boost to family life than secular organizations designed to do the same thing, that’s still somewhat of a mystery…

Now here’s a study about religion in particular. It notices that religion has an impact, and that this impact is different than secular organizations that have the same purpose. Anyone hearing this will think of the possibility that the reason that religion has a positive impact is that there is a God and that living in terms of this reality has benefits. But the article never even raises that as a possibility. Now I know I’m just reading the article and not the study; perhaps the article has hidden the researchers’ thinking on this point.

But this shows how this belief in what science is, that science cannot consider even the possibility of supernatural causes really does end up with less information, not more. We are left not allowing ourselves to consider something that would have the possibility of increasing our understanding of a particular phenomenon. I know this is just one little study without a great deal of importance. But of course the proper relationship between science and religion is huge, and this illustrates it well. Even more huge is the general question of epistemology, and here we see the effects of dividing our thinking into religious knowledge and all other kinds of knowledge, with the two basically having no effect on one another. This leaves us with less information, not more; less understanding of the world, not more.

This is one of the basic premises of the Intelligent Design movement, and I think they’re exactly right. I’m not a big fan of ID, but not because I think they’re wrong, but because I think that in the approach they’re taking, they inadvertently give away more than they can possibly gain.

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