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Evolution, Cognition & Culture > Project Overview
Project Overview

For all the differences among cultures, there are many commonalities as well. To what extent do shared features of the human mind explain these commonalities? And to what extent do aspects of human evolution in turn explain these shared mental features? In what ways, if any, are processes of cultural change similar to evolutionary processes? And in what ways does cultural change affect human evolution?

The Johns Hopkins Evolution, Cognition, and Culture Project aims to address these and related questions by focusing on the cognitive science of religion. Is the culturally universal belief in supernatural beings a by-product of the normal functioning of cognitive modules that evolved for other purposes (a hyper-active agency detector, memory systems activated by the counter-intuitive, etc.)? Is the culturally universal investment of substantial resources in religious practices explained by signaling theory, the investment signaling that one is a trustworthy in-group member? The Project explores these and other hypotheses as well as their implications for religion and philosophy, for other approaches to the study of religion, and for public policy.

The Evolution, Cognition, and Culture Project is funded by a generous grant from the Metanexus Institute, together with matching funds from the John Templeton Foundation and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Metanexus has awarded this grant to promote the constructive engagement of science and religion. Towards this end, the Project hosts annually a series of lectures by a distinguished Templeton Research Fellow and sponsors a wide-range of further events dealing with all aspects science and religion. Please follow the links to the left for our current schedule.

Steven Gross
Evolution, Cognition, and    
   Culture Project
Johns Hopkins University
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