The Logic of Children June 3, 2009

The Logic of Children

Reader PrimeNumbers informs me that his daughter is quite the logician. Look what she came up with:

  • Magic is not real.
  • God is magic.
  • Therefore, God is not real.

Not too shabby for a four-year-old. Most atheists I know didn’t figure that out until they were teenagers.

What other logical statements have your children impressed you with?

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  • littlejohn

    She’s already getting the hang of syllogisms! Aristotle would be proud.

  • Jack

    That… that’s first order predicate logic. I’m 21 and just learning it…

    I don’t have children, but I can share a (nonlogical, but scientific) story from when I was a kid (like… sixish, I think). I was on a hike with my family, and we were picking some herbs. My mother told us to thank the plants for the leaves we were harvesting. My brother after a while became overwhelmed and said “THANK YOU GOD FOR EVERYTHING!”, to which I responded somewhat scornfully “Thank you Big Bang”.

    I was the nerdiest little astronomy lover.

  • I guess I’m quite proud of her!

  • Lacuna

    Well, it’s not religious but here goes.

    When my son was about 10 we were having one of many discussions of the “birds and the bees” – you know how it goes.

    So I got to the part where I was explaining a woman’s period (I didn’t bring it up – he did). I told him about blood loss and cramping and that’s why many women get cranky for about a week a month.

    So he said… in all seriousness… drumroll… “Great. So how can we tell when it’s YOUR time??!!”

    I didn’t know weather to laugh or smack him!

  • Cypress Green

    My son loves the dentist and they love him. When he was 7, he was in their chair and said, “Did you know going to the dentist is better than getting a haircut for two reasons? Number one: the dentist has better technology. Number two…”
    He was lost at first trying to say what he meant. It turned out to be that when you get a haircut, it itches.

  • My daughter (who is 5) came home from school one evening, and began telling me about a conversation she had with a friend with school. She had said that she told her friend our dog, Pixie, had died. Her friend told her the dog was “in Heaven with Jesus forever.” I then asked my daughter how she replied to that, and my darling little skeptic said “I told (friend) that I saw Daddy put Pixie in the ground. So I’m pretty sure she’s just dead.”

    A couple of months later, the same girl had told my daughter that “God lives in the clouds.” My daughter replied, “Come ON. Everybody knows it’s the CARE BEARS that live in the clouds.”

  • When my son was about 6, we attended an Easter parade with friends that included a short sermon by a Christian Minister, who discussed the Easter story. About half-way through, my son whispered to me, “Is this history or mythology?”

    I was so proud.

  • Kayla

    I have no children yet, but I have nieces and a nephew. All three, however, were raised in the belief of God and such. Nothing profound has ever come out of their mouths, and the younger niece and told me I’m going to hell for my atheism.

  • Adam

    I’m only 19 and (thankfully) don’t have any children of my own yet, but here are a few from me and my brother, as related by my parents.

    One of my favourites, from my brother: when he was around 3 I think, he announced one day: “God, Santa Claus, and Deepak Chopra are all fake!” A bit mind-boggling at first, but thinking about it now, I couldn’t agree more. 😛

    I once proclaimed: “Commercials are just for making people buy things that they don’t really need.” Not an earth-shattering observation, I know, but I like to think that it was quite enlightened for how young I was. (I couldn’t have been older than 5, but I was old enough that I actually remember saying it.)

    Finally, one of my mom’s favourite stories from when I was maybe 3 or 4: I was at a birthday party with a bunch of other kids around that age. We were sitting around a table, snacking. Apparently I picked up a piece of cantaloupe on my fork and held it up for the other kids to see, and began explaining to them that “this is a parallelogram” (and it was). Okay, that’s geometry, not logic, but still.

  • medussa

    I had my 2 1/2 year old mormon raised nephew tell me god was going to punish me for saying a bad word.
    I have never wanted children, nor been around them much, but reading these little stories almost (not quite!) makes me want to have my own little genius to question the emperor’s clothes.

