Category Archives: Projects

Spirituality & Health Bibliography Update

smhbibThe famous Spirituality, Medicine, & Health Bibliography has been updated. This amazing bibliography, far and away the most comprehensive and best organized of its kind in the world, is the product of two generations of Boston University graduate students. The original effort, from the Fall of 2009, was created by Connor Wood, Eric Dorman, and Joel Daniels. The revised and expanded version, from the Fall of 2011, was created by Jenn Lindsay, Derrick Muwina, Stephanie Riley, and Lawrence A. Whitney. The new version features twice the entries, more annotations and abstracts, and the ability to download sections or all of the database in a format suitable for importing into bibliographic management programs. This is a priceless resource for anyone conducting research in the area of spirituality and health, as well as for members of the general public who want to catch up on the latest thinking in this complex and fast-moving area.

On the front page of the bibliography, the downloadable file formats are listed: BIB, RIS, and Zotero RDF. These files will open in most bibliography managers. There is also a downloadable rich-text file for a formatted bibliography using Chicago style; that will open in Microsoft Word and most other word processors.

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The ISSR Library Project

dasThe International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) is bringing to a close its adventurous Library Project. This amazing venture reviewed all English-language writings in the religion-and-science field to construct a library of about 250 classics. These books were then specially bound and distributed as a complete collection to 150 libraries worldwide. As a member of the editorial board that made the selections, I can attest to how much work was involved in constructing the library. It was a serious re-education in the diversity of work that exists, and it presented a wonderful opportunity to solidify friendships with other board members. But the board’s work was the thin end of the wedge.

Project Director Dr. Pranab Das (right) had to run the entire project, including negotiations with publishers and printers on one end and navigating the wilds of the import-export rules of four dozen separate countries. All this while managing both ISSR and the agency funding the project, The John Templeton Foundation. He also produced the compendium volume explaining the library and reviewing every item within it. This is an amazing feat of administrative genius and everyone interested in religion-and-science scholarship is deeply in Pranab’s debt.

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Spectrums Project Update

splogoIBCSR’s Spectrums Project is an ambitious attempt to apply what is known about ideological spectrums in politics and morality to the field of religious beliefs and practices. The Project’s goal is twofold: firstly, to deepen understanding of why human beings adopt a spectrum of religious and theological viewpoints; and secondly, to discover strategies for mitigating the problems associated with religious extremism and polarized religious discourse.

IBCSR’s main partners in this project are Dr. Catherine Caldwell Harris in Boston University’s Psychology Department. The project’s post-doctoral fellow is Dr. Aimee Radom, who recently completed a dissertation on a related topic through Boston University’s Graduate School. Two doctoral students are working on the project as well: Connor Wood and Nicholas DiDonato. Both are earning their PhDs in the Religion and Science Program within Boston University’s Graduate School. This project is funded by Boston University’s School of Theology, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, and the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion.

Continue reading Hits 10,000 Visits per Month

ibcsrlogoThe Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion ( is a site that brings cutting-edge research in the scientific study of religion to the general public, journalists, and researchers in the field. The web team at IBCSR has been working hard to increase capacity and speed at the site, while continuing to producing first-rate content. has also been redesigned as a membership site that offers members special benefits. These benefits include a discounted subscription to the Taylor & Francis journal Religion, Brain & Behavior, a unique online searchable database of journal articles and books in the scientific study of religion, and a variety of other benefits.

The site is easy to navigate and full of valuable discoveries presented in an entertaining and informative way. Just a few minutes browsing on the site generates ideas for articles by journalists and helps writers keep their ideas straight. Regular visits can transform understandings of the world through accumulating insights about the way religious beliefs, behaviors, and experiences function in human life.

New Journal Announced: Religion, Brain, and Behavior

rbbA new journal on the scientific study of religion is about to begin publication. The first issue of Religion, Brain & Behavior is to appear in February 2011 from Taylor & Francis journals. Neurologist Patrick McNamara (Boston University), Anthropologist Richard Sosis (University of Connecticut), and Wesley Wildman are the co-editors, with James Haag (Suffolk University) as assistant editor.

