Workshop 2017 (3 of 3) | Gordon Ramsay | Social Neuroscience and the Nature and Origin of Religious Experience
Recent attempts to use findings in neuroscience to inform our understanding of religious experience have focused on explaining the origins of religious activity and belief as potential byproducts of neural structures that evolved for, and were exapted from, other biological functions. Brain mechanisms implicated in attributing agency, detecting intentions, social reward, pro-social adaptation, and other aspects of social cognition have variously been proposed as potential pathways leading to the emergence of commonalities in religion and ritual across cultures. Conversely, conditions where those mechanisms are perturbed or impaired are potentially useful in testing new theories in neurotheology. Most proposals in this area have neglected the role of development and early experience in shaping neural function throughout the lifespan. This presentation will provide an overview of recent research in developmental social neuroscience, in the context of autism, in order to explore the extent to which social cognition in general and neurodevelopmental disorders in particular may or may not be able to shed light on religiosity. This talk was presented as part of the CMBC 2017 Summer Workshop.