Dr. Justin Barrett, who, when we spoke to him in 2009, was senior researcher at the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at the University of Oxford, is one of several researchers looking for the roots of religion in important cognitive processes we use as "shortcuts" to perceive and make sense of the world. He thinks that because of these cognitive tools, we're primed to look for signs of intention in the world, and to think that most events have some agent, possibly a supernatural one, making them happen. In this conception, religious thinking is a kind of natural byproduct of normal mental processes. Interestingly, Dr. Barrett, a Christian, thinks that these ideas are easily reconcilable with many different religious faiths.

Dr. David Sloan Wilson approaches the science of religion from another perspective. A self-described Atheist who studies religion, he's also a distinguished professor in the Departments of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York. He's investigating religion as a possible adaptation - in some sense, like biological adaptations, such as the opposable thumb or the eye. He suspects that religion is a way of binding social groups together, which then gives those groups selective advantages over other groups.

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