Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not

Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not

by Robert N. McCauley
     
 

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The battle between religion and science, competing methods of knowing ourselves and our world, has been raging for many centuries. Now scientists themselves are looking at cognitive foundations of religion--and arriving at some surprising conclusions.
Over the course of the past two decades, scholars have employed insights gleaned from cognitive science,… See more details below

Overview

The battle between religion and science, competing methods of knowing ourselves and our world, has been raging for many centuries. Now scientists themselves are looking at cognitive foundations of religion--and arriving at some surprising conclusions.
Over the course of the past two decades, scholars have employed insights gleaned from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and related disciplines to illuminate the study of religion. In Why Religion is Natural and Science Is Not, Robert N. McCauley, one of the founding fathers of the cognitive science of religion, argues that our minds are better suited to religious belief than to scientific inquiry. Drawing on the latest research and illustrating his argument with commonsense examples, McCauley argues that religion has existed for many thousands of years in every society because the kinds of explanations it provides are precisely the kinds that come naturally to human minds. Science, on the other hand, is a much more recent and rare development because it reaches radical conclusions and requires a kind of abstract thinking that only arises consistently under very specific social conditions. Religion makes intuitive sense to us, while science requires a lot of work. McCauley then draws out the larger implications of these findings. The naturalness of religion, he suggests, means that science poses no real threat to it, while the unnaturalness of science puts it in a surprisingly precarious position.
Rigorously argued and elegantly written, this provocative book will appeal to anyone interested in the ongoing debate between religion and science, and in the nature and workings of the human mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McCauley's book is a superb introduction to the problems of intuition, reflection, science, and religion, opening up an entirely new way of looking at the debates concerning science and religion from a cognitive perspective." —Journal of the Cognitive Science of Religion

"McCauley's richly illustrated and wonderfully accessible book is an intellectual treat. He brings the emerging Cognitive Sciences to bear on the issue of the cognitive awkwardness humans typically feel when trying to grasp the concepts of Theoretical Science, as compared to the cognitive naturalness we typically feel when contemplating the doctrines of Religion. Unlike others, McCauley has no particular doctrinal axe to grind here: he is simply concerned to understand a gulf that is familiar to all of us. This is a book that will engage everyone." — Paul M. Churchland, author of The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul

"Robert McCauley is a philosopher of science and was a pioneer in creating a cognitive science of religious thought and behaviour. No one could better explain what he calls the naturalness of religion and the unnaturalness of science. In the past, discussions of 'science' and 'religion' have been as sterile as they were poorly informed. McCauley re-examines this contrast in cognitive and evolutionary terms. He shows how our mental systems make religious belief so easy and scientific thinking so difficult, and explores the consequences of these divergent ways of thinking for the future of religious organizations and scientific knowledge." — Pascal Boyer, author of Religion Explained

"In Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not, McCauley strikes a pleasing balance between erudition and precision, and between accessibility and sophistication. This is the best book I have read on the cognitive science of religion and on the cognitive science of science. McCauley makes an exciting contribution to each area and places the so-called science-religion debate on entirely new ground. " — Justin L. Barrett, author of Why Would Anyone Believe in God?

Library Journal
The relationship between religion and science has historically been fraught with tension and miscommunication and has raised a host of questions: Is the relationship adversarial, each side entrenched in battle? Or is it complementary? McCauley (director, Ctr. for Mind, Brain, & Culture, Emory Univ.), one of the pioneers of the cognitive science of religion, adds insight to the interdisciplinary discussion in this provocatively titled work. Approaching the study of religion from his cognitive framework, he contends that religion is cognitively natural and intuitive, having existed for thousands of years. In contrast, scientific thinking is a relatively recent human phenomenon, requiring mental work and abstract thought. McCauley draws startling conclusions: the future of science is uncertain, and science poses no threat to the survival of religion. VERDICT McCauley's work is erudite, precise, well argued, and replete with diagrams, illustrations, and footnotes. This work will challenge readers in both camps. It is especially suited for academic libraries, but should also find a home in public libraries.—Brian Smith McCallum, Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., IL

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199912308
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/01/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,038,992
File size:
3 MB

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