This article discusses “explaining away” arguments in the cognitive science of religion. I distinguish two rather different ways of explaining away religion, one where religion is shown to be incompatible with scientific findings and one where supernatural entities are rendered superfluous by scientific explanations. After discussing possible objections to both varieties, I argue that the latter way offers better prospects for successfully explaining away religion but that some caveats must be made. In a second step, (...) I spell out how CSR can be used to spell out an argument of the second kind. One argument renders religion superfluous by claiming that it results from a cognitive bias and one does the same by claiming religion was a useful evolutionary adaptation. I discuss some strengths and weaknesses of both arguments. (shrink)
[from the publisher's website] Questions about the existence and attributes of God form the subject matter of natural theology, which seeks to gain knowledge of the divine by relying on reason and experience of the world. Arguments in natural theology rely largely on intuitions and inferences that seem natural to us, occurring spontaneously—at the sight of a beautiful landscape, perhaps, or in wonderment at the complexity of the cosmos—even to a nonphilosopher. In this book, Helen De Cruz and Johan De (...) Smedt examine the cognitive origins of arguments in natural theology. They find that although natural theological arguments can be very sophisticated, they are rooted in everyday intuitions about purpose, causation, agency, and morality. Using evidence and theories from disciplines including the cognitive science of religion, evolutionary ethics, evolutionary aesthetics, and the cognitive science of testimony, they show that these intuitions emerge early in development and are a stable part of human cognition. -/- De Cruz and De Smedt analyze the cognitive underpinnings of five well-known arguments for the existence of God: the argument from design, the cosmological argument, the moral argument, the argument from beauty, and the argument from miracles. Finally, they consider whether the cognitive origins of these natural theological arguments should affect their rationality. (shrink)
Hume was a cognitive scientist of religion avant la lettre. His Natural History of Religion (1757 ) locates the origins of religion in human nature. This paper explores similarities between some of his ideas and the cognitive science of religion, the multidisciplinary study of the psychological origins of religious beliefs. It also considers Hume’s distinction between two questions about religion: its foundation in reason (the domain of natural theology and philosophy of religion) and (...) its origin in human nature (the domain of cognitive science of religion). (shrink)
This article aims at a constructive and argumentative engagement between the cognitive science of religion (CSR) and philosophical and theological reflection on the imago Dei. The Swiss theologian Emil Brunner argued that the theological notion that humans were created in the image of God entails that there is a “point of contact” for revelation to occur. This article argues that Brunner's notion resonates quite strongly with the findings of the CSR. The first part will give a short overview (...) of the CSR. The second part deals with Brunner's idea of the imago Dei and the “point of contact.” The third and final part of the article outlines a model of revelation that is in line with Brunner's thought and the CSR. The aim of this article is to show how the naturalistic methodology of the CSR provides a fertile new perspective on several theological issues and thereby enriches theological reflection. (shrink)
The cultural transmission of theological concepts remains an underexplored topic in the cognitive science of religion (CSR). In this paper, I examine whether approaches from CSR, especially the study of content biases in the transmission of beliefs, can help explain the cultural success of some theological concepts. This approach reveals that there is more continuity between theological beliefs and ordinary religious beliefs than CSR authors have hitherto recognized: the cultural transmission of theological concepts is influenced by content biases (...) that also underlie the reception of ordinary religious concepts. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * Introduction * The Cognitive Science of Religion * The Internal Witness: The Sensus Divinitatis * Reformed Epistemology * Reformed Epistemology and Cognitive Science * Obstinacy in Belief * The External Witness: The Order of the Cosmos * The External Witness and the Cognitive Science of Religion * Conclusion * Notes * Bibliography.
