Is religion a form of play? I asked this question in a recent article in Orbiter, a new online magazine that tackles the relationship between science and meaning. Taking an evolutionary biological perspective, the article argued that, despite often seeming very serious, religion actually has many features in common with animal play behavior. I also drew on the historian Johan Huizinga’s famous argument that human civilization itself is founded on play to show how religious practices and rituals have many points… Read more

One of the most common ideas about religion is that it’s somehow intrinsically connected with morality. Showcasing just how widespread this assumption is, a recent study found that people around the world tend to implicitly (or not-so-implicitly) believe that, compared with religious believers, nonbelievers are less moral and more prone to criminality. One of the study’s co-authors, anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas, summed up the study’s results last week in the web magazine The Conversation. There, he argued that in fact religion isn’t… Read more

Individualism is on the upswing all across the world, new research shows. How will this change affect the future of religion? Read more

A cognitive process called predictive processing may be how the brain generates religious and spiritual experiences, according to a pair of neuroscientists. Read more

Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a conference in Norway. For four days, I hung out near the shore of a beautiful lake with around 300 other scholars, caught up with friends, and heard presentations. I also gave a presentation myself: an overview of a computer model I recently built with my partner in crime, Saikou Diallo. This model simulates the way that self-regulation, the basic psychological process that guides human behavior and stabilizes emotions, is affected… Read more

Science is an incredible thing. But classism and prejudice against working-class people are endemic in science, harming both science and democracy. Read more

Science and democracy are mutually entwined. Both require independent thought and reasoned consensus. When democracy is in trouble, what’s next for science? Read more

A few years ago, out of the blue, a rabbi named Geoff Mitelman wrote me an email. He was starting a fellowship program in New York, and wanted to know whether I’d be interested in joining it. The fellowship, called “Sinai and Synapses,” was focused on religion and science and would bring scientists, scholars, and religious leaders together for lectures and conversations three times per year in midtown Manhattan. Travel and hotel would be covered in full! I said yes…. Read more

Scientist Dominic Johnson thinks belief in supernatural punishment drove the evolution of cooperation. A new paper and simulation tested this hypothesis. Read more

Why be patriotic, since countries are often unfair, unjust, and warlike? Because humans need groups to live & good groups take commitment, work, and belief. Read more

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