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.
It's certainly not innate to me! I am a British atheist raised by atheist, liberal, academic parents who encouraged critical thinking, sent me to a private school and had me tutored at home in maths. I recieved excellent grades in English language, English literature, Latin, French, history and religious education whilst failing all sciences and requiring extensive tutoring in maths to scrape a passing grade.
I am quite sure that children of fundamentalists who teach them that evolution etc is the devil's lie will not be at all receptive to biological science but am not sure why maths would be an issue. It would be hard to interpret any studies on atheism and analytical ability because people who tend to be analytical also tend to be atheist because religious belief cannot be understood logically - chicken and egg.
Could this be related to your brain dominance? Analytical and purely logical thought live in the left brain - men usually use their left brain dominantly and therefore we find more men in engineering, hard science, economics etc. Empathy, communication, philosophical and abstract thought live in the right brain and women tend to use both sides equally so we find more women in the social fields - nursing, social work, teaching and recently, medicine. Of course there are plenty of examples of analytical women and empathetic men and I wonder if you are one of that minority of men who do not favour the left brain and that your recent surge of interest and aptitude for maths and science are because you are directing your studies yourself and doing so the way that works for you.I have recently become very interested in evolution and neurology and by reading about these in books aimed at educating the lay person - eg - The Greatest Show on Earth which explains with visual imagery and in the form of a narrative - my right brain dominance appreciates this. I also enjoy logic puzzles like sodoku and nonograms even tho I do not find them easy. You have probably considered this but if not - here is where you test your brain dominance.
When I was in school, I noticed that most people were either good at maths or languages, but not both. That doesn't mean that the ones were good at languages necessarily sucked at maths, but it wasn't intuitive for them
Religion colours and informs one's world view and how you respond to intellectual challenges. If you are brought up Christian (and I suppose the same could be said for most religions) that worldview colours your perception and inhibits absolutely impartial and critical analysis of information before you e.g. God made man therefore the theory of evolution is wrong.It especially upsets me to see intelligent children aged between four and seven (when their natural curiousity about the world around them is at a peak) are totally indoctrinated by their religious parents and encumbered with a world view which will block their ability to critically analyze and think scientifically in their formative years during which a love of science should be inculcated.
I don't think so. People tend to have the ability to compartmentalise extremely well, especially with abstract concepts like religion. Therefore, I think that if religious students want to learn maths and science, they will be able to do so to the fullness of their potential; it is easy to put your religious beliefs safely to the side and treat all those things that might contradict them independently--professors/scientists/intellectuals do it all the time.
I do think, however, that you touch on the important point of whether religious people will be willing to even consider maths and the sciences in the first place. There is a powerful anti-intellectual strain within general religious thought, so even if the potential of children/adults is not diminished by religious belief, the first step into the intellectual world necessary to exploit this potential might never be made.
Ultimately, I think it is more about the willingness, rather than the potential. The latter tends to be preserved--in my experience--by the ability to compartmentalise.
Religion fogs up the mind and stunts the development of critical thinking. Viewing the world from a “goddidit” perspective removes the need to sharpen that skill as the more important questions that should be analyzed already have the answers provided. Young minds that are naturally inquisitive should be encouraged to develop their thinking skills and should not be lied to. Religion your time is up, you are no longer required, get off the stage.
A friend of mine who is a retired calculus professor is also a young earth creationist...so maybe is not such a big distraction.....maybe the only reason the subjects started coming easier to you once you became atheist is because you develop more interest in them.