Directory of Graduate Students
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.
PhD student, Dept of Philosophy, University of Bristol
I am working on various approaches to religion which seek to account for its presence and diversity as a purely natural phenomenon. I aim to integrate apparently competing views from Memetics (with a sober critique of Dawkins’ viral analogy), Cognitive Science of Religion (Boyer et al), and the group selectionist view propounded by D.S.Wilson.
Ph.D. Student, Department of Psychology, University of Miami, Coral Gables FL 33124-0751
I am interested in the evolutionary psychology of morality, and the possible adaptive value of religiosity. I’m also interested in understanding psychopathology from an evolutionarily informed framework and am currently exploring the potential causal influence of religiosity on self-control.
PhD Candidate Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-2176
I am interested in the evolution and neural bases of social cognition and music, particularly how they relate to cooperation, morality, and religion.
Graduate student – Ph.D. Candidate in Behavioral Neuroscience, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston VA Healthcare System, Boston, MA 02130
My interest in the evolution of religion stems from the perspective of investigating the proximate mechanisms of the brain and the role of frontal dopamine in religious experience.
M.A. Religious Studies, Ph.D. candidate in Social Psychology, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 871104, Tempe, Arizona 85287-1104
I study the extension of social relationships to non-living or non-human entities as it relates to religion and culture. So, for example, in what ways do people think of God, goddesses, angels, deceased ancestors, animals, cosmic forces, or objects as powerful persons who must be respected and who may have rights or responsibilities? What criteria do people use in determining who or what is a person? Does the attribution of personhood co-vary with the perceiver’s cognitive style, relational style, or tendency to perceive illusory patterns? I am also interested in using my research to help people with divergent worldviews develop meta-cognitive strategies to improve academic achievement in predominately white, Western, secular university environments.
PhD candidate, Department of Religious Studies, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand.
I am interested in the acquisition and expression of theological knowledge by practitioners of doctrinal religious traditions. My PhD research focuses on evaluating the extent to which various evolutionary theories of religion can explain this aspect of human behaviour; such as: cultural selection theories, counter intuitive explanations of religion, the modes theory, and adaptationist signalling theories. I hope my research will open the door for ERS scholars to investigate and understand theological practices.
John J. McGraw
Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology and Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego
I’m interested in the cognitive science of religion, attachment theories of religion, and in the nature of religious representations. Evolution bears on all these processes as it is the inherited socio-cognitive structures that enable religious experience. By paying attention to the evolved cognitive structures which underlie religious experience and constrain its possible manifestations as well as studying the contingent historical processes that have lead to the great variety of religious practices and sensibilites, I believe we will achieve a more profound understanding of religion.
Ph.D. candidate, Department of Comparative Religion, University of Helsinki, Finland, 00014 Helsingin yliopisto, Finland
I am interested in the paradise beliefs as a psychological phenomenon characteristic of human species. The aim of my Ph.D. thesis is to explain the origin and persistence of paradise representations from the evolutionary and cognitive perspective.
Benjamin Grant Purzycki
PhD student in the Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, 354 Mansfield Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269-2176
For the past few years, I have been researching the cognitive science of humor, agency-detection, and religious beliefs. Presently, most of my attention is devoted to understanding the interactions between our evolved cognitive mechanisms, the socioecological contexts in which they operate, and how these interactions inform religious traditions. He is currently conducting fieldwork in the Tyva Republic (Tuva).
Graduate Student, School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester, P.O. Box 88, Manchester M60 1QD, UK
I am interested in evolutionary theory as a framework for understanding religious diversity, particularly the differences between liberal and conservative forms of religion and the relation between religious and ethnic and national identities.