Book Review: Religion and Science as Forms of Life: Anthropological Insights Into Reason and Unreason by Carles Salazar and Joan Bestard.

AuthorQuest, Linda
PositionBook review

Salazar, Carles, and Joan Bestard, eds. Religion and Science as Forms of Life: Anthropological Insights Into Reason and Unreason. New York: Berghahn Books, 2015. vi + 231 pages. Hardcover, $90.00.

In the book's Introduction, co-editor Salazar--a Professor of social and cultural anthropology--hypothesized that the study of the relationship between religion and science is about to enter a new phase in contemporary 'knowledge societies.' To test this, the book assembled eleven, international specialists: anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers, religious scholars, theoretical workers, and field workers. Their task was to dissolve intra and interdisciplinary boundaries and analyze the relationships, consistencies and contradictions, between religion and science as forms of life. Co-editor Bestard--a professor of social anthropology--appeared to be familiar with the contributors' work from previous collaborations.

McCauley's chapter "Maturationally Natural Cognition Impedes Professional Science and Facilitates Popular Religion," Blume's contribution "Scientific Versus Religious 'Knowledge' in Evolutionary Perspective," and Sansi-Roca's chapter "The Religions of Science and the Sciences of Religion in Brazil," are all crucial for coherence through the collection. All of the book's contributors saw science and religion as products of socially and culturally situated, biologically evolved, human minds, and they concluded that religion and science are "totally asymmetrical cultural formations" (p. 8). Religion has existed for millennia, whereas science has only been prevalent in recent centuries. It appears that all human societies have had some form of religion; however, science is a historical oddity. In addition, religion is described as exploiting maturationally natural cognition, whereas science is seen as cognitively unnatural, that is, as unintuitive, abstruse, and dependent on costly, complex institutions that produce enough wealth to afford higher education and scientists. Humans' predilection for maturationally natural cognition supports popular religion and religious thought. Such thinking is fast, intuitive, mostly unconscious, and "carried out on-line in the basements of human minds" (pp. 26-27). Whereas religion is described as supernatural, science is described as empirical. However, the two are nonantagonistic in the sense that neither form of life threatens the life of the other.

The book offers intriguing anecdotes, accounts...

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