Gratitude is an important element of our intellectual, emotional, social, and religious lives and is almost certainly unique to humans. But when did it first arise and what role(s) has it played in our subsequent biological and cultural evolution? For example, while current models of the evolution of religion often consider third-party punishment – or its threat – to be essential, might the evolution of a more positive and cooperation-generating phenomenon like gratitude have provided similar benefits? Might gratitude have been the emotive glue that kept human communities together and provided the basis for levels of cooperation on a larger scale than any other species? What are the relationships between the roots of gratitude and human spirituality? Do theological insights provide any clues about different aspects of gratitude and their meaning in spiritual life? In what ways might archeological evidence in human origins of gratitude enhance theological anthropology? We have developed a working model of four hypotheses to help orient our research. Our methodological approach is to use material evidence to allow us to identify behaviours which would indicate the development of gratitude like emotions. This project led by Deane-Drummond and Spikins aims to map the basis for a larger project. We have developed a three-stage model of the emergence of gratitude. We will be carrying out a programme of research engaging the project team and advisory boards. We will (a) promote collaboration between scholars from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, theology, archaeology, and evolutionary anthropology; (b) engage 2 one-year researchers to help develop the larger project; (c) host a scholarly theology symposium; (d) host a two-day conference on scientific issues; (e) host 2 public events linked with (c) and (d); (e) publish the results arising from (b) (c) (d) in scholarly outlets; and (f) prepare a large grant proposal tackling the complex intellectual challenges.
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