cognitive science of religion

Podcast

Natural Selection In the Evolution of Religion

In this week's podcast, professor Armin Geertz outlines an answer elaborating on the arguments presented in his co-authored book The Emergence and Evolution of Religion by Means of Natural Selection. He argues that there are multilevel selection processes that happen within different sociocultural formations, and these are key to understanding how religion has evolved throughout history.
Podcast

Worldviews and Ways of Life

Ann Taves joins us to discuss her work arguing that we should study religions under the broader rubric of "worldviews" and "ways of life". This ambitious interdisciplinary project aims to place a micro-level analysis of individual worldviews into a broader evolutionary perspective.
Podcast

Situating Religion within Justice

In this podcast Professor Joe Bulbulia of Auckland University speaks to Thomas White about situating the study of religion within a broader concept of ‘justice’. Bulbulia calls ‘religion and spirituality those features of nature [in the biocultural sense of the word] that combine to cultivate a sense of justice in people’. Bulbulia argues that common across human societies are conceptions of obligation and responsibility:
Response

Mentalizing and Religion

Cognitive Science of Religion has sometimes been criticized for lack of empirical support. Jonathan Jong went as far as claiming that some theories are ‘notoriously under-determined by data’.
Podcast

Autism, Religion, and Imagination

spectrum represent a unique population of study in the cognitive and psychological sciences of religion. Because religious cognition stems from normal social-cognitive capacities, which are altered for individuals on the spectrum, researchers also expect variation in how they think about supernatural agents.
Response

“Communicating Religion”. Annual Conference of the EASR

Visiting your Alma Mater is always accompanied by mixed emotions. On the one hand you see familiar things you missed but on the other hand you’re confronted with downsides you hoped were a thing of the past. My visit to the KULeuven for the EASR conference had both, although the positives far outweighed the downsides.
Response

Sitting on the bench: is the cognitive and evolutionary study of religion a team sport?

The grand challenge of cross-disciplinary integration Cognitive Science (CS) has always been interdisciplinary and multi disciplinary. As recapped by William Bechtel, Adele Abrahamsen, and George Graham (2001), since the very beginning,
Podcast

‘Modelling Religion’ and the Integration of the Sciences and the Humanities in the Bio-cultural Study of Religion

Following his Albert Moore Memorial Lecture at Otago University, celebrating 50 years of Religious Studies at Otago, Professor Wesley Wildman talks to Thomas White regarding the integration of the sciences and the humanities in his bio-cultural approach to the study of religion.
Response

Reliability and Religion: A response to Misplaced Faith?

Claiming that social deficit increases religious belief is also hard without presupposing that some belief was already there. Compensating lack of social interactions by interacting with an invisible, divine, being is easier if the individual already has some prior belief. Without it, jumping to beliefs in invisible beings seems a long jump.
Podcast

DEATH, Religion, and Terror Management Theory

Psychologist Dr. Jonathan Jong draws on experimental research utilizing terror management theory to discuss the role of religious and other worldviews in assuaging the fear of the inevitable—DEATH. One year before his own death in 1790, Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to the French scientist Jean-Baptiste,
Response

Rethinking the Cognitive Science of Religion in Light of Explanatory Pluralism

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.
Podcast

Method and Theory in the Cognitive Sciences of Religion

Recorded at the 2015 North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) conference, Robert McCauley discusses methodological and theoretical issues within the cognitive sciences of religion. "Science surprises us!" - McCauley podcast with the Religious Studies Project in 2014, Dr. Robert McCauley gave an overview of some of these ...
Response

SPSP 2016 Report: The state of religion in social and personality psychology

This past January, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology had its biggest turn out to date for its 17th Annual Convention in San Diego, California. Despite religion, as a broad category of research, all to often being missing in action in the psychological sciences, researchers embracing the study of religion were hard to miss throughout SPSP 2016. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Adam Baimel, University of British Columbia.
Response

Theologically Incorrect

If neither of these concepts, physical or mental continuity between reincarnations, are theologically incorrect, it’s hard to make the case that they are borne out of some more fundamental agent-recognition cognitive structures. Foremost, I want to commend Dr. Claire White on her research on the cognitive science of reincarnation beliefs. Examining how humans cognitively recognize agents based on the continuity...
Response

Not Just Any Body Will Do!

