Computer Simulation for the Scientific Study of Religion | Friday 15th July 3.00pm

Friday, July 15th, 3pm, Hughes Building Room 323

Presented by Professor Wesley Wildman

Abstract: The Simulating Religion Project (SRP) is a cluster of subprojects within the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion aiming to apply modeling and simulation techniques to the scientific study of religion. Computer modeling and simulation depends on data, so building and finding datasets is vital. There has been little past simulation research in religion. Extant work has posited very simple human minds, simple interactions, simple behaviors, and simple modes of change. This is for good reasons: excessive complexity in a simulation obscures the relevant lines of causality and causes us to lose cognitive control over our own model. But this leaves us in a tension: too much simplicity gives wrong answers, and too much complexity gives unclear and confused ones. SRP integrates multiple theories of religious cognition and produces tools that are capable of testing hypotheses regarding religion’s social and cultural effects. In particular, the Simulating Religion Project tries to answer questions such as, “What are the factors that contribute to civilizational transformation?”, “What role does religion play in social change?”, “How do human cognition and sociality combine to transform individuals?”, and “How do evolved cognitive, emotional and social tendencies interact?” Simulation techniques permit a newly persuasive approach to such questions, complementing approaches pursued in other disciplines.


Bio: Wesley J. Wildman is Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics at Boston University and Research Scientist in the Veterans Administration Health Care System, Boston. He is a philosopher of religion specializing in the scientific study of religion and his research and publications pursue a multidisciplinary, comparative approach to topics within the academic study of religion. He is co-founder and Executive Director of the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion, an independent research institute devoted to the scientific study of religion (, and founding co-editor of the institute’s Taylor & Francis journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. He is Principle Investigator on a variety of research initiatives, including the Modeling Religion Project, which applies tools from the world of computer modeling and simulation to the scientific study of religion. For further information, see

Some recent books: His book on Spirit Tech: Brain-based Technologies of Spiritual Enhancement is completed and should appear in 2017. His six-volume Religious Philosophy series is nearing completion: (1) Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry: Envisioning a Future for the Philosophy of Religion (SUNY, 2010); (2) In Our Own Image:Anthropomorphism, Apophaticism, and Ultimacy (forthcoming); (3) Science and Ultimate Reality (in progress); (4) Science and Religious Anthropology (Ashgate, 2009); (5) Religious and Spiritual Experiences (Cambridge University Press, 2011); and (6) Effing the Ineffable: Existential Mumblings at the Limits of Language (forthcoming).


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