Book Reviews

  • Review: Rethinking Religion
    In this groundbreaking book, E. Thomas Lawson and Robert N. McCauley proclaim the birth of the field of cognitive science of religion by presenting a unified cognitive theory of religious ritual action. In their expression of cogitations that had been percolating among cognitive anthropologists, psychologists, and philosophers such as Dan Sperber, Dorothy Holland, and Naomi … Read more
  • Review: Atheist Delusions
    Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies has a most unfortunate title, and one not of the author’s making (the subtitle is Hart’s original title). Anyone expecting Hart to go toe-to-toe with Dawkins or Hitchens will be disappointed because (although he touches briefly upon them) they are, to put it bluntly, beneath him. … Read more
  • Religion is a celebration of excellence: Review of – ‘Born Rich’
    One of the major theories of religion advanced in the 19th century, most particularly by Nietzsche, is that it is fueled by envy, fear, and resentment of the heroic virtues. People used religion to reinforce their own mediocrity and to justify their hatred of excellence. Religion was a manifestation of resentment. The theory is certainly … Read more
  • Ann Taves’s Religious Experience Reconsidered
    For those of us who view some features or aspects of religion (such as ritual or religious experience) as adaptive, their sui generis character presents few obstacles to the scientific study of religion. The evolutionary history of these aspects of religion is assumed to have stabilized the features that proved beneficial or that promoted reproductive … Read more
  • Bruya’s Effortless Attention
    Everyone has experiences of being “in the zone.” These usually occur while engaged in some challenging but enjoyable activity, like playing basketball or ballroom dancing. When the challenges presented by the activity are matched by our skills, they are perceived as opportunities rather than obstacles, and our mind enters a groove of exceptionally focused and … Read more
  • Wallace’s Contemplative Science
    Buddhist scholar, B. Alan Wallace's Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge (Columbia University Press, 2007) is an attractive read for anyone interested in neuroscience, consciousness, psychology, Buddhism, or religious studies. Educated in the West and having studied under H.H. the Dalai Lama in the East, Wallace represents a unique type of interdisciplinary scholar. He … Read more
  • V.V. Raman’s Truth and Tension in Science and Religion
    Professor emeritus Raman deals with the title theme in 10 chapters: Introduction, On science and religion, Epistemological aspects, Explanatory dimensions, Belief systems and God, Spiritual aspects, Ethical aspects, Dissimilar visions on common themes, Origins and ends, Concluding thoughts. All of these issues are dealt with elsewhere. So, why should anybody read this book? The answer … Read more
  • Is the brain a computer?
    Can human thought be understood as an elaborate form of computation? A quick survey of some of the most influential cognitive scientists (including Steven Pinker and Jerry Fodor) and philosophers of mind (including Daniel Dennett and Patricia Churchland) suggests that the answer is yes. This view is the “computational theory of mind” and is so … Read more
  • Review of recent religion-and-science articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion
    It seems that conversations about religion and cognitive science are heating up in the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the nation’s largest organization of religion scholars. At least that is what I have surmised from the most recent issue of the AAR’s Journal (June 2008), which devoted a substantial section (about 80 pages) to discussions … Read more
  • Book: The Spiritual Brain
    Neuroscientist Mario Beauregard's new book is titled The Spiritual Brain. He advances a case for the existence of the soul. Is it possible to agree with Beauregard's argument against a flatly materialistic view of human beings, but remain unconvinced about his argument for a non-physical soul? In other words, are his two options the only … Read more