Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God and the Cognitive Science of Religion

The Concept of God and the Cognitive Science of Religion

An International Conference at the University of Birmingham

14 (Sunday) – 16 (Tuesday) June 2009

Sponsored by the Cognition, Religion and Theology Project at the University of Oxford, funded by the John Templeton Foundation

Invited speakers: Graham Oppy (Monash, Australia), David Efird (York, UK), Richard Swinburne (Oxford, UK), Klaas J. Kraay (Ryerson, Canada), Robin Le Poidevin (Leeds, UK), David Leech (Oxford, UK), Graham Wood (Tasmania, Australia), T. J. Mawson (Oxford, UK).

Conference Website:

Registration: TBA

Submission Deadline: Monday 16 February 2009 (prospective presenters will be notified by early March).

We invite papers on the conference theme suitable for 20-minute presentations. Please send the title and an abstract of no more than 500 words to:

Papers should address implications of recent empirical research for traditional issues in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, such as the nature and existence of God, the coherence of and consistency between divine attributes, anthropomorphism, and the cogency of theistic doctrines. Selected papers will be considered for publication in an anthology.

As part of our funded project, ‘Anselmian Perfect-Being Theology and the Cognitive Science of Religion’, this international conference examines cutting-edge research in cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, and developmental psychology form philosophical and theological points of view.

According to so-called Anselmian perfect-being theology, God is the being than which no greater can be thought and has many distinctive attributes, such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, omnipresence, timelessness, and incorporeality. Over the last few hundreds of years, philosophers have tried to understand the existence and nature of God by analyzing His individual attributes. They have, however, faced a persistent difficulty. Although it is not difficult to grasp the basic ideas conceptualized in these attributes, it is extremely difficult to define them precisely. Whenever someone proposes a new definition of an attribute, it is assailed by powerful counterexamples. Anselmian theists recognize that the difficulty of analyzing the nature of God arises, at least in part, from the unavoidably of anthropomorphism. On the one hand, God is supposed to be fundamentally different from human beings. Yet on the other hand any definitions of God and His attributes that we can provide are constrained by our epistemic limitations. Recently anthropologists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists have published numerous interesting empirical findings that have significant implications for these challenges to Anselmian perfect-being theology. The conference aims to advance the traditional theological and philosophical debate by studying the most recent research in these areas.

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