During the last years, cognitive studies of religion became a lively branch of evolutionary studies. But then, the ensuing consensus integrating modules such as Hyper-Agency Detection (HAD), Theory of Mind (TOM) and Reputation Management started to stagnate, especially as many cognitive scientists hesitated to widen their scope.
Not any more. With "Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not", Robert McCauley managed to connect the field with contemporary debates in surprising as well as convincing ways.
The main part of the book is a well-written introduction into the contemporary field of cognitive studies on religiosity. But then, McCauley is expanding the scope, formulating seven conclusions based on the established findings and models:
1. Traditional comparisons of science and religion are misbegotten, as religion is drawing on "maturationally natural" foundations, whereas science has to tackle cognitive biases.
2. Theological incorrectness is inevitable, as abstract "theologies" are fighting with the same cognitive constraints as (other) sciences.
3. Science poses no threat to religion, as any declining religious mythology will be replaced by new, cognitively appealing variants.
4. Relevant disabilities will render religion baffling, for example autism.
5. Science is inherently social, as it takes collaboration and institutions such as peer-reviews in order to overcome cognitive biases.
6. Science depends more fundamentally on institutional support than religion does, as the maximum understanding of scientific theses is "practiced naturalness" (as in literacy), depending on costly educational and institutional investments.
7. Science's continued existence is fragile, as seen i.e. by growing anti-science ressentiments in the USA "defending" their religious, emotional and political identities.
I've read a lot of books in the field, but none has convinced me so much that cognitive studies are of philosophical, societal and even political relevance. A great read, indeed!