Popular culture remains transfixed on the intellectual struggle between science and religion. In particular, there is much interest in the claims of science to have explained religion. We argue that much of the popular interest in scientific explanations of religion stems from philosophical and theological curiosity. People naturally want to know whether the explanations of religion that are being provided by researchers in evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, religious studies, and anthropology bolster or threaten the propriety of religious belief and practice. And yet despite this interest, a full-scale, interdisciplinary research project into the philosophical and theological implications of empirical explanations of religion has never been attempted. This provides a significant strategic opportunity both for research and academic field development. A multi-year, interdisciplinary project bringing scientists together with philosophers and theologians will “jump start” a thriving research program in this area. This sort of project would produce both research and researchers who could begin to answer the many philosophical and theological questions raised by the empirical study of religion. And such a research program would be well-poised to begin to address the questions and concerns of the general public. The present application is for a year of funding that will lay the groundwork for this multi-year interdisciplinary project. In specific, the application requests the resources (a) to bring experts from across the disciplines together to plan the details of a successful, multi-year project, (b) to produce a detailed literature review and analysis of the existing literature on explanations of religion and their philosophical and theological implications, and (c) to draft a successful proposal for JTF funding for a multi-year interdisciplinary research project.
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