In taking lead from the Cognitive Sciences, its sub-discipline, known as the cognitive sciences of religion (CSR), has been fashioned as an interdisciplinary research programme. CSR aims to combine and integrate scientific theories and methodologies in order to naturalistically explain recurring cultural forms of “religious” belief and behavior through appeal to cognitive processes. In his previous podcast with the Religious Studies Project in 2014, Dr. Robert McCauley gave an overview of some of these processes cognitive scientists appeal to in accounting for religion (e.g., agent detection, theory of mind), as well as a technical discussion about why “religion is natural and science is not.” In his current podcast, recorded at the 2015 North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) conference (and thanks to their support), McCauley discusses methodological and theoretical issues within CSR. He begins by tackling the topic of “naturalism” vs. “supernaturalism” in explaining religion, moving on to how these explanations function at different levels of analysis and integration. In closing, McCauley discusses the relationship between the humanities and the sciences, some successful and not so successful CSR theories, and the interplay between explanations emphasizing cognition and culture.
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