For a small fee in America

Posted on January 4, 2011


It looks like I will be going to the US in March this year to give three talks in one week, with a very short stop in New York on the end. I had wanted to go to a couple of other places but the scheduling ended up being rather tight, making it impossible to do more than what I have managed to plan. Still, I am very much looking forward to this chance to talk to some people across the Atlantic.

The first talk will be in Tucson, Arizona, on March 21st. I’ll be talking to the Chance, Purpose and Progress in Evolution and Religion group at the University of Alabama that’s co-organised by an old friend of mine from University of Melbourne, Joanna Masel. Given the topic, it is quite apt that the group’s blog has an opened can of worms as the header picture. Jo is an evolutionary biologist with an interest in philosophical issues (i.e. the best kind of evolutionary biologist). I still recall her participating in a fourth-year philosophy class in her first year at uni and running circles around most of the group. The audience in Tucson – I gather – will be very interdisciplinary with many of the participants only learning about cognitive/evolutionary approaches to religion.  This means that, in order to get its point across clearly, my talk will have to include a fair bit of exposition of the very recent work I plan to use. It’s a good thing that there should be ample time to provide that and that many in the audience will have read the recent Atran and Henrich paper in BioT.

The second talk will be in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 23rd. The person organising the talk there is Bob McCauley, whom I met in Bristol last year and who is one of the main researchers in cognitive science of religion. I blogged about his paper “The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of Science” back in February 2008. I expect the people who come to the talk at Emory to have a much greater familiarity with the topics I deal with. So, even though I will be offically giving the same talk as in Tucson, I will probably be able to focus much more on the argument I wish to present.

Finally, my third talk will take place in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 24th. Erik Angner – who was one of the key speakers at last year’s Kazimierz Naturalism Workshop – is organising it at the UAB philosophy department. Given the purely philosophical audience there, I will give a somewhat different talk to the one I have planned for Tucson and Atlanta. I will be focussing on the relationship between function and truth-value that so radically comes apart in the case of ideologies (including religion).

I have not really got into the content of these talks in this post as I’ll be putting up the abstracts for them over the next couple of days.