By Roy Wagner
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Extra info for Curse of Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance in New Guinea
Clearly, relatively minor or nonpersonal or ambiguous stimuli can evoke attributions of personal agency, especially when one is primed for it; but there is questioning even within the CSR community about how much explanatory power regarding religion that single, hypothesized cognitive process really has. Guthrie’s theory points to a single cognitive structure that explains the origin of belief in the supernatural agents that Ex planat ions 3 3 populate the religions of the world. But explaining religion requires more than explaining the origin of the idea of god, or even explaining why the idea of god or some other supernatural power is compelling.
There are two important implications of these types of scientific models about religion. First, they presuppose that all religious thinking and experiencing, like all human thought and experience, is neurologically and cognitively mediated. Every experience, thought, or feeling comes to us through our brains and our cognitive processing systems. This is a necessary working assumption in all cognitive and neuroscience. If some aspect of human existence is going to be studied scientifically, it must show up on brain scans or in laboratory experiments studying how the mind organizes and processes information.
I see no reason to dispute that. The question I want to discuss is, given that the findings of cognitive science are “scientific” in some legitimate sense of that term, what does that tell us about these conclusions and explanations? Three properties or characteristics of all scientific explanations, and of all explanations, are relevant for making sense of and interpreting the findings of the cognitive science of religion: (1) explanations are contextual and constructed against a “background” of assumptions and viewpoints which are judged to be true but are often influenced by our “intuitive” or “tacit” cognitions; (2) explanations are selective; (3) specific explanations perform specific functions.
Curse of Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance in New Guinea by Roy Wagner