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category: Religion
New Religion Editor: Richard Sosis

New Religion Editor: Richard Sosis

Post: September 29, 2013 12:48 pm
Author: Richard Sosis         Source: TVOL Exclusive

I am thrilled to be joining the This View of Life editorial team. I greatly appreciate the invitation to serve as the editor of the Religion section and I look forward to working with everyone at TVOL. I am especially grateful to Michael Blume, who has done a remarkable job with this section since the founding of the magazine. Thankfully, Michael will remain part of our team, as the Assistant Editor of this section, and will continue to contribute thoughtful articles as well as help me run operations behind the scenes.

During the last two decades there has been tremendous growth in the scientific study of religion, particularly from the natural sciences and related disciplines. Neurologists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, physical anthropologists, and biologists have been entering territory formerly claimed as the exclusive domain of the humanities and the social sciences. What unites this emerging multidisciplinary body of work is a shared use of evolutionary models and appreciation that evolutionary theory can solve longstanding puzzles concerning the rise of religion and its role in the history of our species. And most researchers in this field are confident that evolutionary models can also explain contemporary trends in religious expression. Our understanding of religion is deepening and broadening rapidly and the future of its evolutionary study has never been more exciting. Indeed, within just the last year there have been major findings on the evolution of religion published in the top science journals, including Nature, Science, PNAS, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Psychological Science, and the overall rate of scientific publications on religion has grown exponentially over the last decade. Moreover, several multi-million dollar grants have been awarded recently to study the evolution of rituals and religious beliefs, which means that more groundbreaking results are on the horizon.

As the editor of this page, it is my goal to bring this cutting-edge work to the readers of this magazine. I also hope to foster online discussion about the meanings and implications of the latest findings in the evolutionary study of religion. And I am open to suggestions and would welcome your input. So, please send me your thoughts on books, research articles, and academic conferences that you would like us to cover, as well as ideas about interviews and roundtable discussions that we could organize, videotape, and present on this page. Thanks for your help and support!


Richard Sosis is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Evolution, Cognition, and Culture Program at the University of Connecticut. His work has focused on the evolution of religion and cooperation, with particular interests in ritual, magic, religious cognition, and the dynamics of religious systems. To explore these issues, he has conducted fieldwork with remote cooperative fishers in the Federated States of Micronesia and with various communities throughout Israel. He is co-founder and co-editor of the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior, which publishes research on the biological study of religion.

Comments

Post: October 1 2013 8:03 pm By: Sheila


Question: Do you have any religious or spiritual affiliation that you practice with regularity or acknowledge as your belief system?

Post: October 6 2013 5:38 am By: John J.


I’m interested to know what the major findings are on the evolution of religion that have been published in the last year that you are referring to. Could you point me to some of the articles/authors/subjects?

Post: October 7 2013 2:28 pm By: Rich


John, I recommend checking out the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior (http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rrbb20/current), which publishes recent findings on the evolution of religion (I am a co-founder and co-editor of the journal). The first three issues are currently accessible for free (http://www.tandfonline.com/token/AT_RRBB_CT_0913/UKMark?redirectUri=/loi/rrbb20). Another journal of interest is The Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, which published their first issue about a month ago (https://www.equinoxpub.com/journals/index.php/JCSR). I can also recommend two recent books: Matt Rossano’s “Mortal Rituals” and Ara Norenzayan’s “Big Gods.”

Post: October 8 2013 2:44 am By: John J.


Richard, thank you for the information. I will check out the journals. I have read Ara Norenzayan’s Big Gods and found it very interesting, and well written, it deserves more publicity. I will check out Matt Rossano’s Mortal Rituals as well. I am curious to find out what cannabalism after an Andes plane crash in the seventies can learn us about religion. Again, thank you. These are interesting times.

Post: October 8 2013 11:29 am By: Rich


John, I’m glad my comments were of use, but I should have read your comment more closely. Here are three specific papers: Gervais and Norenzayan, Reminders of secular authority reduce believers’ distrust of atheists (Psychological Science); Gervais and Norenzayan, Analytical thinking promotes religious disbelief (Science); Fincher and Thornhill, Parasite-stress promotes in-group assortative sociality (Behavioral and Brain Sciences).

Post: October 11 2013 11:05 am By: Rich


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