Do Not Judge a Book (Solely) by Its Cover: An Overview and Some Reflections about Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture
Issue: Vol 1 No. 2 (2014)
Journal: Journal of Cognitive Historiography
When dealing with the “origins” of all things religious the major risk to avoid is the naïve building of a just-so storytelling similar to the dismantled passe-partout once labelled homo religiosus (Smith 1982). Historically, religious studies and classical anthropology have been most vulnerable to a twofold fallacy, i.e. the narrative form of explanation and the (originally theological) ambition to know the ultimate point of departure of things, as if it were the epicentre of absolute (transcendent) meaning (Stoczkowski 2002). Even after Darwin’s watershed work, these two themes have thriven. Do cognitive scholars successfully escape these old traps today and make treasure of Darwin’s lesson when treating the “origins” of culture and religion?
The aim of this paper is to critically review the cover and contents of a new book devoted to the Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture (Geertz 2013), in order to briefly assess the question at stake.
Author: Leonardo Ambasciano
Arnal, W., W. Braun and R. T. McCutcheon, eds. 2014. Failure and Nerve in the Academic Study of Religion: Essays in Honor of Donald Wiebe. London and New York: Routledge. Originally published in 2012 by Equinox Publishing, Sheffield.
Bahn, P. G. 2010. Prehistoric Rock Art: Polemics and Progress. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511761454
Bahn, P. G., and J. Vertut. 1988. Images of the Ice Age. London: Windward and New York: Facts on File.
Boesch, C. 2010. “Away From Ethnocentrism and Anthropocentrism: Towards a Scientific Understanding of ‘What Makes Us Human’”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences (33)2-3: 86–87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X10000051
Boyer, P. 2001. Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors. London: William Hanemann.
Christian, D. 2011. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press (2014).
Day, M. 2008. “Godless Savages and Superstitious Dogs: Charles Darwin, Imperial Ethnography, and the Problem of Human Uniqueness”. Journal of the History of Ideas (69)1: 49–70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jhi.2008.0006
Gee, H. 2013. “Aquatic Apes Are the Stuff of Creationism, not Evolution”. The Guardian, 7 May. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/science/occams-corner/2013/may/07/aquatic-apes-creationism-evolution (accessed March 30, 2014).
Geertz, A. W., ed. 2013. Origins of Religion, Cognition and Culture. London and New York: Routledge. Originally published by Acumen, Durham and Bristol, CT.
—2014. “Long-lost Brothers: On the Co-histories and Interactions Between the Comparative Science of Religion and the Anthropology of Religion”. Numen (61)2-3: 255–80. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685276-12341319
Gould, S. J. 1989. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. New York and London: W. W. Norton.
—1998. “Up Against a Wall”. In Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms. New York: Harmony Books, 161–78. Originally published in Natural History 1996 (105)7: 16–22, 70–73.
—2001. “Reconstructing (and Deconstructing) the Past”. In The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth, ed. S. J. Gould. New York: W. W. Norton, 6–21.
—2003. Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Griffin, D. R. 2001. Animal Minds: Beyond Cognition to Consciousness. Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press.
Guthrie, S. 1980. “A Cognitive Theory of Religion”. Current Anthropology (21)2: 181–203. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2741711
—1993. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Jensen, T. 2014. Review of Failure and Nerve in the Academic Study of Religion. Essays in Honor of Donald Wiebe, ed. W. Arnal, W. Braun, and R. T. McCutcheon. Equinox, 2012. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82(1): 264–70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lft102
Junginger, H., ed. 2008. The Study of Religion Under the Impact of Fascism. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
Léroi-Gourhan, A. 1964. Les religions de la préhistoire. Paléolithique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Martin, L. H., and D. Wiebe. 2012. “Religious Studies as a Scientific Discipline: The Persistence of a Delusion”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80(3): 587–97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfs030. Also published in Religio. Revue pro religionistiku (20)1 (2012): 9–18. Stable URL: http://hdl.handle.net/11222.digilib/125392
Mayor, A. 2005. “Geomythology”. In Encyclopedia of Geology, ed. R. C. Selley, L. Robin, M. Cocks and I. R. Plimer. Vol. 3. Oxford: Elsevier Academic Press, 96–100.
Medawar, P. B. 1982. “Le phénomène humain”. In Pluto’s Republic. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 242–51. Originally published in Mind. A Quarterly Review of Philosophy (LXX) 1961: 99–106.
McCauley, R. N. 2011. Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
McCutcheon, R. T. 1996. Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Mesoudi, A. 2011. Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture & Synthesize the Social Science. Chicago, IL and London: The University of Chicago Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226520452.001.0001
Montagu, A. F. 1945. Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race. Second Edition: Revised and Enlarged. New York: Columbia University Press.
Piccardi, L., and W. Bruce Masse, eds. 2007. Myth and Geology. London: The Geological Society (“Geological Society Special Publication”, p. 273).
—2012b. “An Evolving Research Programme: The Structure of Evolutionary Theory from a Lakatosian Perspective”. In The Theory of Evolution and Its Impact, ed. A. Fasolo, 211–28. Springer-Verlag Italia: Milan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-88-470-1974-4_14
Pinker, S. 2010. “The Cognitive Niche: Coevolution of Intelligence, Sociality, and Language”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(2): 8893–999. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0914630107
Shryock, A., and D. Lord Smail, eds. 2011. Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present. Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Smail, D. Lord. 2008. On Deep History and the Brain. Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press.
Smith, J. Z. 1982. “Sacred Persistence: Toward a Redescription of Canon”. In Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 36–52. Originally published in Approaches to Ancient Judaism, ed. W. S. Green. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978, 11–28.
Stoczkowski, W. 2002. Explaining Human Origins: Myth, Imagination and Conjecture, trans. Mary Turton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Originally published in 1994 as Anthropologie naïve. Anthropologie savante. De l’origine de l’Homme, de l’imagination et des idées reçues. Paris: CNRS Éditions.
Villa, P., and W. Roebroeks. 2014. “Neandertal Demise: An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex”. PLoS ONE 9(4): e96424. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096424
Whiten, A., R. A. Hinde, C. B. Stringer and K. N. Laland, eds. 2012. Culture Evolves. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Originally published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. (366)1567 (2011): 937–1187.