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Directory of Faculty and Independent Scholars

The ERS website is a resource for all scientists and scholars interested in studying religion from an evolutionary perspective. Using the website and being listed in the Directory does not constitute an endorsement of the activities and policies of the Templeton Foundation.

Candace S. Alcorta

Research Scientist, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

What are the universal elements of religion, why is adolescence a preferred developmental period for the acquisition of religious knowledge, what role does music play in the religious transmission of social algorithms, and what is the relationship between religion and non-human ritualized behaviors? These questions are at the heart of my research. As an anthropologist and behavioral ecologist, I am interested in understanding the relationship between religion, cooperation, and the evolution of human symbolic systems. The interface between communal religious behaviors and individual neurophysiology, particularly during adolescence, is of specific interest to me. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand and the United States where I most recently studied the relationship between adolescent religious involvement and resilience.

Email: candace.alcorta@uconn.edu

Quentin Douglas Atkinson

Atkinson QInstitute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford

Quentin has a background in psychology and evolutionary biology. His research uses computational models of genetic and cultural evolution to answer questions about the spread of people and culture.  His work covers the origin and evolutionary dynamics of language, human cooperation and religion, as well as the human expansion from Africa.


Scott Atran

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Jean Nicod – Ecole Normale Supérieure, University of Michigan, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice

I am interested in the role of religious belief in sustaining a meaningful existence in a supportive community, the limits of reason, and the importance of sacred values in creating cultural groups and motivating seemingly intractable political conflict.


Connie Barlow

In traveling the USA with my husband, Michael Dowd, as “America’s evolutionary evangelists”, my interest in Evolutionary Religious Studies is two-fold. First, by accessing the scholarly literature on how religions evolve and what the core adaptive features are at individual- and group-selection levels, I aim to shape my presentations and posted religious education curricula for more effective impact. Second, my interactions with children, youth, and adults as a religious educator allow me to qualitatively test ideas for enhanced effectiveness and to observe the “religious impulse” (and attempt to discern its ancient adaptive roots) in my own very liberal faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism.


Justin L. Barrett

Senior Researcher, Centre for Anthropology & Mind, Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, 58A Banbury, Oxford, OX2 6QS, United Kingdom

My primary research interests concern how natural human cognitive structures inform and constrain religious expression, making some kinds of beliefs and practices more recurrent than others. Evolutionary perspectives may broaden and deepen findings in the cognitive science of religion. Current research foci include the development of God concepts in children, cultural evolution and transmission, and philosophical implications of bio-psychological explanations of religion.


Jesse M. Bering

Director, Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University, Belfast

In studying religion, I am interested in the basic cognitive processes underlying religious thought and behaviour. For example, the social cognitive mechanisms enabling people to view natural events, such as illness or misfortune, as being symbolic of a message from some supernatural agent, or as being’about’ a prior social transgression, may be universal to human psychology.


Michael Blume

Visiting Lecturer at the Departments of Study of Religion, Heidelberg University & Leipzig University

I did my magister thesis on young muslims in Germany and my doctorate thesis on testing “neurotheologies” (neurobiological theses on religion). Since then, I have focused on the evolution of religiousness and especially on the demography of religious communities. Empirical data troves like e.g. the German ALLBUS survey 2002, the World Value Survey and especially the Swiss Census 2000 as well as the historical and actual records of many religious communities like orthodox Jewry or Amish all show that there are very strong reproductive benefits aligned to religious affiliation. My findings correspond strongly with assumptions of evolutionary theorist Friedrich August von Hayek.


Joseph A. Bulbulia

Senior Lecturer, Programme in Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

I am interested in whether evolutionary game theory sheds light on
puzzling features both of religious cognition and the institutional
organisation of religious groups. Recently I’ve become interested in
mathematical descriptions of processes underlying the evolution of
these features, in experimental economics, and the relevance of
religion to current debates in the philosophy of biology.

Website: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/religion/staff/joseph_bulbulia/index.html

Adam B. Cohen

Assistant Professor (social area), Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104

My interest in evolution and religion is to understand why there is religious diversity. Can certain selection pressures and ecological factors help to explain why religions are similar or different in domains like moral judgment, motivation, individualism, or collectivism?


