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THE THIRD WAY OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES: BEYOND SUI GENERIS RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND THE POSTMODERNISTS

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Abstract:

Abstract.

This essay advocates dual-inheritance theory for the renewal of Religious Studies. Not by Genes Alone, by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd (2005), presents this approach in an admirably clear manner. To make my case, I survey the development of Religious Studies since the Enlightenment, with special attention to the American context. The historical survey brings us to the dawn of the twenty-first century, where Religious Studies is often unnecessarily limited to sui generis Religious Studies and its postmodern critics. Neither approach engages regnant Darwinian theoretical frameworks of gene-culture coevolution productively. In this context, I situate the contributions of dual-inheritance theory as presented by Richerson and Boyd and offer examples of its utility for progress in Religious Studies, its ability to open cooperation across disciplinary boundaries, and its salutary demystification of religion as a culturally unique and coherent phenomenon. I conclude by addressing concerns scholars of religion might entertain regarding the issue of reductionism and how an emergent science of religion might contribute to the traditional concerns of religion-and-science dialogue as it has evolved in the English-speaking context.

Keywords: Peter J. Richerson; Religious Studies; Robert Boyd; cultural evolution; cultural selectionism; dual-inheritance theory; science of religion

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2009.01005.x

Affiliations: J. Omar Good Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Juniata College, 1700 Moore Street, Huntingdon, PA 16652;, Email: braxton@juniata.edu.

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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