How do historians understand the minds, motivations and intentions of historical agents? What might evolutionary and cognitive theorizing contribute to this work? What is the relation between natural and cultural history? Historians have been intrigued by such questions ever since publication in 1859 of Darwin's The Origin of Species, itself the historicization of biology. This interest reemerged in the latter part of the twentieth century among a number of biologists, philosophers and historians, reinforced by the new interdisciplinary finding of cognitive (...) scientists about the universal capacities of and constraints upon human minds. The studies in this volume, primarily by historians of religion, continue this discussion by focusing on historical examples of ancient religions as well as on the theoretical promises and problems relevant to that study. (shrink)
With contributions from founders of the field, including Justin Barrett, E. Thomas Lawson, Robert N. McCauley, Paschal Boyer, Armin Geertz and Harvey Whitehouse, as well as from younger scholars from successive stages in the field's development, this is an important survey of the first twenty-five years of the cognitive science of religion. Each chapter provides the author's views on the contributions the cognitive science of religion has made to the academic study of religion, as well as any shortcomings in the (...) field and challenges for the future. Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after Twenty-five Years calls attention to the field whilst providing an accessible and diverse survey of approaches from key voices, as well as offering suggestions for further research within the field. This book is essential reading for anyone in religious studies, anthropology, and the scientific study of religion. (shrink)
Atran & Norenzayan have proposed a study of religion based in the cognitive sciences. Their final conclusions, however, incorporate functionalist definitions. Further, key features by which they characterize religion are not instantiated by some historical evidence. Nevertheless, the foci of their arguments are central to any study of religion and should provoke further research and experimentation along the lines suggested.
We are pleased to present the following Review Forum of Harvey Whitehouse’s book, Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 204 pages. ISBN 0-19- 823414-7 (cloth); 0-19-823415-5 (paper). We have given the contributors and the book’s author sufficient space to discuss its themes carefully and thus make a significant contribution to the further analysis of religion and ritual generally.