March 3, 2012

Connor Wood In 2009, the world marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the bushy-bearded biologist known for being the first to articulate the theory of evolution by natural selection. His tome On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, forever changed how people think about their place in the world. But despite near-universal scientific acceptance of his theory, if Darwin were alive today he would find himself surrounded by enemies, particularly among religious believers in the… Read more

February 29, 2012

Connor Wood In December 2011, the Journal of Behavioral Medicine dedicated an entire issue to studies focusing on religion, spirituality, and health. Many of these papers attempt to correct shortcomings in the previous religion-health literature, including a lack of good theoretical grounding and lack of longitudinal, or long-duration, research methodologies. This is Part II of a two-part article summarizing and reviewing the studies from this issue. (more…) Read more

February 27, 2012

Connor Wood Recently, researchers have gotten serious about studying the effects of religion on health. For decades, there were abundant studies that seemed to link church attendance with better health and lower mortality, but investigators weren’t sure what those connections might mean. Was religious activity actually causing better health among adherents, or were there other factors in play? As part of current efforts to address questions like these, the Journal of Behavioral Medicine recently devoted an entire issue to exploring… Read more

February 17, 2012

Connor Wood It’s one of the most basic human experiences. The world and I are different things – the world is out there, and I’m looking out at all the action. But this division might not be so strict for everyone. Researchers in China have discovered that people from different cultures show distinctive patterns of neuronal activation when asked to think about themselves. Specifically, Tibetan Buddhists do not exhibit the typical brain activity associated with concepts of a self. This… Read more

February 17, 2012

Joel Daniels Oxford University has announced that it will host a debate between famed science writer and atheist Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The event on February 23rd, which will be webcast live here, is sponsored by the Oxford theology faculty. The theme of the debate is “The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin,” and it will be moderated by Anthony Kenny, a philosopher at the university. (more…) Read more

February 16, 2012

Derek Michaud While predictions of the imminent death of religion in an increasingly “secular” world often sound quaint, if not downright out of touch, profound religious experience can still seem like the purview of a fringe minority. After all, being “born again,” or achieving “mokṣa” (liberation) are not exactly everyday experiences, even for those who say they have had them. Nevertheless, a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that nearly half of all Americans… Read more

February 16, 2012

Nicholas C. DiDonato Religion is just a by-product of human evolution. Religion is just a by-product of psychology. Religion is surely nothing more than a by-product of some other, less-suspect field of human behavior. Such attitudes define religion in terms of another discipline, often to the chagrin of religious believers. But is this approach correct? Gregory R. Peterson (South Dakota State University) has recently argued those who try to reduce religion to the cognitive science of religion commit an important… Read more

February 16, 2012

Connor Wood It’s a question many religious parents dread: “When Spot dies, will he go to heaven?” Countless children – and adults – have wondered whether their pets possess spirits, and the debate isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Still, recent research in neuroscience may shed light on this age-old question by suggesting that many animals are capable of religious experiences, including near-death encounters and profound feelings of awe and oneness. According to these studies, the root of spiritual… Read more

February 16, 2012

Nicholas C. DiDonato Envision the typical religious believer. What personality traits come to mind? For some people, religious people epitomize ignorance, intolerance, and stubbornness; for others, they personify love, grace, and forgiveness. Of course, simply asking how people perceive a certain group in no way indicates whether they accurately perceived said group. An empirical approach is needed. Taking up this challenge, psychologist Vassilis Sarogloul (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium) argues that the fundamental personality characteristics of the religious, regardless of… Read more

February 16, 2012

Evolution can sometimes produce characteristics that are, well, no good, from seed beetle genitalia that grievously injure females during mating and sexual apparatuses in ducks that are remarkably incompatible between males and females, to costly peacock tails that—contrary to decades of speculation about their role in mating advertisement—actually seem to do nothing to attract females. Read more

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