Does religion offer something special that science doesn’t?
Connor Wood is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture, focusing on the evolutionary study of religion, computer modeling of social processes, and religion-science issues. Connor writes a popular weekly blog, Science On Religion, at Patheos.com, and occasionally blogs for the Huffington Post. Connor’s interests include the evolutionary and cognitive roles of ritual, the influence of religion on health and self-regulation, and the conservative-liberal spectrum in psychology and religion. He also studies the relationship between cognitive style and spirituality at the survey website FaithInDepth.org.
Previously, Connor earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then bummed around the world for a couple of years and had adventures, many of which turned out to be more fun to write about than they technically were to have. For example, he once was mugged in Mongolia. Today, Connor is working on a book that applies the cognitive and evolutionary sciences of religion to contemporary political quandaries. He likes climbing mountains in Colorado. Connor’s spirit animal is William James.
The Modeling Religion Project at the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston uses computer simulations to refine and compare theories of religion, cognition, and culture.
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If evolution only involves discrete entities replicating themselves with high fidelity, then group-level selection probably doesn’t happen. But not everybody agrees that this is the litmus test for evolution.
Instead of writing off the enemy as evil animals who are motivated by greed or mental illness, an anthropologist actually tries to understand where ISIS is coming from, so as to better interpret their motives.
Connor Wood argues that religion’s evolutionary adaptiveness (or lack thereof) shouldn’t have the slightest bearing on the epistemic credibility of religious beliefs, or the ultimate goodness of religion.
If you want to understand religion, you need to understand humans. And if you want to understand humans, you need to understand bodies. Our increasingly disembodied, tech-driven lives aren’t making that any easier.
What can we learn about ourselves when we study religion scientifically?