Emma Cohen

Research Group in Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics & Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology

I am interested in how cognitive and cultural factors influence patterns of cross-cultural recurrence and variability in human thought and behaviour.   I have researched and written on a range of religious ideas and practices, including spirit possession, sorcery and witchcraft, and divination. My ethnographic and experimental fieldwork is mainly based in Brazil.


Lee Cronk

Department of Anthropology and Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

I use signaling theory to study religion and
other aspects of human society, culture, and behavior. I am particularly interested in the role religious signals play in both cooperation and competition within and between human groups.


Malcolm Dean

Research Affiliate, Human Complex Systems, UCLA; Cognitive Affinity Group, Brain Research Institute. Author, editor, and broadcast journalist

I explore the natural philosophy of thermodynamics, information, and ontology as a unified theory of cognitive, cultural, and religious systems. For a list of working papers, see website.


Daniel C. Dennett

University Professor Co-Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155

I am interested in encouraging scientific research on religion across all topics and boundaries. My own professional concerns are with theories of cultural evolution and the ways in which culturally evolved adaptations have accumulated in religions. In particular, I am focussing with some associates on what I call belief in belief, in its various manifestations.

Websites: http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incbios/dennettd/dennettd.htm


Michael Dowd

I have a practical interest in studying and contributing to evolutionary religious studies. My passion and skill at this season in my life is to help the existing religions (particularly Christianity) evolve in ways that are more adaptive for individual psychologies, group cooperation, and planetary health in this modern and postmodern world. I am pursuing this goal (with my wife, Connie Barlow) as “America’s evolutionary evangelists.” My 2007 book, THANK GOD FOR EVOLUTION!, endorsed by five Nobel laureates and 120 other luminaries across the religious and philosophical spectrum, is intended to play a key role in this process.

Website: http://thankgodforevolution.com

Mark Ellingsen

Ellingsen M

Professor of Church History, Interdenominational Theological Center

Relating the insights of Evolutionary Biology to constructive Christian Thought (esp. doctrines of Creation, Providence, and Sin) in a way that avoids the extremes of Liberal Theology and the Evangelical Intelligent Design Theory.  A good example of that project is available in “A Common Sense Theology: The Bible, Faith, and American Society”, pp.187-206, and numerous articles.  Also interested in relating Christian Thought to the latest neurobiological findings regarding spirituality, happiness, and ethics.  This research has come to an early phase of fruition in “Sin Bravely: A Joyful Alternative To a Purpose-Driven Life”, pp.81ff.


Michele Ernandes

Ernandes MResearcher, Department of Cultural, Historical Archaelogical, Socio-Anthropological and Geographical Heritage; University of Palermo, Italy.

My research interests concern mainly two topics: 1) evolutionary origins of “God” concepts in early humans, and 2) the influence of variations in brain neuromodulators activity on religion. 1) Human behaviors, and thoughts, are a product of internal mechanisms in conjunction with inputs that trigger their activation. In the production of concepts regarding Supernatural Divine Beings, by early humans, main mechanisms were ancient phylogenetic structures involved in agency detection and theory of mind, while the input that triggered mechanisms was the acquisition of the awareness of own mortality. The last version of this research (coauthored with Michael Winkelman) is hosted in the Archive for Religion and Cognition. 2) Thoughts and behaviors arise from the “chemical dance” made by neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain. My research has been focused on serotonin. As maize based diets lower brain serotonin, and maize was the main alimentary source for Mesoamerican peoples, I have proposed a serotonin deficiency linked accentuation of the Aztec human sacrifice/cannibalism complex. A paper, containing also a brief curriculum vitae et studiorum, is available here.


E. Margaret Evans

Assistant Research Scientist, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan

Children’s acquisition of knowledge of the world around them is one of the most impressive achievements of conceptual development. I examine this sort of knowledge acquisition in terms of a) the emergence of intuitive causal explanations or theories, and b) the influence of diverse contexts, such as belief system (e.g., religious belief), learning experience (e.g., museums) and culture (East Asian, Western), with a particular focus on beliefs about origins.



