People often ask me, “Tripp, in 17 years of podcasting, what’s your favorite interview?” I can never answer the question because there are so many different kinds of interviews. I love episodes with my scholarly friends who repeatedly return to the podcast, but for this nerd, I am thrilled to introduce listeners to scholars who rocked my world. In this episode, I talk with a legend in science and religion, Dr. Robert McCauley. He is a pioneer in the cognitive science of religion, and his work has greatly impacted the academic community. It was an honor to unpack so many themes in his work and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it!

Robert N. McCauley is William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor of Philosophy at Emory University and the founding Director of Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture. He is the author of Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not and Philosophical Foundations of the Cognitive Science of Religion. He is also the co-author, with E. Thomas Lawson, of Rethinking Religion and Bringing Ritual to Mind. With George Graham, he co-authored Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind: What Mental Abnormalities Can Teach Us About Religions. He has been elected president of both the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion, and he will serve as a Gifford Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in 2021.

Are you new to the cognitive science of religion? If so, you won’t want to miss Bob’s regular columns at Psychology Today.

In this conversation, we discuss…

  • the origin of the cognitive science of religion
  • implicit cognition and its role in studying religion
  • the anthropological story of religion’s birth
  • why religion is natural, and science is not
  • how literacy reshapes human cognition and the shape of religion
  • the changing role of science in the study of religion
  • the power of explanatory pluralism
  • what light on religious practice and experience is gained through the application of an evolutionary lens
  • the different evolutionary theories of religion and how they interact with the developmental psychology
  • how CSR can be a tool for understanding culture

Here are two lectures if you want to dig into more of Bob’s work