Cognitive scientists of religion promise to lay bare the cognitive mechanisms that generate religious beliefs in human beings. Defenders of the debunking argument believe that the cognitive mechanisms studied in this field pose a threat to folk theism. A number of influential responses to the debunking argument rely on making two sets of distinctions: proximate/ultimate explanations and specific/general religious beliefs. I argue, however, that such responses have drawbacks and do not make room for folk theism. I suggest that a (...) detour through the literature in the philosophy of mind regarding the problem of mental causation regarding nonreductive physicalism can provide a way for preserving folk theism without doing violence to the way cognitive science of religion is being practiced today. More specifically, I believe there is a way of responding to the debunking argument that does not require a rejection of the causal premise. (shrink)
The relationship between understanding other natural minds, often labeled ‘mindreading,’ and putative understanding of the supernatural is a critical one for the dialogue centering on the cognitive science of religion . A basic tenet of much of CSR is that cognitive mechanisms that typically operate in the ‘natural’ domain are co-opted so as to generate representations of the extra-natural. The most important mechanisms invoked are, arguably, the ones that detect agency, represent actions, predicate beliefs and desires of others, (...) and track social hierarchies, coalitions, and exchanges. In this essay, I show that where one lands on the interdisciplinary debate over the nature of mindreading has a significant impact on parts of CSR that invoke social cognition. I focus my essay on the case of CSR explanations of religious experiences in terms of a hyperactive agency detective device. (shrink)
Beginning with our cosmic ancestors and the 1950s ancestors of Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, this essay highlights the wider, post-World War II cultural context, including other science and religion organizations, in which IRAS was formed. It then considers eight challenges from today's context. From the context of science there are the challenge of scale that leads us to question our place in the scheme of things and can lead to a challenge (...) to morale concerning whether we make any difference; the challenge of human variability that leads to the question whether there is a single human moral nature; and the challenge of detailed explanation that leads to the question of what is the task of theology in relation to detailed scientific explanation. From the religion context there are the challenge of objectivity—studying religion without practicing religion; and the challenge of pluralism and the variety of cultural and religious perspectives. From the context of the growing and diverse science-and-religion enterprise, considered from the perspective of IRAS developed in the first part of this essay, there are the challenges of apologetics and intellectualization. Finally, from the context of our growing, worldwide consumerist culture that is contributing to the radical alteration of the planetary environment, leading to much suffering, there is the challenge of becoming more motivated to act for the long-term global good. (shrink)
This paper places “Islam and bioethics” within the framework of “religion and science” discourse. It thus may be seen as a complement to the paper by Henk ten Have () with which this thematic section in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science opens, which places “Islam and bioethics” in the context of contemporary bioethics. It turns out that in Zygon there have been more submitted articles on Islam and bioethics than on any other Islam-related topic. This (...) may be a consequence of the global nature of the bioethical issues, driven by advancement in science and technology, which allows for conversation across cultural and religious boundaries even when the normative references and argumentative methods are tradition-specific. (shrink)
Recent attacks on the compatibility of science and religion by the “militant modern atheists” have posed serious challenges for anyone who supports the human importance of religious faith. This article offers a critical analysis of their claims compared with those who do not equate faith with belief. I conclude that the militant modern atheist interpretation of faith undervalues transformative religious experiences, that more people of faith hold it for this reason than their opponents acknowledge, and that meaningful dialogue (...) between religion and science is both possible and desirable. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * The Problem of Induction * Reid’s Common-Sense Realism * Tradition and Reason in the Principles of Informal Inference * Back to the Rationality of Religion * Notes * Bibliography.
This article offers a vision for work at the intersection of science and religion over the coming seven years. Because predictions are inherently risky and are more often than not false, the text first offers an assessment of the current state of the science-religion discussion and a quick survey of the last 50 years of work in this field. The implications of the six features of this vision for the future of the field are then presented (...) in some detail. Rather than bemoaning the current diversity of approaches and conclusions as a negative result, I endorse it as a healthy sign—if acknowledged honestly and managed well. (shrink)
This article addresses how the field of religion and science will change in the coming decades by analyzing the attitudes of emerging adults. I first present an overview of emerging adulthood to set the context for my analysis, especially highlighting the way in which emerging adults find themselves “in between” and in an “age of possibilities," free to explore a variety of options and thus often become “spiritual bricoleurs." Next, I expand on how a broadening pluralism in emerging (...) adult culture changes both the conversation of “religion and science,” on one hand, and the locus for their interaction on the other. In the third section, I address the question of whether there exists a consensus view of how to relate religion and science. Paradoxically, though 18–30-year-olds perceive that there is conflict between science and religion, they personally endorse collaboration or independence. Finally, I draw conclusions for practitioners and theorists. (shrink)
Since Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science was founded 49 years ago and since one of its co-publishers, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), was founded 60 years ago, there have been significant developments in their various cultural contexts—in science, in religion, in culture, in academia, and in the science and religion dialogue. This article is a personal remembrance and reflection that compares the context of IRAS in 1954 (...) when it was first organized with the context of IRAS and Zygon today. It considers the contemporary niche of IRAS in relation to the developments that have occurred over the past 60 years. (shrink)
Do the cognitive origins of our theistic beliefs debunk them or explain them away? This paper develops an empirically-motivated debunking argument and defends it against objections. First, we introduce the empirical and epistemological background. Second, we develop and defend the main argument, the debunking argument from false god beliefs. Third, we characterize and evaluate the most prominent religious debunking argument to date, the debunking argument from insensitivity. It is found that insensitivity-based arguments are problematic, which makes them less promising than (...) the debunking argument from false god beliefs. (shrink)
This article introduces a model of levels of analysis applied to statements found in philosophical, scientific, and religious discourses in order to facilitate a more accurate description of the relation between science and religion. The empirical levels prove to be the most crucial for the relation between science and religion, because they include statements that are important parts of both scientific and religious discourse, whereas statements from metaphysical levels are only important in terms of religion (...) and are neutral in relation to particular scientific theories. In particular, the rejection of certain ontological assumptions behind special divine action logically entails the rejection of the literal meaning of empirical statements describing special open expression of supernatural factors in nature. Such a rejection also entails an essential revision of many religious systems of beliefs, including traditional Christian theism. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * I Refutation: some preliminaries * II Foundations â Deep Conflict? * III Epistemic Undertows: Dissolving Rationality * IV Conflicting Mindsets * V Historical Erosion * VII Conflict and Rational Justification * VII Conclusion * Acknowledgments * Notes.
