In earlier work, I explored different models for knowing the divine drawing on neuroscience, psychopathology, cognitive development, and ethology. Over the last several years, I’ve become increasingly focused on the opposite phenomenon, that is, on divine absence and its connection to related topics like the natural knowledge of God and secularization narratives. In pursuing these topics, I have benefited greatly from the cognitive science of religion. This new branch of scientific inquiry is a conversation between philosophy, evolutionary psychology, experimental psychology, and anthropology. Of those areas, it is anthropology that I have the thinnest grasp of. Moreover, I have realized over time that expertise in anthropology is almost completely absent from discussions in philosophy and theology on these matters. One increasingly sees a basic competence across interlocutors in bringing relevant psychology, biology, and physics to bear on the big questions. It is not so with anthropology, and I believe based on my prior track record of interdisciplinary work that I am well positioned to build a bridge from this discipline to philosophy through cross-training.
My hope is to do advanced training in the cognitive science of religion with a special focus on developing competence in the anthropology relevant to CSR. I would be guided in this endeavor by the psychologist Justin Barrett, one of the founders of the cognitive science of religion. This course of study would allow me to explore at depth how divine hiddenness manifests itself within cultures around the globe. The project would allow me to examine the extent to which the experience of divine absence is ubiquitous across cultures, how that experience is processed in different contexts of belief and practice, and the extent to which extra-theological factors like urbanization might impact one’s experience of divine absence. I would anticipate emerging from the project with a publishable monograph.