  • Devysciple

    Thank you Big Bang.

    So how can we tell when it’s YOUR time??!!

    [T]he dentist has better technology.

    I’m pretty sure she’s just dead.

    Is this history or mythology?

    This is Pure Pwnage!!!

    Man, I’d so love to have kids, but without the proper woman…

  • Jason Peper

    My daughter was five when she converted four people to be vegetarians over night. (All of ’em being vegans now, by the way)

    And she often reminds us that she things hardly anybody has sex, because that’s a serious thing and you don’t do it lightly (we didn’t tell it her that way, I swear!)

  • Hate to spoil the party, but that’s an equivocation fallacy right there. God is supposed to be magical, not magic.

    It’s similar to this construction:

    1. Love exists.
    2. God is love.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    But it’s still cute 😛

  • And when we go shopping, she proudly announces the presence of “pester power” at the checkouts to everyone around her. Gotta love it!

  • Siamang

    I remember I was trying to explain the controversy over gay marriage to my five year old (who has a pair of married grandmothers who are among the 36,000 gay people who the California Supreme Court deemed as being more equal than others).

    I tried to explain that sometimes two men are in love and want to marry, and sometimes two women, and that some people want the law to be that they wouldn’t be allowed to.

    Her answer was so clear. It’s not them getting married, so they don’t get to say.

  • Gabriel

    My daughter (12 years old) and I were watching the NGC show “Is it real” dealing with gohst orbs. After all of the people who believe in ghosts showed all the ghost orbs my daughter turns to me and said “I think its dust or maybe a gnat.” We then spent several wonderful hours making our own ghost orb pictures in the living room.

  • Siamang

    Yeah, the ghost-orbs really come out if you bang the cushions of your couch together.

  • beckster

    My two year old doesn’t quite yet say profound things, but his dad likes to do magic tricks with him where he makes something disappear. Kid then says “where’d it go?” and dad proceeds to pull it out of his ear or something. Well, last week the kid started performing his own magic tricks! He held a fork up in front of him and waved his hand, dropped it in his lap, said “where’d it go” and then picked it back up and pretended to pull it out of his ear! He’s just being a mimc, but it makes me happy that he is already curious enough to watch the magic tricks and figure out the truth behind them.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Adam: Apparently I picked up a piece of cantaloupe on my fork and held it up for the other kids to see, and began explaining to them that “this is a parallelogram” (and it was).

    That’s heresy. Who cuts their cantaloupe in parallelograms rather than trapezoids?

  • H

    and the younger niece and told me I’m going to hell for my atheism.

    I find it disgusting that we as a society tolerate the poisoning of young minds with these kinds of ideas. We oughtta be ashamed of ourselves.

  • SarahH

    These are great, lol.

    I had two logical breakthroughs that I can remember at a young age.

    When I was about 6 or 7, I accidentally told my sister that Santa didn’t exist. I don’t remember ever believing that he did, because I always remembered my mom making a transparent excuse (forgetting jewelry, needing to brush her hair one more time, etc.) and running back into the house before the Christmas Eve service while we waited in the car, taking a long time. Then, when we got home, presents would be waiting under the tree. When I explained this to my sister, she was pretty upset.

    I also got upset, around the same age, when I realized that “Thou shalt not kill” is in the Ten Commandments and God goes around murdering tons of people in the Bible, even regular people who weren’t soldiers. My parents told me to ask our pastor, and my pastor didn’t answer it satisfactorily, and that was the first seed of doubt I experienced.

  • Santa is “Just for entertainment”.

  • Tal

    My brother was 6 years old when he found out that Santa doesn’t exist. He took it pretty hard, tearfully asking our parents if the Easter Bunny wasn’t real either. They told him no and when he asked about the Tooth Fairy they said no again. He then asked if God was also fake. My parents are Christians so that time they told him that God was actually real, but my brother wasn’t convinced after finding out that they had lied to him and he hasn’t believed in God since that day (he’s 23 now).

