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Cognitive science of religion

1 pages62 viewsFall 2011

Religious Studies
Course Code
RELS 161
Jason Kelly

of 1
Cognitive science of religion
-hybrid discipline
-focuses on belief including ritual, concludes that theological beliefs only partially
inform peoples actual behaviour and thoughts
- being religious part time
- uses sources such as Daniel Dennett, lakoff and Johnson, steven pinker, pascal
boyer, dan sperber
-religion is performative
- action oriented and thus produces an effect or transformation on the practitioner
- the epidemiology of belief, ideas are contagious, spread like a virus
- religion based on cognitive science is the belief in supernatural or superhman
- also linked to other societal forces as well as politics, economics, land disputes,
access to resources, power, etc
- alan wallance, Buddhists argue that the world as we see it is not the way it realy is,
but rather the way it appears to us and our senses.
- human sense perceptions are limited and prone to false beliefs
- religion is the product of mind brain
- cognitive theorists of religion claim that religion is constrained by the physical
architecture of the human brain, making religion natural and physical
- slone is making religion the object of scientific inquiry, looking to science to
explain religion
- we cannot study gods or supernatural beings, we can onyk study human derived
data about the gods (texts, rituals, etc)
- Thompson values Buddhism for its contemplative techniques and suggests that
Buddhists could help with scientific research for understanding human
- goes beyond the 4 fold sceme, offers a fifth model, partnership
- Thompson - neurophenomenology
- influeced by 3 central approaches in cognitive science
1. the computational theory of mind (seeing the mind as a digital machine,
computer, using domain modules for processing information and acquiring
2. connectionism
3. dynamical and embodied approaches
- eg computational approach mind is not a blank slate at birth, but genetically
programmed or predisposed to language
- connectioniast and dynmiacal approaches (neural network models) try to
stimulate the neural activity or achitecture in the brain to explain how it functions

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