The Modeling Religion Project (MRP) is an ambitious attempt to connect the sciences of modeling and simulation (M&S) with the scientific study of religion (SSR). With generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation, the three years from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2018 promise an exciting intensification of a new kind of research in the academic study of religion.
The first goal of MRP is to produce a simulation platform that will allow SSR scholars and students to create complex simulations with no programming. The second goal is to produce a series of simulations of the role of religion in key transformations of human civilization, such as the Agricultural Transition (c. 8000 BCE), the Axial age (c. 800-200 BCE), and modernity (c. 1600-2100). The third goal is to explain the importance of M&S to the world of the academic study of religion. This will involve web blogs, outreach efforts, animation videos, and even a documentary film.
What difference can M&S make in the accademic study of religion? In short, it promotes a growing movement within religious studies from acceptance of untestable speculation to insistence on testable hypotheses. M&S has transformed field after field, from business to biology, from public health to political economics, and from medicine to mathematics. Whenever causal architectures are complex, systemic consequences are difficult to predict, making the meaning of theories difficult to determine. M&S presents a way to articulate the meaning of theoretical and strategic claims, and thereby to test those claims against datasetts of many kinds. Such techniques have great promise in relation to complex phenomena such as religion.
The MRP Research Team is a creative collaboration between the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion in Boston, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk, Virginia, and a number of other institutions including the University of Agder in Norway and both Boston University and Babson College in Boston. The team consists of M&S and SSR experts, working together on project goals.
Achieving MRP goals requires an array of decisions about tools and strategies with far-reaching effects. To guide the Research Team in these decisions, MRP will meet with a team of Specialized Consultants in M&S and SSR. We also have a world-class Board of Advisors who we will keep informed about the project and who can advise us at key decision points.
Find out about the Research Team.
Find out about the Specialized Consultants.
Find out about the Board of Advisors.