In his blog, Epiphenom, Tom Rees points to a recent study that suggests that contrary to traditional thinking, children are not born with an innate predisposition to supernatural concepts or explanation of events that have non-defined reasons.
When given a series of stories, the study showed that the younger the person was the more likely they would reason towards a natural explanation as opposed to a supernatural one. With an increase in age, the occurrence of a supernatural explanation to the event increased. The chart below from the study reflects this trend.
This is more ammo to use when debating people when it comes to religion and the supernatural. The study is careful, as is Mr. Rees, not to suggest that this is an exclusive explanation as to how children form ideas, but rather is a contributing factor.
This doesn't of course, mean that humans are not predisposed to think naturally. Clearly, in some circumstances we are - and it seems likely that some people are more predisposed to think supernaturally than others.
But what this, along with other evidence, does show is that it is far too simplistic to argue that we are 'born believers'. In fact, we are born with a wide range of tools with which to understand the world around us, and culture is critical for shaping how those predispositions are shaped into beliefs.
A full copy of the study can be found by emailing the studys author:
Woolley, J. D., Cornelius, C., & Lacy, W. (in press). Developmental changes in the use of supernatural explanations for unusual events. Journal of Cognition and Culture. (Available from the author, firstname.lastname@example.org)