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Natural theology involves attempts to rationally justify religious belief based on reasoning about experience. The world appears to exhibit order or design, and so, the design argument goes, we are justified in concluding that there must be a divine designer. But what are the cognitive bases of this and other arguments in natural theology? And will revealing the cognitive processes behind these arguments show them to be unjustified or irrational? In A Natural History of Natural Theology: The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion (MIT Press, 2015), Helen de Cruz of the VU University Amsterdam and Johan de Smedt of Ghent University examine how the findings of cognitive science can and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the rationality of religious belief. They examine the types and role of the cognitive processes at work in these arguments, such as cause and effect and inference to the best explanation. They also consider whether theism provides a good reason for the pervasiveness of religious belief across human societies across time, and argue that the seemingly obvious conclusion that a naturalistic explanation of religious beliefs debunks these beliefs is not at all obvious.

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John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco, and Jonathan S. MasurHappiness and the Law

May 12, 2015

In their new book Happiness and the Law (University of Chicago Press 2014), John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco, and Jonathan S. Masur argue through the use of hedonic psychological data that we should consider happiness when determining the best ways to effectuate law. In this podcast Buccafusco, Associate Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Empirical Studies of […]

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Matthew M. HeatonBlack Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry

April 27, 2015

In Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry (Ohio University Press, 2013), Matthew M. Heaton explores changes in psychiatric theory and practice during the decolonization of European empires in Africa in the mid-twentieth century. His story follows the transcultural Nigerian psychiatrists who tried to transform the discourse around and treatment of mental illness […]

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Wayne WuAttention

April 15, 2015

The mental phenomenon of attention is often thought of metaphorically as a kind of spotlight: we focus our attention on a particular item or task, our attention is divided or diffused when we try to text and drive at the same time, and our attention is captured when we suddenly hear our name pop out […]

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Rick StrassmanDMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

March 15, 2015

DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible (Park Street Press, 2014) asks a number of provocative questions about drugs, consciousness, prophecy, and the Hebrew Bible—with attention to how a particular chemical can help us understand mystical experience. DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is a molecule endogenous to several mammals including […]

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Donna J. DruckerThe Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

March 10, 2015

Donna J. Drucker is a guest professor at Darmstadt Technical University in Germany. Her book The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge (University of Pittsburg Press, 2014) is an in-depth and detailed study of Kinsey’s scientific approach. The book examines his career and method of gathering vast amounts of data, identifying […]

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Evan ThompsonWaking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy

February 16, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in Philosophy] The quest for an explanation of consciousness is currently dominated by scientific efforts to find the neural correlates of conscious states, on the assumption that these states are dependent on the brain. A very different way of exploring consciousness is undertaken within various Indian religious traditions, in which subtle states of […]

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Joelle ProustThe Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness

December 15, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Philosophy] Metacognition is cognition about cognition – what we do when we assess our cognitive states, such as wondering whether we’ve remembered a phone number correctly. In The Philosophy of Metacognition: Mental Agency and Self-Awareness (Oxford University Press, 2014) Joelle Proust considers the nature of metacognition from a naturalistic perspective, drawing on recent psychological research as […]

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Anne Jaap JacobsonKeeping the World in Mind: Mental Representations and the Sciences of the Mind

August 15, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Philosophy] Some theorists in the cognitive sciences argue that the sciences of the mind don’t need or use a concept of mental representation. In her new book, Keeping the World in Mind: Mental Representations and the Science of the Mind (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Anne Jaap Jacobson, Professor of Philosophy and Electrical and Computer Engineering at […]

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Adam PhillipsBecoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst

July 28, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Psychoanalysis] For those who are savvy about all things psychoanalytic, be they analysts, analysands, or fellow travelers, the existence, presence, work, writing, and imprimatur of Adam Phillips is given long, as opposed to short, shrift. It is safe to say that his voice is singular in its mellifluousness and its range. I first encountered […]

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