Sunday, December 23, 2007

Assessing likelihood, part 2

It's an inescapable part of being a parent that you worry about your child's health, physical and mental and emotional.

Being a freethinking parent in a society currently so saturated with Christian propaganda, I sometimes worry about whether my child will be able to keep his head clear of it. On the one hand I don't want to propagandize him myself, and on the other hand his mother prefers to take a noninterfering agnostic approach, but on the gripping hand there's never a shortage of people here in South Carolina willing to preach at the drop of a hat, or even just a pause in the conversation.

Anyway, my son and I were driving along and chatting. He was telling me about a video game he likes cslled Psychonauts, and mentioned that the lead character is named Razputin. (He's ten, and video games figure largely in his world.) Being the kind of Dad I am I took it as an opportunity to regale him with the tale of Rasputin. I explained how he became powerful in old Russia by convincing the Tsar and Tsarina that he could help their little boy survive his haemophilia (I explained what the disease was, and that it was incurable for the poor kid who'd been born with it) by using magic powers.

He wasn't having any of it. "Daddy, are you saying that was for real? You must be joking with me, right?" I assured him that it was true, and I could show him photographs of the people involved in my history books when we got home. He ruminated for a while, then told me he didn't care if it was in the history books, he still didn't believe it. "Magic isn't real, how could he make that boy better?"

I explained that I hadn't said that Rasputin really helped the boy, only that he claimed he could and the Tsar and Tsarina believed him. He thought about that a bit, then said, "Daddy, I still don't believe it. How could he even pretend good enough to make them believe him? The boy would still keep bleeding. It's ridiculous!" I shrugged and admitted that it seemed a bit hard to credit, but that the Tsar and Tsarina were so desperate and worried about their boy that they just believed Rasputin when he said he could help.

"Well, Daddy, I think that's wrong. I think maybe they just pretended to believe him, to make their little boy less scared."

A parent always worries about something, but I think I'm going to stop worrying about my boy's ability to think for himself! He certainly seems better equipped to assess relative robabilities than the average Christian.

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