Would indoctrinated kids be able to grasp the fundamentals of math and science in school if they weren't limited by religious beliefs?

I know this might seem quite obvious to some of you, but it's a question that popped up into my head and makes me wonder.

When I was at school, my point of view is that I struggled with these two subjects until I could eventually lower or drop one of the subjects. I grew up in a christian home and was sent to Sunday school every week where we learn't those stories we all know so well that conflict with everything science/math has revealed to us. Since I have become an atheist, I find my affinity for understanding mathematical and scientific concepts (albeit fundamental concepts) come far more easier to me and it's only getting better as the weeks pass. I find I have a true passion for both of these subjects now that I don't have the clutter of another "truth" filling up my head that directly conflicts with the illuminations that math and science can provide.

I'm not saying I'm all of a sudden a genius at these two subjects now that I'm an atheist, but I find the pathways to understanding certain principles a lot easier.

So I put my question forward:

If religious indoctrination was a thing of the past, do you think that, in general, kids would be able to grasp the concepts of science and mathematics taught in school better? Is the ability to excel in these two subjects innate in all of us and is just being obstructed by the crap taught in Sunday school classes?

It would be interesting to know if there have been any studies done on whether kids raised in atheist/agnostic environmentsfair better at these subjects than indoctrinated kids.

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So 12 years of private Catholic schools is why I am so dumb in Math and Science? Sure. Ok. I can stick to that story. Whhheeewwww!… that’s a relief…..this whole time I was blaming myself for being dumb.

hehe, yeah, perhaps I'm asking this question because I want to justify it to myself too! LOL :P

I dunno if Religion would directly impact mathematics, but I could certainly see the child of a deeply religious, fundamentalist family having difficulty with the sciences. Frankly, I sucked at anything more advanced than basic geometry and algebra, and that had nothing to do with my religious activities. And despite my own religious upbringing, I excelled in my biology and zoology classes. I think a lot of it simply comes down to the children themselves...

"Would indoctrinated kids be able to grasp the fundamentals of math and science in school if they weren't limited by religious beliefs?"

If they weren't limited by religious beliefs, would they still be indoctrinated? :)

I suppose, if you're constantly telling yourself in science class, "that can't be right, because the bible says X," then you would be consciously doubting or ignoring some information that is necessary to understand more advanced topics. This would then lead to poor exam performance, etc. I don't know about math, though. What parts of religion conflict with math?

"If they weren't limited by religious beliefs, would they still be indoctrinated?"

Perhaps not. I guess they would have the clarity of mind then to succeed. :)

"What parts of religion conflict with math?"

It's not so much about the religions conflicting with math, it's just that math is a hugely important subject necessary to grasp scientific principles. I guess my question doesn't really apply as much to math as it does to science. For me, personally, I think the two go hand in hand though.

I dunno...I remember a lot of kids being good at math regardless of their religious upbringing.  I was very religious...I used to be a missionary in fact.  I've never been good at math, ever, and losing my faith hasn't helped my math skills, sadly.  I'm actually really anxious about it because I have to take a math class next year and I haven't done math since the 90s.

Dear Jon:

In my family, I was the nerd for what felt like forever. Education, ideas, mathematics, sciences was not much discussed, mostly because both my parents had very limited education background. It was not really till I left home that anyone in my family even asked for my opinion of a math/science issue. Mostly they tried to stay out of the garage when I working on something, during junior high/HS. I kept most of my experiments secret when possible, just to not hurt their feelings. My mother has stories, often told, concerning a few lab accidents, and a few of the 'guys' laying in the front yard after making a 'mistake'.

I did go to catholic school for six years, but it did not take. I was beginning to wake up, with ideas that shreded most of the basic ideology. I guess if I had a stronger family in religious belief, it might have done me in. I have attempted to tutor kids from very religious familes, that could not separate themselves from ideology long enough to use their minds as individuals. I have one memory of trying to teach a kid negative numbers, infront of his mother. His mom all but through me out for suggesting such a thing ;p).

I don't think that religion is a necessary hangup for poor math/science skills. If one can not think in terms of evidence, or be willing to consider other options for a truth claim, it could make it harder. I found several places in my own cognition during my classes that seemed to offer resistance. The biggest was my distrust of anything 'organized' to generate belief, or influence a separate/individual truth determination. A science class, following a scedule, could tick me off, because I did not have enough time to evaluate the data, claims, or generalizations. I have continued to work through this, now my hangup. It became clear that doing everything via an individual truth determination could take my whole life to complete. I might miss using the new tools by this hangup. It might make me a good scientist, but it could kill a project because of some desire for perfect knowledge, or distrust. 


Hi James

It's sad that you had to conduct your explorations of the natural world in secret. In my view it is not just a fun thing to do, but it is absolutely necessary if we has an intelligent species are to progress in various fields of our knowledge.

Science, coupled with maths, has provided us with so many wonderful and some dangerous but extremely useful discoveries if utilised responsibly.

I would agree with Madeleine's response later in this discussion that having been indoctrinated into a religion so that it become part of one's core belief and worldview will colour and inform (I say distort, rather) one's worldview and can have an impact on one's openness to learn important facts about our world that are based on observations and evidence.

I find it rather ironic that, provided my supposition is true, the indoctrinated will reject evidence based fact in favour of superstition. But therein lies our atheistic conundrum. :)

Richard Dawkins said, when asked on a talkshow if he believed religion should be completely removed from eduction, that he thinks it would be a bad thing if that happened as it is a large part of human history and to understand where we are today requires that we understand our past. I suppose it would be a matter of contextualising religious studies better as we have done with Greek mythology.

I have been told that Indian children are so bright because they hear so many fantastical stories from the Hindu tradition that they have less restrictive brain-networks. I know I am more likely to see obstacles to a conundrum than wander off laterally to find a solution.

I expect that if the font of all your knowledge was "the bible says so", then anything else (like evidence or reality) would tend to take a secondary position. And be dropped entirely if it didn't match what you already "know". I don't even mean contradict, just not fully supporting. So I'd not be surprised if religious indoctrination of any kind slowed your uptake and understanding of any science you learn in school. And if the science teacher also teaches maths (or emphasises its importance) then maths could also suffer by association, even if the link is not otherwise obvious.

Interesting point by diggerbanks as well - which I guess means that kids with less restrictive story backgrounds are more open to exploring and learning on their own.

Of course (not to be forgotten): some people are just bad at science and maths, regardless of their background.

Certainly some interesting responses here.

I guess the question is not as simple as the one I put forward.

I would agree that a person's ability to learn something is largely dependent on the individual's desire to learn it, but I think that is the exact place I'm coming from.

At school, I don't think I was too unintelligent for these subjects, I was simply bored with trying to consolidate biblical "fact" from what I learn't in school. I was too afraid for my mortal soul to let go of my religious beliefs.

I guess my point is that yes, while the ability to excel at a subject like science and maths is up to the student, it certainly doesn't help having attachment to ideologies which conflict with the principles that student would need to grasp if they were to excel at these subjects.



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