Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Special Forthcoming Issue of The Monist on Cognitive Science of Religion

(H/T Prosblogion). Table of contents and abstracts below:


The Monist 96:3 July 2013, "Naturalizing Religious Belief"
Advisory Editor: James Beebe (University at Buffalo)
Justin L. Barrett & Ian M. Church (Fuller Theological Seminary), "Should CSR Give Atheists Epistemic Assurance? On Beer-Goggles, BFFs, and Skepticism Regarding Religious Beliefs"
John Teehan (Hofstra University), "The Cognitive Bases of the Problem of Evil"
Jason Marsh (St. Olaf College), "Darwin and the Problem of Natural Nonbelief"
Steven Horst (Wesleyan University), "Notions of Intuition in the Cognitive Science of Religion"
Adam Green (Azusa Pacific University), "Cognitive Science and the Natural Knowledge of God"
Paul Draper (Purdue University) & Ryan Nichols (California State University, Fullerton), "Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion"
Konrad Talmont-Kaminski (University of Finance and Management, Warsaw), "For God and Country, Not Necessarily for Truth: The Non-Alethic Function of Superempirical Beliefs"
Robert Audi (University of Notre Dame), "The Scientific Study of Religion and the Pillars of Human Dignity"

Justin L. Barrett & Ian M. Church (Fuller Theological Seminary), "Should CSR Give Atheists Epistemic Assurance? On Beer-Goggles, BFFs, and Skepticism Regarding Religious Beliefs"
Recent work in cognitive science of religion (CSR) is beginning to converge on a very interesting thesis - that, given the ordinary features of human minds operating in typical human environments, we are naturally disposed to believe in the existence of gods, among other religious ideas (e.g., see Atran 2002; Barrett 2004; Barrett 2012; Bering 2011; Boyer 2001; Guthrie 1993; McCauley 2011; Pyysiäinen 2004; Pyysiäinen 2009). In this paper, we explore whether such a discovery ultimately helps or hurts the atheist position - whether, for example, it lends credence to atheism by explaining away religious belief or whether it actually strengthens some already powerful arguments against atheism in the relevant philosophical literature. We argue that the recent discoveries of CSR hurt, not help, the atheist position - that CSR, if anything, should not give atheists epistemic assurance.

John Teehan (Hofstra University), "The Cognitive Bases of the Problem of Evil"
The problem of evil is a central issue in the philosophy of religion, for countless believers and skeptics alike. The attempt to resolve the dilemma of positing the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, creator while recognizing the presence of evil in the world has engaged philosophers and theologians for millennia. This article will not seek to resolve the dilemma but rather to explore the question of why there is a problem of evil. That is, why is it that gods are conceived in ways that give rise to this dilemma? The topic will be approached using insights into the religious mind being developed by the disciplines contributing to the Cognitive Science of Religion. The thesis to be developed is that this problem is a product of natural cognitive processes that give rise to god-beliefs, beliefs that are shaped by evolved moral intuitions.

Jason Marsh (St. Olaf College), "Darwin and the Problem of Natural Nonbelief"
Problem one: why, if God designed the human mind, did it take so long for humans to develop theistic concepts and beliefs? Problem two: why would God use evolution to design the living world when the discovery of evolution would predictably contribute to so much nonbelief in God? Darwin was aware of such questions but failed to see their evidential significance for theism. This paper explores this significance. Problem one introduces something I call natural nonbelief, which is significant because it parallels and corroborates well-known worries about natural evil. Problems one and two, especially when combined, support naturalism over theism, intensify the problem of divine hiddenness, challenge Alvin Plantinga's views about the naturalness of theism, and advance the discussion about whether the conflict between science and religion is genuine or superficial.

Steven Horst (Wesleyan University), "Notions of Intuition in the Cognitive Science of Religion"
This article examines the notions of "intuitive" and "counterintuitive" beliefs and concepts in cognitive science of religion. "Intuitive" states are contrasted with those that are products of explicit, conscious reasoning. In many cases the intuitions are grounded in the implicit rules of mental models, frames, or schemas. I argue that the pathway from intuitive to high theological concepts and beliefs may be distinct from that from intuitions to "folk religion", and discuss how Christian theology might best interpret the results of studies in cognitive psychology of religion.

