December 08, 2008

The South Park Paradox: God vs. Santa

A holiday seasoned press release appears in today's endless stream of EurekAlerts. You have to read it all the way to the end to get to the punchline, though. I'll summarize a bit to save time.

Researchers ran across a study about children of ages 7-13's belief in Santa Claus in 1896. That same study was repeated in 1979. The study was conducted again in 2000. The trend found was that more parents thought it a good idea to perpetuate the Santa Claus myth in 2000 than in the previous years. 54% did so in 1896, and that had risen to 80% in the 2000 sudy. Children were more likely to figure out on their own that Santa is fictional in more recent times than they used to be; only 25% of parents finally broke the news of Santa's non-existence to their children in 1896. That number had reached 40% by 1979.

So 75% of 7-13 year olds in 1896, and 60% of those in 1979, figured it out on their own or found out from another child who had somehow learned the truth. The conclusion: kids are pretty good at looking at a story, looking at the real world, and figuring out which one they should believe over the other when the facts don't add up.

The punchline?

...If children attribute the same supernatural powers to Santa as they do to God, why do they stop believing in Santa, but continue their belief in God?


I don't know if the press release had intended to be funny, but I couldn't help a little chuckle of my own.

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