Helen De Cruz

‘Big Gods’ book club #2: Analytic atheism and the puzzle of apologetic

(This week, cognitionandculture.net is hosting a "book club" webinar discussing Ara Norenzayan's latest book with its author. This précis introduced the discussion.) Norenzayan’s Big Gods presents an elegant account of how belief in super-knowing, powerful and morally concerned gods emerged ...

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We are not intuitive monists — but then, what are we?

I have recently been watching the fascinating iTunes lectures by Tamar Gendler on the philosophy of human nature. Two of the lectures discuss what she terms "parts of the soul", but what I will here rather cumbersomely refer to as "parts of human personhood". Reviewing the ...

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Religious beliefs: Matter of fact or of preference?

In the public sphere, religious beliefs are often considered to be a matter of private sentiment or preference, not as matters of fact. While this may be helpful for the maintenance of a pluralistic society, religious individuals often regard their beliefs as true in an objective sense. Attempts to ...

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What explains foxhole theism?

The well-known dictum that there are no atheists in foxholes (the source of this phrase is uncertain) is false. After all, there is even a military organization for atheists, the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers. Having read several the testimonies from these military men and ...

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Atheist clergymen and belief in belief

A while ago, Dan Sperber blogged about research by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola on atheist clergymen. Their paper, which is available in open access here, provides a fascinating qualitative study on atheist clergymen from various denominations, all of whom were anonymousmy interviewed about ...

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Theology and cognitive science

In the next academic year, I will be a research follow at the University of Oxford on a project that examines the implications of cognitive science of religion for theology (see here for a summary of the project). The Holy Trinity by Masaccio, 1425 Traditionally, cognitive scientists have ...

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If “Religion is natural”, what about atheism?

In 'cognition and culture' circles, it is almost a matter of common wisdom, it seems, to claim that religious belief is natural, whereas atheism, physicalism and other forms of unbelief are unnatural (see for example this paper by Robert McCauley). Sociologist Rodney Stark has announced the ...

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Does atheism challenge the naturalness of religious belief?

Common wisdom has it that religious belief is natural, whereas atheism, physicalism and other forms of unbelief are unnatural (see for example, Rober McCauley's The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of Science, to be found here). The sociologist Rodney Stark announced the death of ...

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The theologian’s tragedy or the theologian’s trump card?

In October 2011, I will be working on a Templeton fellowship at the University of Oxford. My project is entitled Cognitive origins of intuitions in natural theology. See here for more details. The abstract is as follows: “Arguments in natural theology (like the fine tuning argument or the ...

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The Zeus problem revisited – or is it the Jedi problem?

In their recent paper (available here) in Journal of Cognition and Culture, Will M. Gervais and Joseph Henrich call attention to the Zeus problem. If religious belief is solely guided by representational content biases (as many scholars in the cognitive science of religion have argued), why do ...

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Epistemic trust in scientific practice: The case of primates studies

A few days ago, I received a favorable review of a paper of mine. The reviewer suggested some minor improvements, one of which led me to reflect on epistemic trust in scientific practice. In the paper, I cited a recent study of which Marc Hauser was the lead author. The reviewer suggested that I ...

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Endorsing evolution: A matter of authority?

As I discussed earlier in this blog, there appears to be substantial cross-cultural variation in the degree to which people endorse evolutionary theory. According to a study by Miller et al., some countries are characterized by an almost universal acceptance of evolutionary theory (e.g., Iceland, ...

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