IACESR Video Series

Video 1: Assoc Prof Claire White, Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion

In recent decades, a new scientific approach to understand, explain, and predict many features of religion has emerged. The cognitive science of religion (CSR) suggests that religion, like language or music, naturally emerges in humans with tractable similarities. This new approach has profound implications for how we understand religion.

Video 2: Prof Harvey Whitehouse, The Ritual Animal: Imitation and cohesion in the evolution of social complexity

A radical exploration of how rituals have influenced history over thousands of years.

The ritual animal longs to belong. From infancy, we copy those around us in order to be like others, to be one with the tribe. The copying of causally opaque behaviour (rituals) has allowed cultural groups to proliferate over time and space. Rituals are a way of defining the boundaries of social groups and binding their members together. The frequency and emotional intensity of ritual performances constrains the scale and structure of cultural groups.

This pioneering study presents a theory of how two ‘ritual modes’ have influenced the course of human history over many thousands of years and continue to shape the groups we live in today.

Video 3: Assoc Prof Benjamin Purzycki, Religion Evolving: From Social Ecology to Cognition and Back Again

Based on his book Religion Evolving (Equinox, co-authored with Richard Sosis), this talk addresses the evolution of religious systems. Drawing from specific ethnographic examples, this talk situates religious systems within their local contexts, showing how religions adaptively respond to costly threats to cooperation and reproduction that stem from the myriad ways people make a living. The talk sketches one model of the evolution of religious systems and delineates a range of tractable empirical hypotheses.