Jay R. Feierman

J FeiermanClinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico (retired)

My background and training is in zoology, medicine, psychiatry, and human ethology. I’ve been interested in the biology of human behavior for much of my professional life. Since retirement in 2006, I’ve concentrated on trying to understand human religious behavior, which resulted in my editing The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolutionary Origins of Faith and Religion, Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2009. However, I’m more interested in trying to develop a naturalistic understanding of God, the object of and reason for religious behavior. I was a consultant to the Roman Catholic church for close to 20 years for behavioral and psychosexual issues in priests. As a result of that experience, I’m currently working on a single-authored book, tentatively titled, A Calling to the Celibate Priesthood: The Unraveling of an Evolutionary Paradox.


Ulrich J. Frey

Assistant Professor, Center for Philosophy and Foundations of Science, University of Giessen

I am interested in the cognitive mechanisms, especially cognitive errors helping to promote and/or establish religious beliefs. Another focus of my work is the evolution of cooperation and its implications for religion and religious groups. Other topics I am interested in include evolutionary psychology, sociobiology and the question whether different religious components (rituals, mysticism, etc.) are adaptions or by-products.

Email:ulrich.frey [at] uni-giessen.de


Armin W. Geertz

Professor, History of Religions at the Department of the Study of Religion, and Chair of the Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit (RCC) at Aarhus University, Denmark.

I am a founding member of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion (IACSR) and have served as officer since 2006. My publications range from the cognitive science of religion to method and theory in the study of religions and the religions of indigenous peoples. I have recently published articles and chapters on evolutionary theory, atheism, the neurobiology of prayer and introductions to the cognitive science of religion.

RCC website: http://www.teo.au.dk/en/research/current/cognition

Russell Gray

Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

I am interested in in using phylogenetic methods to test hypotheses about aspects of religion such as belief in higher gods or belief in an afterlife.


William Scott Green

Professor of Religious Studies; Senior Fellow, Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 33124

I am interested in comprehensive theories that demystify religion and make it intelligible. Evolution seems to offer unusual promise as an empirical framework for describing, analyzing, and comparing religions.


Stewart Elliott Guthrie

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Fordham University, New York City, New York

My continuing work on evolutionary approaches to religion began with my 1980 paper, A Cognitive Theory of Religion, which proposed that our sense that humanlike agents are present stems from an evolved, better-safe-than-sorry perceptual strategy. The strategy produces hair-trigger judgments that such agents or their traces are present, in, for example, natural phenomena. The agents imagined are humanlike primarily in their mentality and symbolic communication, and they provide the most significant possible interpretations of things and events. Other animals, especially the great apes, produce analogous interpretations of natural events such as thunderstorms. All but the last of these propositions now are widely accepted in cognitive studies of religion.


Jonathan Haidt

Associate Professor, Dept. of Psychology, University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400400, Charlottesville VA 22902

I study the evolutionary origins of morality, but cannot stand to read any more accounts of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. Yes, these two processes shaped our moral emotions but there is so much more going on. Theorists have often missed these other aspects because the research community is composed almost entirely of secular liberals (which includes me) who limit the moral domain to matters of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity. My research shows that in most cultures, and even among religious conservatives in Western cultures, the moral domain also includes issues of ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. These latter three “foundations” of morality serve not to protect individuals from each other but to bind groups together to enhance their ability to compete with other groups. I believe that multi-level selection theories are likely to prove essential for understanding the origins and mechanisms of these “binding” systems. Religion seems likely to have played a crucial role in the major transition that enabled human beings to live in large cooperative societies.


