November 23, 2019

Back in the spring, the Center for Mind and Culture and I hosted a colloquium for top leaders in the cognitive and evolutionary sciences of religion. It just so happened that Andrew Henry, the proprietor of the popular YouTube channel Religion for Breakfast, was able to join us and filmed in-depth interviews with each of the top-flight participants. Two of those interviews are now live, and I thought I’d put up a quick post to show them around. Both Andrew and… Read more

November 9, 2019

The neuroscientist Björn Merker argues that humans, unlike chimpanzees, have “ritual culture” – culture that depends on over-imitation and intensive social learning. Interestingly, this means we have more in common with whales, seals, and songbirds than with our closest living relatives. Read more

October 25, 2019

A new study has found fascinating evidence that conservatives care about to smaller, tighter moral circles than liberals do – whereas liberals go so far as to care about the fate of strangers from other countries, paramecia, and…rocks in outer space. Read more

September 25, 2019

If there’s one thing nearly all people can agree on, it’s that some actions are morally right and others are wrong. But which actions count as right or wrong? That gets a bit more complicated. In some societies, polygamy is normal and proper. In others, taking a second wife can get you imprisoned. Some societies value individual rights and autonomy, while others emphasize collective obligations and hierarchy. In the face of such dazzling differences, how are we supposed to develop… Read more

August 12, 2019

A recent article at the BBC argues that the future of religion might be found in a return to pre-Abrahamic, ethnic religious traditions, such as Norse neopaganism or the neo-African religion Ifa. What effect would this shift have on the world as we know it? Read more

July 16, 2019

Karl Friston, one of today’s foremost neuroscientists, thinks that all brain processing boils down to trying to reduce uncertainty about own’s own existence. Others think this same “free-energy principle” applies at the level of cultures, too – and maybe even religions. Here’s what that might mean. Read more

July 3, 2019

Looking at the world’s towns and cities from above, a fascinating pattern appears: we build our civilizations around temples. What would an alien visitor think? Read more

June 13, 2019

Tradition and religion are a poor fit in the innovation-driven economy that professionals inhabit. Is it possible to translate the value of “farming” virtues into the language of modern-day foragers? Or is it a fool’s errand? Read more

May 28, 2019

Do “big gods” – supernatural beings who care about human morality and fairness – help large, complex societies to evolve? A new paper in Nature suggests that it’s the other way around. But the paper’s findings have unleashed a storm of controversy and critiques. What can we conclude? Read more

May 10, 2019

In complex systems, too much efficiency can lead to a loss of resilience. Ritual and religious traditions may be built-in ways for people to prioritize resilience over efficiency, by preventing us from focusing too narrowly on utilitarian goals. Read more

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