  • Adele

    My niece had a sleepover with her friend and somehow ended up at church the next day. For her seventh birthday my mother had given her a copy of D’Aulaires Greek myths, which has a story in it similar to Noah’s ark, confusing my niece – and in the middle of the sermon, which was apparently on the story of Noah’s ark, my niece asked her friend’s mother (loudly), “But wasn’t it Zeus who sent the flood?”

    Then, a little ways through the service, my niece started laughing. She turned to her friend and said – once again, very loudly – “Do you actually believe this?”

  • When my younger son was about 3 or 4, we had a dinner party where a pregnant woman was one of the guests. She was about 8 months pregnant and showing quite large. She was explaining to my son that there was a baby in there. He pointed to her breasts and asked if there were babies in there too? Fortunately, she thought it was hilarious.

  • That was the basic logic I used to figure out Santa Clause wasn’t real. Didn’t apply it to God until years later.

  • Gabriel

    Oh, I forgot about the holiday gods. When they were 9, 7, and 5 they trooped into the bedroom climbed up on the bed and all looked at me. “Is the Easter Bunny real?” they asked. I looked at them and said “What do you think?” “No, it doesn’t make any sense that a rabbit hides eggs for us to find” “You’re right he isn’t real.” “Do we still get easter?” “If you want too you can” “Okay, what about Santa Clause?”

    I think they just wanted protect their pressents.

  • Chas

    My 7yo daughter recently decided that she will start saying “excuse me” after sneezing. Now I thought it would be so people would stop saying “bless you” as we just talked about that a couple weeks before, but no.
    “It’ll be the same then when I burp and fart.”

  • Paulmond

    We adopted a male cat when our oldest son, Eric, was about five. The cat had just been neutered, so we told the boys to be careful because his scar was still healing. When Eric asked what was wrong with the cat, we explained that he had had an operation so that he wouldn’t have baby cats. Eric said, “Hmmm, so boy humans can’t have babies, but boy cats can.”

  • Revyloution

    Funny you should ask.

    Last night, my daughter (6) let off with a fart that anyone might be proud of. My wife responded with the claim that she farts like a little old man.

    She grabbed the skin at her chin and said
    “Let me just take of my mask”

  • Eliza

    These are great! 🙂

    There’s hope for the human race!

  • Kahomono

    Back at the beginning of the end of my daughter’s and my religious life (never mind the rest of the family — long story), we attended an Orthodox wedding.

    After a particularly obscure custom was observed, I somewhat reflexively said to her, “Do you know why we do that?”

    “We do it because we do it,” was her irrefutable reply.

  • Brg

    Last December I was in a car with my best friend, and his wife and 4 year old daughter. We were discussing plans for the next day, and the daughter asked if we would be going to some place, to which my friend’s wife answered with a phrase she always uses to reply this type of questions: “God willing (we would)”.

    Hearing this, my friend’s daughter asked her: “Mummy, why do you always say that?”.

    Her mom then went on explaining that she and other people (not counting her father nor I) believed that there was someone up in heaven caring for, and protecting us.

    Her daughter pondered her reply, and then said: “Well, I do not believe any of that! And you shouldn’t either, mummy!”

    We ended up laughing (mostly my friend and I) and explaining her that whilst it was OK not to believe, one should always respect the beliefs of other people and not to try to impose on them your own.


  • Steve

    My 5 yr old son asked me last week…

    ‘Dad.. If god made people did he make himself?’

    He’s only 5 so I didn’t want to overburden him with my full atheist ways yet. But I did tell him how that was a fantastic, and very smart question. I also told him how no one really knows the answer and everyone has a different answer.

    My 8 and 10 yr old of course know what my stand is and we discuss beliefs and reality quite often.

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