Spring 2022

The Cognitive Science of Religion

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-215

Formerly listed as: RELI-65


Andrew C. Dole (Section 01)


The cognitive science of religion (CSR) is a relatively new field that applies developments in the cognitive sciences and in evolutionary psychology to the study of religion. This course will survey the recent literature on the subject, and will bring this material into conversation with “classical” naturalistic theorizing concerning religion. Topics covered will include the theory of cognitive "massive modularity" that grounds much of the work in this area; the theories of reciprocal altruism and coalitional psychology; and the question of whether religion is an adaptation or an "evolutionary by-product". We will read works by David Hume, Robert Trivers, Pascal Boyer, Justin Barrett, Richard Dawkins, Lee Kirkpatrick, Ara Norenzayan, and others.

Spring semester. Professor Andrew Dole.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close reading and analysis of unfamiliar texts; brief written reflections; classroom discussions and presentations; formally written papers. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2022