College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

5. Why do we believe? A human imagination and the emergence of belief systems

Fifth lecture of Professor Dr Agustin Fuentes' Gifford Lecture Series

Event Details

Date:  Wednesday 7 March 2018, 5.30 - 6.30pm.  Please note this is a change to the originally advertised lecture.

The lecture may be followed by questions.  Latest finishing time is 7pm.

Venue: The Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre, New College, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, 1 Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LU.  

Lecture abstract

There are 5.8 billion people who identify as religiously affiliated around the globe, about 83% of the world’s population.  Religious experience of some sort or another is a daily activity for most human beings and religion is woven into the hearts of the societies and nations in which we all reside. However, all contemporary religions and religious institutions are extremely recent in an evolutionary sense. For about 75% of the evolutionary history of the human line we have very little material evidence that transcendent experiences and a recognition of the supernatural were prominent in the lives of our ancestors. But over the last 25% of our history we see increasing evidence of creative meaning making in the material evidence left by our ancestors, possibly suggesting heightened transcendent experiences in their lives. The capacity to be religious emerged over our evolutionary history and religion eventually became a fixture of human identity. This lecture reviews current evolutionary ideas about how and why humans came to have religious belief, and offers an innovative alternative.

Lecture video

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