Simulating Religion Project

Religion ComputerAs true as the phrase “there’s an app for that” is for cell phones, it is becoming just as true for the sciences. Need to investigate the first microseconds on the universe? There’s an app for that. Need to see how this new drug will interact with certain tissues? There’s an app for that. Want to know if a knight or samurai would win in a fight? Yes, there’s an app for that. Of course, “app” for the scientist means a simulation program. If the Simulating Religion Project (SRP) succeeds, when questions about religion’s social functions arise, scientists can answer, “There’s an app for that.”

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Quantifying Religious Experience Project

Religious ecstasyWhat happens when a Catholic nun experiences God through contemplative prayer? What happens when a Hindu feels the presence of Shiva? What about the religious experiences of Sufis, Jews, Buddhists, and Daoists? The list could go on and on, but a vital question is: how similar or different are these religious experiences? The Institute's Quantifying Religious Experience Project (QRXP) aims to provide an answer using the latest techniques in cognitive psychology and quantitative research.

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Weekly Journal Club (2005-present)

Each week, Patrick McNamara and other interested persons meet to discuss publications on the evolution of religion, ritual, emotions, and related topics. Participants include graduate students and IBCSR fellows.

Human Relation Area Files Project (2006-present)

The Human Relation Area Files consists of a large electronic database that has been coded according to various actions that are or have been present in the world’s cultures. Patrick McNamara and Wesley Wildman are in the planning stages of a major study to examine the neurophysiology of religious behaviors, beliefs, and experiences using the Human Relation Area Files.

Science, Philosophy, and Religion Doctoral Program (1997-present)

This is one of the most important multidisciplinary educational programs uniting the sciences and the humanities while maintaining a focus on religion. Developed from an older program within Boston University’s Graduate School by Wesley Wildman, this doctoral program involves intensive training in both the sciences and the humanities, with a focus on religion. A number of students within this program are pursuing research in the scientific study of religion allied with IBCSR’s goals.

More information about this unique graduate program is available here.

Templeton Lectures Program in Religious and Psychological Well-Being (2007-present)

This project, funded by a JTF grant administered by Metanexus, brings together a multidisciplinary working group of experts to study the neurological, social, psychological, and clinical conditions for religious and psychological well-being. Wesley Wildman is the public lecturer for the first year of this project in (2007-8). The second-year (2008-9) lecturer is psychologist of religion Don Browning.

More information about the lectures and associated program can be found at the Danielsen Institute's Research Center website.

Intense Experiences and Ultimate Reality (2006-present)

Patrick McNamara and Wesley Wildman won a planning grant from the STARS program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences to design an extensive study on the theme of intense experiences and ultimate reality. This is a study, equal parts neuroscience and philosophy, designed to evaluate the hypothesis that intense experiences tell us something relevant about ultimate realities, whatever they may be.