The aim of Religion, Brain & Behavior (RBB) is to provide a vehicle for the advancement of current biological approaches to understanding religion at every level from brain to behavior. RBB unites multiple disciplinary perspectives that share these interests. The journal seeks empirical and theoretical studies that reflect rigorous scientific standards and a sophisticated appreciation of the academic study of religion. RBB welcomes contributions from a wide array of biological and related disciplines, including cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, social psychology, evolutionary anthropology, social neuroscience, neurology, genetics, demography, bioeconomics, neuroeconomics, physiology, developmental psychology, psychology of religion, moral psychology, archaeology, mimetics, behavioral ecology, epidemiology, public health, cultural evolution, and religious studies. In summary, RBB considers high quality papers in any aspect of the brain-behavior nexus related to religion.

RBB publishes high quality research articles, target articles with about ten solicited commentaries and an author response, case studies, and occasional review articles. Issues are published three times during 2011, and four times annually from 2012 onwards. All articles published in this journal have undergone a rigorous process of peer review.

The prestigous Editorial Board of Religion, Brain & Behavior and information about how to submit articles for the journal is posted on the journal’s home page at the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion, and also at the Taylor & Francis site for the journal.

Spectrums Project Gets Underway

spectrumsdiagWesley Wildman is working with Dr. Catherine Caldwell-Harris from Boston University’s Psychology Department on a new program of research aimed at learning more about ideological polarization in politics, morality, and religion. Ideological spectrums have been studied intensively in relation to politics, and in recent years morality has received renewed attention. Both spheres of research have yielded fascinating insights into why people adopt the political and moral beliefs they do, what kinds of personality and behavioral correlations exist for various positions on ideological spectrums, and how people change over the lifespan in their moral and political opinions and practices.

To this point, there has been much less research directed toward understanding ideological spectrums in regard to religious and theological beliefs and practices. Fundamentalism has received a lot of attention, and sociologists have given a good deal of thought to the conditions under which religious groups at various places on the theological spectrum thrive or decline. But the religious and theological spectrum itself is in need of more intensive study, integrating insights from a number of relevant disciplinary perspectives.

The particular aims of the Spectrums Project are three.

Literature Review: We aim to conducting a comprehensive literature review to assemble a definitive report on what is known about theological, political, and moral differences.

Empirical Study: We aim to gather quantitative and qualitative data from online and in-person participants that surface theological, political, and moral spectrum differences; attitudes to such differences; and interactions between such differences and other differences of culture and heritage, belief and behavior.

Educational Laboratory: We aim to develop and experiment with techniques for creatively deploying the assembled information in university programs and classrooms to allow faculty and students safely to address such issues, thus learning about themselves and others in accordance with the living laboratory concept.

This third aim is essentially a practical application of our research findings to the concrete challenges of dealing with ideological spectrums in the higher-education classroom setting. This is nowhere more perplexing than in seminary education, which conducts the training of professional religious leaders. Here above all there should be profound and sensitive understanding of ideological spectrum differences in religious beliefs and practices, but sadly these settings often consolidate wariness toward others more than they educate future leaders about themselves and others.

Seminary students bring assumptions to their theological studies regarding God, the world, and human relationships. Most students adapt more readily to the visible differences of bodies and cultures than they do to more hidden differences of viewpoint. The hidden differences quickly become evident, however, often accompanied by some degree of shock, in classroom discussions and hallway debates. These revelations of political, moral, and theological difference can cause serious problems in the educational process, even as they present important educational opportunities. Unfortunately, and despite noisy signs that such differences dominate media coverage of political and religious issues, little is known about theological, political, and moral differences than should be the case among religious people and within their professional training centers. As the intractability of culture wars demonstrates, the dynamics of ideologically and religiously loaded interactions, both among individuals and across diverse cultures and traditions, can be quite destructive.

In seeking to address these challenges, the Spectrums Project is building on a firm foundation. Dr. Wildman recently co-authored a pair of books on the subject (Lost in the Middle? and Found in the Middle!), based on a large amount of outreach to diverse groups of people. He also hosted a 2009 conference to prepare for the Spectrums Project, bringing together experts and students in the topic with a view to identifying what is already known and what has yet to be studied.