As we age, we often rely more—not less—on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, research shows.
“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems—from God to atoms to evolution—they engage in coexistence thinking,” says Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology the University of Texas at Austin and the study’s lead author. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”
Legare says the findings, published in the journal Child Development, 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 notes. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.”
The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare says.
“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare suggests. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education, or technology.”Full story here.