Marc Hauser

Harvard College Professor, Departments of Psychology, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Biological Anthropology, Cambridge, MA, 021138

My interests focus on the evolution of morality, taking a five-pronged empirical approach: 1) describe the principles that underlie that mature individual’s intuitive judgments of right and wrong; 2) characterize the acquisition mechanism for such principles; 3) determine the extent to which such principles are universal and constrain cross-cultural variation; 4) unpack the neurobiological mechanisms that are both necessary and sufficient for making moral judgments; 5) provide an account of the evolutionary building blocks that led to our moral sense, and the pressures that favored particular moral responses. Along these lines, I am particularly interested in the extent to which explicit moral institutions such as religion and law can impact up on our intuitive sense of right and wrong. To address this issue, we contrast the patterns of moral judgments among various religious traditions as well as with atheists.  We also look at small scale societies that lack explicit religious traditions.

The moral sense test is a web based site designed to explore the nature of moral intuitions.  Subjects log on, provide demographic information, and then take a test that is comprised of carefully controlled moral dilemmas, targeting particular moral principles.


Paul L. Harris

Harris P

Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

I am interested in how children learn from the testimony of others about ordinarily unobervable phenomena – scientific as well as religious.


Brian Hayden

Archaeology Department, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia v5a 1s6 Canada

A penchant for, and deep emotional reactions to, religious rituals and concepts characterizes all human societies that we know of. This behavioral complex, together with the entwined arts (music, rhythm, visual arts, performance arts) is also distinctively human and is likely to be rooted in genetics given its ubiquity. It sets us apart from all other animal species and constitutes a large part of what it means to be human. How and why these characteristics became part of the human emotional repertory should be a central issue in a number a fields including evolutionary biology, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, comparative biology, religious studies, and the humanities.


Joe Henrich

Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution. Department of Psychology; Department of Economics. University of British Columbia

I’m interested in explaining the evolution of costly religious and ritual displays, the development of deep, enduring faith, and the emergence of world religions with high gods.


Michael Hochberg

Hochberg MResearch Director, Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University of Montpellier II, France

My background is in population ecology and evolutionary biology. I employ both mathematical and empirical approaches in seeking to explain the emergence, evolving structure, diversification, and decline of religions.



William Irons

Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University

My work on religion begins with Richard Alexander’s hypothesis that inter-group competition has been the main driving force behind the evolution of morality and elaborate sociality in humans. I combine this theory of inter-group competition with commitment theory as developed first by Thomas Schelling and later elaborated by Robert Frank. Briefly I have been attempting to refine the theory that religion serves as a commitment device, in Schelling’s and Frank’s terminology, that enhances cooperation and group cohesion. I see this theory as complementary to many of the other evolutionary theories of religion currently being explored.


Dominic Johnson

Edinburgh University

Belief in supernatural punishment is an important promoter of human cooperation. In work with Jesse Bering, I argue that this evolved in tandem with human cognition. Ever since humans evolved complex language and theory of mind, selfish actions incurred a greater probability and severity of punishment, even from absent group members long after the event. Selection pressures would therefore have favored a brake on anti-social actions. An expectation of supernatural punishment for anti-social actions, a feature also dependent on theory of mind, may have served to avoid the fitness costs of imprudent selfishness in the gossiping society of modern humans. This hypothesis suggests that there are fitness advantages of supernatural beliefs at the individual level.



Lee A. Kirkpatrick

Associate Professor of Psychology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

I study religious belief and behavior from the standpoint of contemporary evolutionary psychology, which leads me to ask how the psychological mechanisms or systems in our evolved psychological architecture give rise to and shape religious belief and behavior. I am highly skeptical that the answer involves any evolved cognitive adaptations designed (by natural selection) to produce religious belief or behavior per se; instead, I believe that religion and spirituality emerge as by-products of psychological systems designed for other (mundane) functions. Thus, belief in supernatural agents – as discussed by Guthrie, Boyer, Atran, Barrett, and others – emerges naturally and incidentally from the operation of evolved systems related to agency detection and theory of mind. Beyond this, I argue that beliefs about such supernatural agents are then shaped more specifically by evolved systems designed for negotiating functionally distinct kinds of personal relationships, such as systems related to attachment (the primary focus of my own research over the last two decades), kinship, social exchange (reciprocal altruism), status hierarchies, mating, and coalitional psychology.


