Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 12:00AM

Psychologising and Neurologising about Religion: Facts, Fallacies and the Future

Professor Malcolm Jeeves, The Revd Dr Fraser Watts

The original Boyle Lectures took place annually between 1692 and 1732. Funded by a bequest in the Will of the Hon Robert Boyle, the lectures featured distinguished preachers who were asked to consider the relationship between the new natural philosophy and the Christian religion. Revived in 2004, the new Boyle Lectures address the same challenges today.

What psychologists were doing for religion at the beginning of the 20th century, neuroscientists are doing at the beginning of the 21st century. Then, as now, reactions were varied. Some were alarmed and felt that the very foundations of religion were being undermined, some saw the possibility of new insights into religion, some had no doubt that religion could now be explained away as "nothing but" a set of psychological crutches. Similar reactions are evident today as the neural substrates of different aspects of religious practices and experience are investigated. In both instances, had we learned the lessons from the past, more balanced and constructive evaluations would have emerged. I shall review some of the scientific evidence for new insights into religion from specialisations in psychology such as evolutionary psychology where rapid advances are being made, and I shall also review the increasing evidence for what may be called the neuroscience of religion. I shall offer both assessments and anticipations.

 

This is the 2008 Boyle Lecture. Other Boyle Lectures available include the following:
     The 2011 Boyle Lecture
     The Legacy of Robert Boyle - then and now
     Misusing Darwin: The Materialist Conspiracy in Evolutionary Biology
     Cosmology of Ultimate Concern

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Malcolm Jeeves is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and was formerly President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's national Academy of science and letters. He was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1992 for his services to science and to psychology in Britain. He established the department of psychology at St Andrews University, and his research interests centre around cognitive psychology and neuropsychology.

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Fraser Watts was ordained in 1990 and is now Vicar-Chaplain of St Edward, King and Martyr, in Cambridge. In 1994 he became the Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and the Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and is now Reader in Theology and Science and Fellow and Director of Studies at Queens.

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Transcript

23 January 2008

Psychologising and Neurologising about Religion: Facts, Fallacies and the Future
Professor Malcolm Jeeves
The Revd Dr Fraser Watts

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