Cognition and Religion

From 2006 to 2008, the Center carried out an initiative on Cognition and Religion, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. This initiative encompassed a series of lectures and symposia, an ongoing seminar, and a number of empirical projects.

2006-2008 Events included:
October 20, 2006: “Neuroscience and Religion a symposium featuring Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin; Margaret Kemeny, University of California, San Francisco; Wayne Proudfoot, Columbia University; Clifford Saron, University of California, Davis; and Jonathan Cohen and Leigh Schmidt, Princeton University.

May 11, 2007: What is Prayer? a symposium featuring Catherine Bell, Santa Clara University; Sister Mary Margaret Funk, Our Lady of Grace Monastery; David D. Hall, Harvard Divinity School; Carol Zaleski, Smith College; and Albert Raboteau, Princeton University.

Princeton Lectures in Cognition and Religion included “Why People Perform Rituals” by Pascal Boyer, Washington University in St. Louis, March 2, 2006; “Ethics, Freedom, and the Death of Rationalism: What Cognitive Science Tells Us About the Culture Wars” by George Lakoff, University of California, Berkeley, April 13, 2006; “Can God Answer Back?” by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale Divinity School, April 20, 2006; “Born to Believe: God, Science, and the Origin of Ordinary and Extraordinary Beliefs,” by Andrew Newberg, University of Pennsylvania, September 26, 2007; “The Role of Matruationally Natural Cognition in Science and Religion,” by Robert N. McCauley, February 7, 2008.

For more information, see our listing of Past Events.

The Cognitive and Textual Methods Seminar brought scholars from such scientific fields as cognitive science, artificial intelligence, computer science, and linguistics together with scholars from the social sciences and humanities who study religion. The project moved the scientific study of prayer beyond its current emphasis on the instrumental uses of prayer to a more complete understanding of the form and content of prayer and its role in human societies. The project sought to break new ground by bringing recent scientific methods of text analysis, based on concepts from the cognitive sciences, to bear on the analysis of prayer.

For more information on the Cognition and Religion Initiative please contact Rebekah Massengill.