John LaMuth

LaMuth J

Private Practice

A new model of ethical behavior, described as a ten-level meta-hierarchy of the traditional groupings of virtues, values, and ideals serves as the foundation for a holistic theory of ethics and morality with applications to the mystical experience. The respective ethical groupings are collectively arranged as subsets within a hierarchy of meta-perspectives, each more abstract listing building directly upon that which it supersedes. For instance, the cardinal virtues (prudence-justice-temperance-fortitude), the theological virtues (faith-hope-charity-decency), and the classical Greek values (beauty-truth-goodness-wisdom) are collectively arranged as a complex of four subordinate terms each, allowing for a precise point-for-point stacking within the ethical hierarchy. When additional groupings of are further added into the mix, the complete ten level hierarchy emerges in full detail.

Website:www.charactervalues.org, www.global-solutions.org, http://www.forebrain.org

Bill Lauritzen

Independent Scholar

I have written a book called, The Invention of God: The Origins of Religious and Scientific Thought.  It searches for the common ancestor of mythology, religion, and science. I give evidence that this common ancestor emerged in response to three things: 1) the heavens (the attempt to understand and model the lights of the sky), 2) volcanoes and geological phenomena (i.e. the Great Pyramid represents a volcano), 3) the search by ancient humans to understand what today we call oxygen, but what they called by various names such as: soul, psyche, qi, chi, tao, reiki, prana, and ba.



Cristine Legare

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin

I am interested in the development of scientific and religious belief systems. My approach is to integrate theory and research from cognitive psychology and anthropology to examine basic cognitive processes  in particular content areas and cultural contexts. I have done extensive field work in southern Africa on co-existence models of scientific and supernatural explanatory frameworks, and am currently doing research in Brazil on the development of reasoning about ritual, using both experimental and ethnographic methods.



Robert N. McCauley

McCauley R

William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor and Director, Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322

I am interested in the scientific study of religion in all of the forms that those studies take.  I am particularly interested in how religions engage evolved, maturationally natural dispositions of mind.  Much of my work in collaboration with E. Thomas Lawson has focused on the cognitive representation of religious ritual form and its implications for particular rituals’ features, for the overall shape of religious ritual systems, and for how they contribute to religions’ success.  My other major project is comparing the cognitive foundations of science and religion (and theology and common sense understandings of the natural world) and examining the many startling consequences that such comparisons disclose.


Michael E. McCullough

Professor Department of Psychology and Religious Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables FL 33124-0751

I’m interested in the evolution of moral sentiments and emotions, particularly gratitude, generosity, revenge, and forgiveness. We’re studying the roles that religion might play in facilitating, legitimating, constraining, or hindering the expression of these moral sentiments and motivations. I’m also studying the extent to which religion might influence or rely upon self-control, and I’m interested in exploring what the religion/self-control link might teach us about adaptive functions that religion might have played during human evolution.


Patrick McNamara

Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston VA Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130

My lab is interested in assessing correlated evolution of ritual practices and God concepts with other life-history, ecologic and bio-cultural variables; the adaptive radiation of various religious practices across cultures and historical time and proximate brain mechanisms of religiosity.

Website: www.bumc.bu.edu/len

Michael J. Murray

Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor in Philosophy and the Humanities, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA 17604

My interests primarily concern the philosophical implications of evolutionary and cognitive psychological accounts of religion.


Ara Norenzayan

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4 Canada

In a species with tremendous cultural diversity, the capacity for religion tops the list of species-specific core human universals. Most people in most cultures are deeply religious, yet psychologists have a quite poor understanding of this phenomenon that is both a product and a shaper of human psychology. I think it makes sense to think of religion not as a naturally selected adaptation, but as a recurring by-product of the complex evolutionary landscape that canalizes the cultural transmission of religious beliefs and behaviors into convergent but culturally distinct pathways. This means that religious beliefs are the product of cultural transmission constrained by evolutionary psychology. I use the tools of experimental social psychology to study the psychological roots of supernatural beliefs, how these beliefs are transmitted and stabilized in populations, and how religious beliefs are implicated in sacrifice, altruism, and violence.


