The future of CSR in Brno

Posted on March 5, 2012

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Returning from another visit to LEVYNA in Brno. As per always, it has been a very useful trip, with a lot of progress on setting up the empirical research that I am going to be doing with the people there. A number of the talks at the meeting were also very worthwhile, helping me to get clear some ideas about the situation in cognitive science of religion. Three of the founding fathers of the area – Tom Lawson, Luther Martin and Donald Wiebe –  were at the conference and they all gave insightful, overarching evaluations that fitted together nicely.

Unfortunately, I have been suffering from a persistent cough and sundry other symptoms that made participation in the meeting difficult and tiring, and which impacted my presentation. The talk I gave was a sort of meta-methodological one, in which I argue why it is that CSR needs to explicitly take account of epistemic considerations that prior forms of religion studies for the most part ignored. After the talk, the comments were kind but I felt that my thinking was all too fuzzy and that toward the end my energy levels flagged with the result that it seemed to me that I was vocalising random syllables. There is talk of a special issue of a journal to include the papers by the key speakers, to which I have been invited to also contribute. Maybe that will give me a chance to state my case with clarity. For better or worse, I am putting the slides from the talk on the website.

What really struck me at the meeting is the number of very talented young people in the field who are having serious problems finding funding. CSR is in no way special in this regard – I can think of many more people in cognitive science, philosophy and other fields who have at one time been in that very same position. At the same time, I know of many others who have never done any work that I would consider worthwhile yet who have permanent positions in prominent institutions. It seems clear that someone’s judgement is at fault – either mine or that of those who did the hiring. I sometimes hear the argument that someone who is not doing good work should be kept on because they need the job. Unfortunately, right now that is a very poor argument, since keeping that person means that someone else who is doing good work will not get a job. The upside of the situation, I supposed, is that the shortage in well-funded positions in established centres makes it relatively easy for places that are starting up, such as Levyna, to attract very talented people. Which makes me think that in the medium term I should consider organising something similar in Poland.

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