This volume introduces readers to emergence theory, outlines the major arguments in its defence, and summarizes the most powerful objections against it. It provides the clearest explication yet of this exciting new theory of science, which challenges the reductionist approach by proposing the continuous emergence of novel phenomena.
In this essay, we set out to survey and critically assess various attitudes and understandings of reductionism as it appears in discussions regarding the scientific study of religion. Our objective in the essay is twofold. First, we articulate what we will refer to as three ‘meta-interpretative’ frameworks, which summarize the distinct positions one can witness in response to the explanations coming out of research within the new science of religion. Second, and more importantly, we seek to demonstrate (...) that under no sensible interpretation of the notion of ‘reduction’ do the explanations provide a basis for defending one of the meta-interpretative frameworks rather than another. (shrink)
The last 15 years or so has seen the development of a fascinating new area of cognitive science: the cognitive science of religion (CSR). Scientists in this field aim to explain religious beliefs and various other religious human activities by appeal to basic cognitive structures that all humans possess. The CSR scientific theories raise an interesting philosophical question: do they somehow show that religious belief, more specifically belief in a god of some kind, is irrational? In this (...) paper I investigate this question and argue that CSR does not show that belief in god is irrational. (shrink)
This article examines the notions of “intuitive” and “counterintuitive” beliefs and concepts in cognitive science of religion. “Intuitive” states are contrasted with those that are products of explicit, conscious reasoning. In many cases the intuitions are grounded in the implicit rules of mental models, frames, or schemas. I argue that the pathway from intuitive to high theological concepts and beliefs may be distinct from that from intuitions to “folk religion,” and discuss how Christian theology might best interpret (...) the results of studies in cognitive psychology of religion. (shrink)
AbstractIslam's Quantum Question by Nidhal Guessoum offers a sophisticated approach to reconciling the results of modern science with Islamic tradition. The book provides a valuable critique of existing literature on Islam and science and advocates the promotion of good science and science education in the Muslim world. A central tension in the book revolves around Guessoum's efforts to promote a version of theistic science, while at the same establishing a clear boundary for science and (...) scientific methodology. Although the latter works very well, the project of theistic science presented in the book is, at the very least, contentious. However, Islam's Quantum Question is a milestone in the literature on Islam and science and should be valuable for anyone interested in the search for meaning in both science and religion. (shrink)
I am grateful to the four reviewers of The Territories of Science and Religion for their careful and insightful readings of the book, and their kind words about it. They all got the central arguments pretty much right, and thus any critical comments are not the result of fundamental misunderstandings. While there are some common themes in the assessments, each reviewer, happily, has offered a distinct perspective on the book. For this reason I will deal with their comments (...) in turn, but with a focus throughout on a generally expressed concern about the broader implications of the book's historical analysis, and what positive or concrete proposals might follow from it. (shrink)
This essay attempts to lay out the three principal theses of Jacques Derrida’s 1994-1995 “Faith and Knowledge,‘ Derrida’s most sustained but also most challenging work on the nature of religion and the relationship between religion and science. After demonstrating through these three theses that religion and science not only share a common source-or have a common genesis-but are in what Derrida calls an autoimmune relationship to one another, the essay puts these theses to the test (...) by reading a brief passage near the middle of the essay where Derrida recounts the genesis of “Faith and Knowledge‘ itself Derrida’s seemingly anecdotal recounting of this genesis is thus shown to reflect the three theses of “Faith and Knowledge,‘ the way in which, in a word, the breath of creation, or the miracle of religion, is always doubled, supplemented, and thus contaminated by the machine of science and tele-technology. (shrink)
Todd argues for the integration of science and religion to form a new paradigm for the third millennium. He counters both the arguments made by fundamentalist Christians against science and the rejection of religion by the New Atheists, in particular Richard Dawkins and his followers. Drawing on the work of scientists, psychologists, philosophers, and theologians, Todd challenges the materialistic reductionism of our age and offers an alternative grounded in the visionary work taking place in a wide (...) array of disciplines including Jungian archetypal psychology, quantum mechanics, evolutionary biology,epistemology, neuroscience and an incarnational theology implicit in the evolutionary process. (shrink)