Lluis Oviedo

Ordinary Professor of Theological Anthropology at the Antonianum University, and Invited Professor at the Gregoriana University about issues of religion, science and society; both in Rome – Italy

In the last years I got increasingly involved in the cognitive study of religion, an interest which has produced several papers. The central focus of my research is trying to understand the dynamics presiding the origin and development of religious ideas. It seems highly relevant to any study of the Bible and the changing of the images of the deity along the time. Finding too reductive the current approach, I am trying to extend the number of factors involved in such an evolutionary process, which should take into account – at least – the conscious dimension, the role of feelings and the role played by symbols and its grammar.


Craig T. Palmer

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri

I am interested in how religious behavior is distinguished from nonreligious behavior, and how religious traditions have helped ancestors leave descendants.



John S. Price

Consultant Psychiatrist, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust

A am interested in the capacity for change of belief system as manifested in prophets, cult leaders and psychiatric patients, and the implications this has for rate of group fissioning and so for the balance between individual and group selection. I co-authored “Prophets, Cults and Madness” (London, Duckworth, 2000) with Anthony Stevens.


Michael E. Price

Department of Psychology, Brunel University

I’m interested in the evolutionary origins of morally-relevant emotions and behaviors such as punitiveness, patience, sexual promiscuity and cooperation, and in how these origins illuminate religious teachings about morality. I see many moral/religious systems as group-level cultural adaptations that are ultimately generated by, and compatible with, individual-level biological adaptations.


Ilkka Pyysiainen

Pyysiainen IHelsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

I am interested in the gene-culture co-evolution of religion.


Peter J. Richerson

Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California – Davis, Davis, CA 95616

His research focuses on the processes of cultural evolution. His 1985 book with Robert Boyd, Culture and the Evolutionary Process, applied the mathematical tools used by organic evolutionists to study a number of basic problems in human cultural evolution. His recent books with Boyd include Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, an introduction to cultural evolution aimed at a broad audience and The Origins and Evolution of Cultures, a compendium of their more important papers and book chapters. His recent publications used theoretical models to try to understand some of the main events in human evolution, such as the evolution of the advanced capacity for imitation (and hence cumulative cultural evolution) in humans, the origins of tribal and larger scale cooperation, and the origins of agriculture. He collaborates with Richard McElreath and Mark Lubell in an NSF funded research group devoted to the study of cultural transmission and cultural evolution in laboratory systems. He has collaborated with Brian Paciotti on a study using play in experimental games to estimate the effect of religiousity on prosocial behavior.


Matt J. Rossano

Department of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA USA

Evolution and human nature, evolutionary psychology, consciousness, evolution of the mind/brain, religion and science, evolution of religion.


Benson Saler

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454

I have long been interested in the anthropology of religion, and for some years now have been excited by the light on religion cast by the evolutionary and cognitive sciences.

Website: http://www.brandeis.edu/

Stephen Sanderson

Visiting Scholar, Institute for Research on World-Systems, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521

Working on the evolution of religion from two perspectives: (1) whether religion is a true biological adaptation or a byproduct of other cognitive adaptations, (2) the long-term evolution of religion throughout world prehistory and history, including the transition from shamanic to ecclesiastical religions, the transition from polytheism to monotheism, the Reformation, and religious modernity.


Edward Slingerland

Associate Professor of Asian Studies, Canada Research Chair in Chinese Thought and Embodied Cognition, University of British Columbia

Edward Slingerland is co-founder and co-director of UBC’s Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC), and a specialist in early Chinese thought, comparative religion and cognitive science of religion. His current research focuses on folk dualism in early China and its relationship to religious and moral cognition, as well as the intersection of cognitive science and virtue ethics.

Website: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/eslingerland/

Montserrat Soler

Research Affiliate, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University

I am interested in understanding the evolutionary origins and possible adaptive value of religious beliefs and ritual behavior. My research focuses on the relationship between religious commitment signals and cooperation in the context of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion.


