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

April 4, 2019

Residents of Western Europe and North America are WEIRD – individualistic, analytically minded, and impersonally cooperative. Why? A new study preprint suggests that the roots of WEIRDness might be in, of all things, the Catholic Church’s prohibitions against cousin marriage. Read more

March 16, 2019

This past weekend, a group of senior scholars met for a colloquium in Boston to discuss the state of the scientific study of religion. One of the key questions: how do you balance between ecological validity and experimental control? Read more

March 8, 2019

Religion is a complicated nut to crack. It encompasses some of the most private and personal human experiences as well as the most dazzling, public displays you’ll ever see. Many holy scriptures teach the equal value of all people, yet religious traditions serve as a fount of tribalism. There’s no getting around the contradictions. Fortunately, we can study some of the most puzzling aspects of religion objectively, using the tools of the human behavioral, cognitive, and evolutionary sciences. This is… Read more

February 22, 2019

Religion, science, and postmodernism are usually seen as enemies. But each of these ideologies holds crucial values in common with each of the others – even if there’s nothing they all share together. Here’s a look at the complex, threeway relationship between Science™ and its two biggest competitors. Read more

February 7, 2019

Why do people – even atheists – tend to trust religious believers more? A scientific tool called life history theory may point to the answer. Religious believers are seen as having “slower” life history strategies – more committed relationships, more emphasis on caring for offspring. Read more

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