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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 1, 2007 | Vol. 37 No. 5
Cognitive Science of Religion to be Explored in Lecture Series

By Amy Lunday

Paul Bloom of Yale University will discuss "Bodies and Souls" at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, in the first event in The Johns Hopkins Evolution, Cognition and Culture Project, a series of lectures exploring the cognitive science of religion. The event, which will take place in 1 Remsen on the Homewood campus, is the first of several lectures Bloom will be giving in the series.

A professor of psychology and linguistics at Yale, Bloom is the author of Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human and How Children Learn the Meanings of Words as well as scores of papers on such topics as the evolution of language, the Sapir- Whorf hypothesis, the naming of artifacts and natural kinds, and the psychology of moral reasoning. Bloom is also co-editor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

On the subject of his first lecture, Bloom writes on his Web page: "There is considerable evidence that adults are natural dualists--we see the world as Descartes did, as containing physical things (or bodies) and social entities (or souls). I am interested in how this common-sense dualism emerges in development, and the implications that it has for domains such as morality and religion."

Bloom's talk kicks off the seven talks planned for this academic year, all made possible by a 2007 Templeton Research Lectures grant. These three-to-four-year project grants of up to $500,000 are awarded to promote important conversations at the forefront of the field of science and religion. Johns Hopkins was selected for the award through an international competition managed by the Philadelphia-based Metanexus Institute, which advances scientific research, education and outreach on the constructive engagement of science and religion.

Other events in the series, all at Homewood, are as follows:

Friday, Oct. 5, 1 p.m., 338 Krieger Hall. "Consciousness, Cognitive Accessibility and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience," presented by Ned Block, Silver Professor of Philosophy, Psychology and Neural Science at New York University.

Monday, Oct. 22, 5 p.m., Great Hall (room 219), Education Building. Brian Alters, the Tomlinson Chair in Science Education and the Sir William Dawson Scholar at McGill University, will discuss the different ways biology is taught in various Muslim countries. Alters also is the director of the Tomlinson Project in University-Level Science Education and director of the Evolution Education Research Center at McGill, and holds an appointment at Harvard.

Thursday, Nov. 29, 4 p.m., 1 Remsen. Bloom, "The Moral Circle."

Thursday, Feb. 7, 4 p.m., location TBA. Bloom, "Religion is Natural."

Thursday, Feb. 28, 3:45 p.m., 134A Krieger Hall. Edouard Machery, assistant professor of philosophy, Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, title TBA.

Friday, March 7, 1 p.m., location TBA. Bloom, "The Pleasures of Transcendence." Additional information about The Johns Hopkins Evolution, Cognition and Culture Project is available online at


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