Richard Sosis

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-2176

My work has focused on the evolution of cooperation and the adaptive significance of religious behavior, with particular interest in the relationship between ritual and intra-group cooperation. To explore these issues, I have conducted fieldwork with remote cooperative fishers in the Federated States of Micronesia and with various communities throughout Israel, including Ultra-Orthodox Jews and members of secular and religious kibbutzim. I have also pursued ethnohistorical research on 19th century communal societies and conducted economic experiments with student and non-student populations in the United States and Israel.


Emerich Sumser

Department of Moral Theology, University of Freiburg, Germany & Archdiocese Freiburg i. Breisgau

I’m a Roman Catholic priest and I have a background as evolutionary biologist. Thus, it is vital for me not only to bring science and faith together, but also to do it in a fruitful, non-contradictory way. My primary interests lie in the evolution of morality and religions and in animal skills and social cognition. Currently I’m preparing a thesis about the natural and cultural roots of morality and the implications for moral theology tradition. As priest, of course, I’m also working inside one of the study “organisms”.

Email:Emerich.Sumser@jupiter.uni-freiburg.de, emerichsumser@web.de

John Teehan

Associate Professor, Dept. of Religion, Hofstra University, NY

I am interested in the interactions between our evolved moral psychology and the mental tools that generate religious belief and experiences; how our moral intuitions shape our religious traditions, and how our religious cognition impacts on our moral mind–how it may both constrain and enhance our moral sense. I am also interested in the implications of an evolutionary study of religion for theological and philosophical issues.


Claire White

White CInstitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology,  University of Oxford

My background is in psychology. I am interested in evolutionary approaches to religion and culture generally.


Harvey Whitehouse

Professor of Social Anthropology, Head of the School of Anthropology , University of Oxford , 51 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6PE , United Kingdom

After carrying out two years of field research on a ‘cargo cult’ in New Britain , Papua New Guinea in the late eighties, I developed a theory of ‘modes of religiosity’ that has been the subject of extensive critical evaluation and testing by anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, and cognitive scientists. In recent years, I have focused my energies on the development of collaborative research and founded the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast and the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.


Wesley J. Wildman

Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics, Boston University; Convener of the PhD Program in Religion & Science, Boston University Graduate School

I specialize in the empirically grounded philosophical interpretation of religious, beliefs, and behaviors, for which I consider perspectives from evolutionary religious studies and cognitive neuroscience to be vital. I am particularly interested in the use of quantitative techniques to study religious and spiritual experiences, and in simulation and modeling techniques to disclose the causal architecture linking individual cognition and corporate religious behavior. With Patrick McNamara I founded the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion, an independent scientific research institute dedicated to the scientific study of religion (see the institute’s site at www.ibcsr.org, the outreach site at www.ScienceOnReligion.org, and the instant feedback survey site at www.ExploringMyReligion.org). With Patrick McNamara and Rich Sosis I founded the Taylor & Francis journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. I publish the free monthly IBCSR Research Review to improve communication among the diverse specialists working in fields related to the bio-cultural study of religion (seehttp://www.ibcsr.org/index.php/irr-basicinfo).


David Sloan Wilson

David Sloan WilsonDistinguished Professor, Departments of Biology and Anthropology,
Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902

My interest in religion is part of a more
general interest in multilevel selection and human genetic and cultural
evolution. In my book  Darwin’s Cathedral and articles
on my website, I argue that religions are primarily group-level adaptations.

Website: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/

Dimitris Xygalatas

Post Doctoral Research Fellow, MINDLab, Aarhus University, Denmark

I am an Anthropologist of Religion, particularly interested in cognitive and evolutionary aspects of extreme rituals and the effects of such rituals on both the individual and the social level. I received my PhD from the Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University Belfast, and have held postdoctoral positions at the universities of Aarhus (2007-2008) and Princeton (2008-2009). I have conducted long-term anthropological fieldwork in Greece, Bulgaria, and Spain, combining ethnographic and experimental methods to study fire-walking rituals. I am currently conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the island of Mauritius, studying certain painful Hindu rituals such as the Thaipusam and the Teemeedee.

Website: http://www.xygalatas.com/