Can Science Explain Religion?: The Cognitive Science Debate

Hardcover | November 11, 2015

byJames W. Jones

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The "New Atheist" movement of recent years has put the science-versus-religion controversy back on the popular cultural agenda. Anti-religious polemicists are convinced that the application of the new sciences of the mind to religious belief gives them the final weapons in their battle againstirrationality and superstition. What used to be a trickle of research papers scattered in specialized scientific journals has now become a torrent of books, articles, and commentary in the popular media pressing the case that the cognitive science of religion can finally fulfill the enlightenmentdream of shrinking religion into insignificance, if not eliminating it altogether. James W. Jones argues that these claims are demonstrably false. He notes that cognitive science research is religiously neutral; it can be deployed in many different ways in relation to the actual belief in andpractice of religion: to undermine it, to simply study it, and to support it. These different approaches, Jones suggests, reflect the background assumptions and viewpoints brought to the interpretation of the data. The goal of this book is not to defend either a general religious outlook or a particular religious tradition, but to make the case that while there is much to learn from the cognitive scientific study of religion, attempts to use it to "explain" religion are exaggerated and misguided. Drawing onscientific research and logical argument Can Science Explain Religion? directly confronts the claims of these debunkers of religion, providing an accessibly written, persuasive account of why they are not convincing.

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The "New Atheist" movement of recent years has put the science-versus-religion controversy back on the popular cultural agenda. Anti-religious polemicists are convinced that the application of the new sciences of the mind to religious belief gives them the final weapons in their battle againstirrationality and superstition. What used t...

James W. Jones is Distinguished Professor of Religion at Rutgers University. He is the author of fifteen books and numerous professional papers, and the editor of several volumes of collected papers dealing with religion, psychology, and science. He serves on the editorial boards of several publications. He is an ordained priest in the...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 8.31 × 5.79 × 1.1 inPublished:November 11, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190249382

ISBN - 13:9780190249380

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsIntroduction: A Voice from the Border of Religion and Science1. Explanations -How Science Seeks to Explain Religion2. Explaining-What does it Mean to Explain Religion?3. Physicalism-Is a Purely Physicalist Account Compelling?4. Beyond Physicalism-Mind and Nature5. Our Pluralistic Universe - Living on the Border of Science and ReligionAppendix: Sources, References, and Further DiscussionsBibliography of Sources Used In Preparing the Text

Editorial Reviews

"This stimulating book on the attempts of cognitive science to explain away religion has the virtue of being fair-minded and comprehensive, without the too-common fault of being boring. Bringing together a knowledge of contemporary science and a sympathy for religion, there is much of valueto both believers and those who doubt. It may not be, as the author rather hopes, the last word on the subject. But it is certainly much more than the first word." --Michael Ruse, author of Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know