White’s research, in conjunction with my own and others’, calls into question a theoretical assumption held by many CSR scholars that the body plays a negligible role in beliefs about supernatural agents. Dr. Claire White’s research addresses the religious topic of reincarnation that, although perhaps more adhered to by human cultures across time and space than the belief that we have only one earthly life followed by eternal reward or punishment, has received little serious scientific investigation—especially from the question through which Dr. White addresses it.
Response

Not In That Dead Body

Significantly more people are willing to entertain the plausibility of reincarnation than are likely to wholeheartedly adopt reincarnation into their existing belief structure. Interdisciplinary pioneers of otherwise uncharted territory in the (CSR) are apt to ask some of the most provocative yet fundamental questions of human existence. These questions extend not only across the lifespan, but also into the realm of continued existence after death.
Podcast

See you in the next life? Cognitive foundations of reincarnation beliefs

Human reincarnation: Same person, different body, another life. While conceptual scaffolding surrounding the idea of reincarnation can vary widely from culture to culture, in this podcast Claire White draws on some of her recent research pointing out that many similarities exist in how individuals reason about and discern the pre-rebirth identities of the reincarnated.
Response

NAASR 2015 Annual Meeting: A Report from the Field

The North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) held its annual meeting last week in connection with the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) conference in Atlanta, GA. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Matt Sheedy.The theme for this year’s NAASR panels was “,” which aimed to signal a basic problem in the study of religions;
Response

Workshop: ‘What is religious belief?’ report

The question ‘What is religious belief?’ has a long history and with no definitive answer to date. The aim of this one day workshop was to shed new light on the question by combining three perspectives on the matter: cognitive science of religion, philosophy, and theology. The day consisted of four talks by Neil Van Leeuwen (philosopher), Michiel van Elk (cognitive scientist), Helen de Cruz (philosopher) and Gijsbert van den Brink (theologian).
Response

Religion Without Culture is No Religion at All

If content can explain the tendency to hold supernatural beliefs, but cultural learning is required to create religions, then we can make specific predictions about how these things should vary around the world. I’d like to start by thanking Jon Lanman for his insightful description of CREDs, CRUDs, and the larger issue of content and context biases as the foundations of religion.
Podcast

“Practice What You Preach”: CREDs and CRUDs

Religious actions speak louder than words. Dr. Jonathan Lanman on credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), and the role that such public displays of commitment play in the acquisition of both belief and nonbelief.Actions typically speak louder than words. A common version of this statement - practice ...
Response

Keeping the Bar Steady: The Complexities of Interdisciplinary Approaches to 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.
Response

Suspicious Minds? Mentalizing, Religious Hypocrisy and Apostasy

I am interested in how displays by religious paragons which contradict expressed statements of belief may be uniquely corrosive to the religious certainty of believers. Put simply, ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM) and its associated near-cognates (mentalizing, mind reading, social cognition) refer to the socially indispensable human capacity to attribute mental states to others, ...
Podcast

God’s Mind, Your Mind, and Theory of Mind

What do God's mind and your mind have in common? A core tenet of cognitive science of religion (CSR) is that the folk-psychological ability to explain human behavior in terms of beliefs, desires and intentions – known as theory of mind (ToM) – is also a system that makes us receptive to belief in the supernatural.
Response

Cognitive Science, Learning, and ‘Theory of Mind’

Whether Luhrmann's approach is "too cognitive" depends on how cognitive is defined. There is a narrow and a broader sense in which the term is used. As I have responded to Tanya Luhrmann’s book elsewhere and am on record in terms of thinking it makes a major contribution to the cognitive science of religion (CSR) both in terms of its argument and its use of mixed (ethnographic and experimental) methods, I decided that rather than recycling comments that I have already made,...
Response

Conference Report: International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion (IACSR) 5th Biennial Conference

For the past few days I attended the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion’s (IACSR) 5th Biennial Conference. The theme this year was focused on addressing the state of the field, 25 years after the cognitive approach to religion (CSR) first appeared (at least in its modern incarnation).
Podcast

The Burning Saints, Fire-Walking Rituals of the Anastenaria

It’s dark outside. The moon hangs in the sky and the soft smell of smoke permeates the warm air as it stings your eyes. Looking down, you notice the glow from burning coals, as hot as 535 degrees C, scattered on the ground below. When Saint Constantine calls you to become a firewalker – you answer - at least if you are one of the Anastenaria.
Response

Religion in the Age of Cyborgs

What happens to religion if the future belongs to the cyborgs? Merlin Donald’s Big Thoughts on the evolution of culture offer opportunities to speculate about the place of religion in the natural history of our species – an opportunity most recently taken by Robert Bellah in his much discussed last book, Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (2011).
Response

The Contextuality of Naturalness: Science and Religion in Language and Life

Perhaps it is not religious thinking that is natural, but the deeply rooted religious trends in our society and cultures that shape our thinking from our birth to death. Dr. Robert McCauley endeavors to provide at least one answer to the profoundly interesting question, “How do science and religion differ?” He delivers an answer through the lens of cognitive science, ....
Podcast

‘Religion is Natural and Science is Not’

Communicating with your favorite God or gods, forest spirit, or Jinn - easy. Postulating that the entire universe is held together by theorizing the process of quantum entanglement, informed from a personal commitment to philosophical a priories, which are based on measurements of the physical properties of said universe – harder.
Response

Guthrie’s Anthropomorphism Helped Bring Religious Studies into the Modern Academic Age

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...