. For moral guidance we human beings may be tempted to turn toward the past (scripture, tradition), toward present science, or toward future consequences. Each of these approaches has strengths and limitations. To address those limitations, we need to consider how these various perspectives can be brought togetherâand âreligion and scienceâ is an area in which this may happen. That makes the question of where to look for guidance potentially a central one for religion and science, (...) setting the agenda differently from apologetic questions with respect to religion or to science. However, âreligion and scienceâ does not solve the issues, leading to a single normative perspective; the way that current knowledge is integrated with past wisdom is highly dependent upon ideals that relate to the future. Thus, rather than resolving the need for guidance, the religion-and-science conversation becomes one way of addressing our need for guidance, bringing into the conversation past, present, and future. (shrink)
Ralph Wendell Burhoe was a leading figure in relating religion and science in the second half of the twentieth century. His autodidactic style and character as a public intellectual resulted in a vision that is comprehensive in its concern for the salvation of society. He does not fit easily into academic frameworks, even though he has been influential upon scholars who work in academia. This article discusses some conundrums posed by his work. There are also brief presentations of (...) the concerns that motivated Burhoe, his style of work, and the content of his vision. (shrink)
Reformed epistemology and cognitive science have remarkably converged on belief in God. Reformed epistemology holds that belief in God is basic—that is, belief in God is a natural, non-inferential belief that is immediately produced by a cognitive faculty. Cognitive science of religion also holds that belief in gods is (often) non-reflectively and instinctively produced—that is, non-inferentially and automatically produced by a cognitive faculty or system. But there are differences. In this paper, we will show some remarkable points (...) of convergence, and a few points of divergence, between Reformed epistemology and the cognitive science of religion. (shrink)
Are science and religion necessarily in conflict? This essay, by stressing the importance of metaphor in scientific understanding, argues that this is not so. There are certain important questions about existence, ethics, sentience and ultimate meaning and purpose that not only does science not answer but that science does not even attempt to answer. One does not necessarily have to turn to religion—one could remain agnostic or skeptical—but nothing in science precludes religion from (...) offering answers. One may criticize the answers of religion, but so long as religion is not attempting surreptitiously to offer scientific answers, the criticisms must be theological or philosophical or of like nature, and cannot simply be purely scientific. (shrink)
This article deals with phenomena occurring at the interface of the existential, the religious, and scientific inquiry. On the basis of in-depth interviews with Polish physicists and biologists, I examine the role that science and religion play in their narrative of the meaning of the Universe and human life. I show that the narratives about meaning have a system-related character that is associated with responses to adjacent metaphysical questions, including those based on scientific knowledge. I reconstruct the typical (...) amalgam questions of Polish scientists and come to a conclusion about the stability of religious and nonreligious amalgams in this group. Critically referring to the thesis concerning the secularizing impact of science, I conclude that science by itself does not have a destructive effect on Polish scientists’ confidence that life and the Universe are meaningful, but is rather an exacerbating factor of the existing worldview system. (shrink)
Have evolution, science and the trappings of the modern world killed off God irrevocably? And what do we lose if we choose not to believe in him? From Newton and Descartes to Darwin and the discovery of the genome, religion has been pushed back further and further while science has gained ground. But what fills the void that religion leaves behind? This book is an attempt to look at these questions and to suggest a third way (...) between the easy consolations of religion and the persuasive force of science that the everyday modern reader can engage with. (shrink)
In the recent past, attempts to revitalize historico-religious studies have challenged the charismatic appeal of some of the most celebrated scholars of the twentieth century. At the same time, the old and ideological frameworks that characterized the field have been critically analyzed and deconstructed. The disciplinary status quo, taken for granted for quite a long time, has been shaken to its foundation, paving the way for new approaches. However, the postmodern tenet of problematizing any authority has also become a convenient (...) shortcut to blur the distinction between scientific signal and nonepistemic noise. Despite this troublesome feature, some scholars have deployed postmodern and poststructuralist tools to study the genealogy, reception, implementation, and diffusion of cultural representations within the aforementioned academic discipline. The present article briefly reviews one of the most recent and remarkable examples of such scholarship, that is, The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800–2000. (shrink)
