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Robert N. McCauley

William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor of Philosophy

Robert N. McCauley (born in 1952) is William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor of Philosophy and was the founding Director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University (2008-2016). McCauley, who also has associated appointments at Emory in psychology, religion, and anthropology, has been described as one of the founding fathers of the cognitive science of religion. He earned his B.A. from Western Michigan University in 1974, his M.A. from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in 1975, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1979. His research examines the philosophy of science (especially the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science) and the cognitive science of religion. He is the author of Philosophical Foundations of the Cognitive Science of Religion:  A Head Start (Bloomsbury, 2017) and Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not (Oxford University Press, 2011), which explores a variety of startling consequences that follow from a comparison of the cognitive foundations of science and religion.  In his view, our minds are better suited to religious belief than to scientific inquiry because the explanations that religions provide make intuitive sense to us and engage our natural cognitive systems, while science involves abstract thinking and forms of reflection that require mental work that we find difficult and unnatural.  

He wrote Rethinking Religion: Connecting Cognition and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Bringing Ritual to Mind: Psychological Foundations of Cultural Forms (Cambridge University Press, 2002), both with E. Thomas Lawson. He is the editor of The Churchlands and Their Critics (Blackwell Publishers, 1996) and the co-editor of Mind and Religion: Cognitive and Psychological Foundations of Religiosity (AltaMira Press, 2005).  Dr. McCauley has written more than one hundred articles, chapters, and papers and lectured at universities and professional meetings in more than a dozen countries across four continents. He has received grants or fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy of Religion, and The John Templeton Foundation. In addition to serving on numerous editorial boards and executive boards of professional societies, he was elected president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for 1997-1998 and president of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion for 2010-2012. Dr. McCauley has received numerous awards for outstanding teaching, including an appointment as the inaugural Massee-Martin Distinguished Teaching Professor at Emory. He also served as the Director of the Emory College Center for Teaching and Curriculum from 2001 to 2004. Dr. McCauley writes a blog for Psychology Today entitled Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not: A Naturalist Examines the Cognitive and Cultural Foundations of Religion, Science, and More.