Call for Papers: Biology of Religious Behavior

Care to spend time in Italy studying psychology and religion? Then consider submitting a paper to the International Society for Human Ethology meeting in Bologna, Italy, July 14-18, 2008. Better yet, there is a possibility for funds to support your travel to Bologna for the conference. Here are the details:


For an Invited Paper Session

International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE http://www.ishe.org/), Biennial Meeting

Bologna, Italy, 14 – 18 July, 2008

The Biology of Religious Behavior: A Human Ethology Perspective on Religion

By Jay R. Feierman

P.O. Box 57088

Albuquerque, NM 87187-7088



In the past several years there have been a number of books written on the evolution of religion. See for example Boyer 2001, Atran 2002, Wilson 2003, Dennett 2006 and Dawkins 2006. The topic is quite timely, given the current socio-political divisions in the world on the basis of religion. In January of 2007, there was a one week, international conference on the Evolution of Religion. See http://www.evolutionofreligion.org/index.php. The lectures from this conference are scheduled to be released in a book in July of 2007. Each of the above books makes or will make a valuable contribution to understanding the evolution of religion.

The emphasis in both the books and the Evolution of Religion conference, which I attended, was on how human religion, which is defined very broadly if at all, could have evolved theoretically. There have been very few, counter-intuitive, Null hypotheses presented, whose refutations were predicted by one of the competing theories but not by the others. As a result, the contest is more between which post hoc explanation of how religion evolved is most appealing. The main issues of debate include whether religion is a product or by-product of natural selection and whether it is the product of individual or group selection.

What are missing from most of the above sources are the types of direct, human ethological studies of religious behaviors per se, where behavior is conceptualized as the movement of individuals. Can religious behavior be recognized by its form or structure, as can human courtship, maternal care, play, agonistic and other behaviors? Or, is religious behavior so influenced by culturally acquired components that it can only be recognized by its function? Or, in contrast, are these culturally acquired components of religious behavior just local variations on a more general theme.

The above are the types of questions that I would like ISHE to consider. If there is enough interest in this topic, I would like to organize an invited paper session in Bologna in 2008. I have done this twice before, which resulted in the two edited volumes, The Ethology of Psychiatric Populations in 1987 (Supplement 3 to Ethology & Sociobiology) and Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions (NY: Springer-Verlag, 1990). If anyone is interested in contributing a paper for an invited paper session, please contact me. The papers can address descriptions of religious behaviors (prayer, etc.) in the world's great religions, in addition to tribal religions, as well as the phylogeny, ontogeny, proximate causes or mechanisms and the adaptive functions of religious behavior with the emphasis on behavior per se. Also, if anyone knows someone who is not a member of ISHE, who might be a good contributor to this session, please let me know. Let’s try to make a contribution to this important and timely subject.

There may be Foundation grant funding for transportation to Bologna and housing for accepted papers.

Atran, Scott. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Boyer, Pascal. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. NY: Basic Books, 2001

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. NY: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 2006.

Dennett, Daniel C. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. NY: Viking, 2006.

Wilson, David Sloan. Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

1 comment:

Jindřiška said...

Hi, other conference with near topic:

best wishes