Looking Ahead: workshop on the future of religion and Humanism

  • post Type / Conferences
  • Date / 9 November 2006

A workshop on the Future of Religion and Humanism will be held following an International Conference on the Evolution of Religion at the Makaha Resort, near Honolulu, Hawaii on Wednesday, 10 January, 2007. The workshop co-chairs will be Carlton Coon (Vice President of the American Humanist Association and retired United States Ambassador) and Russell Genet (Director of the Orion Observatory and Professor of Astronomy at Cuesta College).

The workshop and conference provide an opportunity for Humanists to familiarize themselves with that uniquely human phenomenon, religion. Coming together from around the world are 40 leading scientists, experts on the origins and evolution of religion. Humanists can bring themselves up to speed scientifically, and then discuss where, in light of the latest science, Humanism should consider going.

The international conference on the evolution of religion will be held on January 3-9, 2007, beginning on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, with an evening reception and keynote address by Harvey Whitehouse, Chair of the social Anthropology Dept. at Oxford University. In Part I of the conference, Scientific Research, internationally recognized scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplines — including cognitive and evolutionary psychology, anthropology, and biology — describe new understandings of religion and religious culture emerging from a range of empirical and theoretical approaches (see the speaker list below). Two primary scientific explanations for our religious behavior have emerged. The spandrelists suggest that religious behavior is a mere evolutionary byproduct of other more important evolutionary developments, while the functionalists suggest that religious belief evolved because it fostered ever larger-scale cooperation. The spandrelists and functionalists will fight it out at the conference.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s evening talk will set the stage for Part II of the conference, The Response. What are the strengths and limitations of our evolutionary understandings of religious thought and life, and what are their implications for religious belief and commitment?

Conference details are posted at www.evolutionofreligion.org.

Workshop on the Future of Religion and Humanism January 10, 2007

The workshop will take place on Wednesday, January 10th, 2007. If one takes a long look at how religion has evolved in relation to the more general patterns of the evolution of complex societies, one could argue that what we now have is the early stirrings of a global ethic and world view that will replace the old, competing monotheistic religions. If this were the case, how would this embryonic global ethic and world view be likely to evolve? Is humanism just another kind of “religion” or will it be the evolutionary successor rather than just one of several alternatives to current religions? What light does the recent scientific study of religion throw on these possibilities?

What are humanists to make of these recent findings? Has our evolution “hardwired us for religion,” as many of the scientists at the preceding conference will suggest? Or will our new understanding of religion as a natural phenomena result, as Daniel Dennett suggests in the title of his new book, in Breaking the Spell? Should humanists, playing to our evolutionarily ensconced hardwired tendencies, stress ceremony, ritual, and other deep-seated emotional appeals? Or should humanists reject the trappings of religion, and stress rational appeals to understanding and living life as naturalistic beings?

For details on the January 2007 Workshop on the Future of Religion and Humanism, see www.orioninstitute.org.

Science, Religion, and Humanism February 14-17, 2008

Finally, Russ will be seeking suggestions from workshop attendees for speakers and topics for the conference on Science, Religion, and Humanism he is organizing which will take place at the Makaha Resort on February 15-17, 2008 (with a reception and keynote address on February 14th). This three-day conference will feature: (1) scientists who will summarize our current understanding of the origins and evolution of religion; (2) a range of secular humanists from those advocating humanism as a form of religion to those who reject all religious trappings; and (3) a discussion, between the scientists who study religion and the humanists who hope to influence its future, on where secular humanism might go from here. For a preliminary announcement of the February 2008 International Conference on Secular Humanism, see www.orionobservatory.org.

International Conference on the Evolution of Religion
Confirmed speakers

Justin Barrett University of Oxford
Jesse Bering Queens University Belfast
Don Braxton Juniata College
Joseph Bulbulia Victoria University of Wellington
Dwight Collins Collins Family Foundation
Daniel C. Dennett Tufts University
Michael Dowd North America’s Evolutionary Evangelist
Taner Edis Truman State University
Armin W. Geertz University of Aarhus
Cheryl Genet Orion Institute
Russell Genet Cuesta College
Nicholas J.S. Gibson University of Cambridge
Stewart Guthrie Fordham University
Erica Harris Boston University & Boston VA Medical Center
R. Josepn Hoffmann Wells College
Barbara Marx Hubbard Foundation for Conscious Evolution
William Irons Northwestern University
Antje Jackelene Zygon Center
Dominic Johnson Princeton University
Kimmo Ketola The Church Research Institute of Finaland
Lee Kirpatrick College of William & Mary
Jon Lanman University of Oxford
E. Thomas Lawson Queen’s University Belfast
Andrew Mahoney Victoria University of Wellington
Andrew Mahoney Victoria University of Wellington
Luther Martin University of Vermont
Barnaby Marsh University of Oxford
Lee McCorkle Queens University Belfast
Joel Mort Queen’s University Belfast
Michael Murray Franklin and Marshall College
Ilkka Pyysiainen Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Peter Richerson University of California at Davis
Jeffrey P. Schloss Westmont College
Tom Sjoblom University of Helsinki
Jason Slone Webster University
Richard Sosis Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Lyle Steadman Arizona State University
Ann Taves University of California at Santa Barbara
Harvey Whitehouse University of Oxford
Donald Wiebe University of Toronto
Karen Wyman North American Science and Religion Foundation

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