Justin received his DPhil from Oxford University's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, where his research focused on developing methods for quantifying social consensus and using big-data techniques for studying social cohesion in large-scale religious systems. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Center for Modeling Social Systems and CTO at Prospectus Solutions. In the past he's worked with the Center for Mind and Culture, the Asia Research Institute, NUS, and at LEVYNA, Masaryk University. His research interests include artificial intelligence and computer simulation, group identification, behavioral economics, and the formation of new religious movements.
Researchers are looking to make a robotic re-incarnation of Danish Founding Father N.F.S. Grundtvig, but what do such AI interfaces say about how religious studies can participate in digital humanities research?
It is my belief that the failure of CSR to adequately address its inherently interdisciplinary nature has been a detriment to the field and that by addressing these issues it will help the field to grow as well as to help non-CSR specialists understand more of the subtlety of this scientific approach to our subject. In his recent RSP interview, Dr. Robert McCauley provides a brilliant overview of some of the founding philosophical principles that have been a foundation for the study of religion.
While evolution does provide a biologically rooted framework that affords cognitive psychologists the theoretical rationale for extrapolating that all cultures utilize the same mental facilities (albeit quite differently depending on their environment), in order to explain religion in all its variants both past and present, cognitive psychology is both necessary and sufficient.
Breaking down the boundary between the research lab and the “field site” is becoming more common beyond the boundaries of religious studies and anthropology. The research project of Dimitris Xygalatas is part of a growing trend in cognitive approaches to human sociality. This trend involves breaking down the boundary between the lab and the field; sometimes this involves bringing the field into the lab—an approach not uncommon to many social psychologists
After all, how can one have a scientific understanding of New Age religions or UFO cults without understanding the spirits, ‘energies’, UFOs, and extraterrestrials that inhabit those religious worlds? Guthrie provided, for the first time, a theoretical basis for such a research project. Without theories such as that presented by Prof. Guthrie, particularly in his book Faces in the Clouds (1993), the current move towards an empirical study of religious beliefs and behaviors...