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Human Evolution Lunch Seminar

Professor, dr.phil. Armin W. Geertz, will give an introduction to cognitive and evolutionary approaches to religion at the Human Evolution Lunch Seminar.

2013.05.24 | Ellen Bernadette Noer

Date Fri 24 May
Time 12:00 13:00
Location Aarhus Univertsity, C.F. Møllers Alle 8, Build. 1110


Professor Geertz is director of the RCC research unit, director of the Culture and Cognition section of MINDLab, and President of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion.


During the past two decades, the science of religion has witnessed a revolution on two fronts. The first is what I would call the cognitive turn (from 1990 onwards) in the humanities, and the second, following on the heels of the cognitive turn, is evolutionary theory. The cognitive turn in the study of religion led to the establishment of the cognitive science of religion (CSR) in which scholars began to apply cognitive theories and experimental approaches to religion. Such scholars as Pascal Boyer, E. Thomas Lawson, Robert N. McCauley, Dan Sperber and Harvey Whitehouse were pioneers of the CSR. The Religion, Cognition and Culture research unit (RCC) at the Department of Culture and Society has taken the CSR to heart and contributes actively to the development of the field.

The cognitive theories were already embedded in evolutionary theory and, in fact, most of the results of early CSR scholarship were attempts to explain the origins and evolution of religion. The field of comparative religion was originally founded in the middle of the 19th century and developed within the context of the new evolutionary paradigm at that time. Attempts to schematize the evolution of cultures and religions in the 19th century, however, were definitively rejected at the beginning of the 20th century because those schemes were unabashedly progressionist Whiggism (or vulgar social Darwinism). Thus, most theories and especially evolutionary theories were rejected by historians of religion. Today there is a renewed interest in evolutionary questions in the fields of the historical, sociological, anthropological and psychological studies of religion not least because of the exciting and learned publications of sociologist Robert Bellah, anthropologists Jonathan Turner & Alexandra Maryanski, psychologist Merlin Donald and biosemiotician Terrence Deacon.

Lecture / talk