12. What the Cognitive Science of Religion Is (And Is Not)
Theory in a Time of Excess - Beyond Reflection and Explanation in Religious Studies Scholarship - Aaron W. Hughes
Claire White [+]
California State University, Northridge
Over the past decade or so there has been an exponential growth in research in the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR). Yet despite this, there continues to be a lack of understanding, and sometimes blatant misunderstanding, about what characterizes the field. This state of affairs is due, in part, to the reluctance of those within the field to commit to a precise definition. In this chapter, White argues that at heart of CSR is a theory that human cognition is necessary (but not sufficient) to explain the presence, persistence and prevalence of human ideas and behaviors deemed “religious.” It is thus distinguished from its often a-theoretical academic counterparts in the study of religion because of the attempt to explain, rather than describe, religion and because of the centrality of the role of the human mind in this explanation.