Naturalism is innate, supernaturalism is learned…

A scientific study done with children between 4 and 6 years old regarding their expectations of what other people know seems to point in the direction that supernaturalism has to be learned.

Let me introduce you to Mr Smart and Heroman. Mr Smart is really, really clever. So clever that he knows everything – like what’s inside a closed box. Heroman is not so smart, but he does have a special power. Heroman has x-ray vision, so that he can see into the closed box.

Both Mr Smart and Heroman had a key role to play in a recent study by Jonathan Lane, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues, into how children come to understand magical beings.

There are basically two schools of thought on this. One is that they have to learn first about ordinary minds and then, building on that platform, they learn about extrardinary minds.

The other school holds that children are born with an inbuilt predisposition to think that all intelligent beings have god-like omniscience. They then have to learn that, sadly, their parents and their friends are in fact limited in what they know.

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