Date of Award

4-1994

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Comparative Religion

First Advisor

David Ede

Second Advisor

Otto Grundler

Third Advisor

Thomas Lawson

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Religious systems emerge from socio-cognitive systems, and are temporary, goal-driven systems coevolving, along with other cultural materials, to maximum usefulness. They are evolutionarily systematic.

Cognitive anthropologists have critiqued predominant anthropological theories involving "cultures" or "world-views" for their psychology and empiricist learning theory. Alternatively, cognitive anthropologists explain cultural macrophenomena in terms of cognitive microprocesses. The development of computational neuroscience suggests that the concept of MEANING is unnecessary to discussions of cognitive phenomena, and that the computer is useful for simulating brain functions.

Complementing these reductionistic strategies is the development of complexity theory. Complexity theory holds that complex systems naturally self-organize through evolution to a topographic region of maximum computational capacity and criticality. Religious systems are temporary mobilizations of latent religious conceptual resources for specific situations. These systems group and coevolve to maximize their flexibility within the bounds of applicability. Religious systems, therefore, are maximally powerful conceptual tools which have coevolved to a cognitive and computational optimum.

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