Adam Green (Azusa Pacific University), "Cognitive Science and the Natural Knowledge of God"
In this essay, I argue that, rather than being in inherent conflict with religion or operating on planes that do not intersect, the cognitive science of religion (CSR) can be used to renovate a religious understanding of the world. I show how a CSR perspective allows one to reshape the perspectives of Aquinas and Calvin on the natural knowledge of God. The Christian tradition affirms that all human beings have available to them some knowledge of God. This claim has empirical import and thus invites scientific investigation and clarification. A CSR-inspired lens allows one's theological reflections to move from paradigms that focus on the cognitive reach of a domain-general power of human thought to a paradigm focused on different ways of relating to another person. The case study of the natural knowledge of God presented here models a more productive way of relating CSR and religious perspectives from within a faith tradition.

Paul Draper (Purdue University) & Ryan Nichols (California State University, Fullerton), "Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion"
Work in philosophy of religion exhibits at least four symptoms of poor health: it is too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical. Our diagnosis is that, because of the emotional and psychosocial aspects of religion, many philosophers of religion suffer from cognitive biases and group influence. We support this diagnosis in two ways. First, we examine work in psychology on cognitive biases and their affective triggers. This work supports the view that, while cognitive biases are no doubt a problem in all inquiry and in all areas of philosophy, they are particularly damaging to inquiry in philosophy of religion. Second, we examine work in social and evolutionary psychology on religious sociality and its attendant emotions. This work establishes that the coalitional features of religion are correlated with group bias, and we contend that this bias is also harmful to inquiry in philosophy of religion. We close by offering both a prognosis and recommendations for treatment.

Konrad Talmont-Kaminski (University of Finance and Management, Warsaw), "For God and Country, Not Necessarily for Truth: The Non-Alethic Function of Superempirical Beliefs"
Religious beliefs, it has been noted, are often hard to disprove. While this would be a shortcoming for beliefs whose utility was connected to their accuracy, it is actually necessary in the case of beliefs whose function bears no connection to how accurate they are. In the case of religions and other ideologies that serve to promote prosocial behaviour this leads to the need to protect the beliefs systems against potentially disruptive counterevidence while maintaining their relevance. Religions turn out to be particularly adept at this because of the use they make of existing cognitive byproducts to make them plausible without exposing them overly to investigation.

Robert Audi (University of Notre Dame), "The Scientific Study of Religion and the Pillars of Human Dignity"
A familiar theme in discussions of science and religion is the impact of scientific progress on our conception of ourselves. Of particular concern in understanding this impact is the question of how our view of human dignity is affected by scientific progress--or even influential scientific theories, whether or not they are ultimately well confirmed. I include here theories in the cognitive science of religion (CSR), but my concern is wider. It has been said that Darwin unseated our sense of our uniqueness in the biological realm and that Freud undermined our sense of rational self-control. Even supposing these claims are true and that they weaken or eliminate two of the pillars of human dignity, they do not by themselves undermine the possibility of justified theistic beliefs or other justified beliefs that support the view that human persons have a kind of dignity. Granted, the bare truth of theism does not imply that we are free and autonomous in the sense widely taken to be most relevant to human dignity, but some versions of theism--such as those implying that God would not have created persons who are not free and inherently valuable--tend to support the view that we have a kind of dignity. If, as many philosophers and others believe, scientific findings undermine both arguments for theism and, even apart from that, some cherished views about the uniqueness and rationality of human beings, the idea that human beings have dignity is deprived of one source of support. This paper will explore whether developments in CSR might threaten our positive self-conception and, independently of that, the idea that there is a rational basis for theism. Might the results and likely developments of CSR undermine the idea of human dignity as implying--in normal adult human beings--minimally, on the psychological side, free rational agency and a good measure of autonomy and, on the normative side, moral rights and a capacity for moral agency, i.e., roughly, for action based on moral judgment or cognition?

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