Finally, data journalism turns its stony heart to something beyond sports and policy: Santa Claus. The Atlantic has crunched the numbers on belief in Santa and the findings are important. Among them:
In studies for which she interviewed children, University of Texas psychologist Jacqueline Woolley noticed a drop-off in belief in Santa after the age of five. That's also when belief in the Tooth Fairy peaked, as well:
The whole tricky relationship between Santa and the Tooth Fairy is new to me. Obviously, we need more work on the Easter Bunny and the great Pumpkin.
Over at The New York Times, Eric Kaplan takes a more rigorous approach to Clausism and looks at utilitarian and epistemological issues involved in yuletide beliefs He begins by looking at the arguments of Francis Pharcellus Church, the 19th century editorialist who famously wrote an editorial in The Sun of New York that concluded, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Church’s argument is double-barreled. First he argues we have no way of knowing if Santa is really there. Even if we observed every chimney in the world, we wouldn’t know that Santa couldn’t slip through in some as yet undetected and untheorized manner. After all, we know today that both Church and Virginia had neutrinos passing through their bodies although neutrinos were far beyond the most advanced physics of their day. Maybe Santa’s like that. Further, just as the human stomach — unlike the termite’s — can’t digest wood, so there are some things our brains just aren’t capable of knowing. Maybe Santa is one of them.
Ponder that over your eggnog this week.
But before you come to any conclusions, consider this: JFK was a believer.
The John F. Kennedy Library in Boston has re-released a letter Kennedy wrote to 8-year-old Michelle Rochon of Marine City, Mich., on Oct. 28, 1961. Michelle was worried the Russians might have killed Santa by testing nukes near the North Pole, a wholly legitimate concern in my book.
“You must not worry about Santa Claus,” Kennedy wrote. “I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas.”
Unless global warming really speeds up, that is.
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