A dualistic, discarnate picture haunts contemporary cognitive science of religion. Cognitive scientists of religion generally assert or assume a reductive physicalism, primarily through unconscious mental mechanisms that detect supernatural agency where none exists and a larger purpose to life when none exists. Accompanying this focus is a downplaying of conscious reflection in religious belief and practice. Yet the mind side of dualism enters into CSR in interesting ways. Some cognitive scientists turn practitioners of religion into dualists (...) who allegedly believe in disembodied spirits. By emphasizing supernatural agency, CSR neglects nonpersonal powers and meanings in religion, both in terms of magical thinking and practice and of nonpersonal conceptions of divinity. Additionally, some cognitive scientists of religion declare that all humans are innate dualists. They use this alleged dualism to explain beliefs about both an afterlife and transfers of consciousness. Finally, some call on this dualism to serve a salvific function, trying to salvage some meaning to human life. (shrink)
Miracle and Machine is a sort of "reader's guide" to Jacques Derrida's 1994 essay "faith and knowledge," his most important work on the nature of religion in general and on the unprecedented forms it is taking today through science and the ...
Abstract. Although the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR), a current approach to the scientific study of religion, has exerted an influence in the study of religion for almost twenty years, the question of its compatibility or incompatibility with theism has not been the subject of serious discussion until recently. Some critics of religion have taken a lively interest in the CSR because they see it as useful in explaining why religious believers consistently make costly commitments (...) to false beliefs. Conversely, some theists have argued for the compatibility of religious belief with basic CSR results. In this article, we contribute to the incipient discussion about the worldview relevance of the CSR by arguing that while a theistic reading of the field only represents one interpretative option at most, antitheistic claims about the incompatibility of the CSR with theism look like they may be harder to maintain than first appearances might suggest. (shrink)
Aristotle's observation that all human beings by nature desire to know aptly captures the spirit of "intellectualist" research in psychology and anthropology. Intellectualists in these fields agree that humans' have fundamental explanatory interests (which reflect their rationality) and that the idioms in which their explanations are couched can differ considerably across places and times (both historical and developmental). Intellectualists in developmental psychology (e.g., Gopnik and Meltzoff, 1997) maintain that young children's conceptual structures, like those of scientists, are theories and that (...) their conceptual development--like the development of science--is a process of theory formation and change. They speculate that our explanatory preoccupations result, at least in part, from a natural drive to develop theories. Intellectualists in the anthropology of religion (e.g., Horton, 1970 and 1993) hold that, although it may do many other things as well, religion is primarily concerned with providing explanatory theories. They maintain that religion and science have the same explanatory goals; only the idioms of their explanations differ. The connections between the concern for explanation, the pursuit of science, the persistence of religion, and the cognitive processes underlying each clearly merit further examination. By considering both their cultural manifestations and their cognitive foundations, I hope to clarify not only how science and religion are related but some of the ways their explanatory projects differ. I shall argue that, despite their centuries' old antagonisms, no development in science will ever seriously threaten the persistence of religion or the forms of explanation religion employs or the emergence of new religions. (I strongly suspect that science will never seriously threaten the persistence of particular religions either, but I only aim to defend the weaker, collective claim here.) In this paper's fourth section I shall show that religion and its characteristic forms of explanation 1 are a natural outgrowth of the character and content of human association and cognition.. (shrink)
This is the first major response to the new challenge of neuroscience to religion. There have been limited responses from a purely Christian point of view, but this takes account of eastern as well as western forms of religious experience. It challenges the prevailing naturalistic assumption of our culture, including the idea that the mind is either identical with or a temporary by-product of brain activity. It also discusses religion as institutions and religion as inner experience of (...) the Transcendent, and suggests a form of spirituality for today. (shrink)
The cognitive science of religion seeks to find genuine causal explanations for the origin and transmission of religious ideas. In the cognitive approach to religion, so-called intuitive and counter-intuitive concepts figure importantly. In this article it is argued that cognitive scientists of religion should clarify their views about the explanatory and semantic role they give to counter-intuitive concepts and beliefs in their theory. Since the cognitive science of religion is a naturalistic research programme, it (...) is doubtful that its proponents can remain neutral on important ontological questions. (shrink)