Helen’s blog

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 representa

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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

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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

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Essentialist animals?

Over the past few decades, there has been a lot of research published on 'psychological essentialism', which has been observed cross-culturally in young children. Essentialism is the tendency

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Is the spell broken? Reflections on evolutionary debunking and religious beliefs

At the Notre Dame conference Darwin in the 21st century, Paul Griffiths gave an interesting talk on evolutionary debunking arguments for religion. Evolutionary debunking arguments basically say that

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Cumulative culture in the lab and chimpanzees

At the recent EHBEA conference held April 6-8 at Saint Andrews, I saw presentations by both Andrew Whiten (a primatologist who specializes on nonhuman cultural traditions, especially in chimpanz

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Cross-cultural variation in creationism

There is substantial cultural variation in the prevalence of creationism, i.e., the view that the Bible (or other religious writings) provides a historically accurate account of how living things

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How persistent are intuitive (erroneous) beliefs?

My motivation for posting this blog is simple: I am wondering whether it is possible for humans to ever truly internalize counterintuitive scientific principles like evolutionary theory or Newtonian

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Is Saint Nicholas a god?

Today is 6 December - for those living in Belgium and the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas will come to distribute gifts and candy to young children. Saint Nick has been the predecessor of Santa Claus

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Philosophy and Psychology: Special issue on number and language

The question of how language and conceptual thought are related is unresolved in both philosophy and psychology. Many recent tests of the so-called 'Whorfian hypothesis', the idea that the

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Is Intelligent Design a cross-cultural universal ?

As I am now co-writing a paper on the cognitive basis of intelligent design, I was wondering if any of you could help me with the following question: according to Deb Kelemen, Margaret Evans, and

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Are minimally counter-intuitive concepts more memorable for young children?

A few months ago, I took my 4-year-old daughter to the Ghent Design Museum which hosts an extensive collection of designer furniture. Some of this furniture looks positively bizarre, such as a couch

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