It’s going to be a busy couple of years for Franklin & Marshall Professor of Philosophy Michael Murray ’85.
The Arthur and Katherine Shadek Humanities Professor received two grants this year, one to write a book about the origins of religion and another to host an international conference.
Murray has received an $88,000 grant from the Ian Ramsey Center at Oxford University to write about scientific accounts of the origins of religion. He plans to finish the work while on a fellowship at Oxford University in the United Kingdom next year.
And he has been given a $69,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop a conference in November at Baylor University for Western and Russian scholars to investigate the topic of human nature.
The grant from Oxford will support Murray’s collaboration with Jeffrey Schloss, a biologist at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., as the pair write a book exploring the “origins and persistence of religious beliefs.”
“In recent years a handful of empirically based models have been proposed to explain the origin and persistence of religious belief across times and cultures,” Murray said. “Some of these are grounded in cognitive psychology, while others are based on behavioral ecology and evolutionary theory.”
“We’re asking what the theological and philosophical implications of these models are,” Murray said.
He and Schloss already have edited a book on the subject titled The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives on the Origin of Religion, due to be published by Oxford University Press next spring.
Murray said he and Schloss hope to have a first draft written by next summer. In March, they will team up to teach a month-long seminar on the subject in Los Angeles.
In August Murray and Schloss will travel to Britain to teach another course at Oxford, and they intend to finish the book at Oriel College at Oxford, where the pair will be fellows during the spring.
Meanwhile, Murray has been working with David Bradshaw, a philosophy professor at the University of Kentucky, to bring together scholars from Russia and the West at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, in November. They will meet to consider scientific, philosophical and theological perspectives on the topic of human nature.
Murray and Bradshaw received the John Templeton Foundation grant to gather Russian, British and American philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and theologians.
“The conference is part of an ongoing collaboration between Russian and Western scholars to discuss the relationship between science, philosophy and religion,” Murray explained.
The conference proceedings will be published in Russian and English in a supplemental volume of the journal Faith and Philosophy, which will be co-edited by Murray.