Religions as Complex Adaptive Systems
A shouting match is often perversely compelling in the same way that a road accident is: it’s ugly, but it commands your attention. Very occasionally, however, a viciously heated conversation manages to achieve aching tedium at the same time. For an example of this paradox, ask some religious studies scholars what religion is. The ensuing debate will be a painstaking, often bitter exchange of views that ultimately boils down to the deflationary proposition that there is, in fact, no such thing as religion at all. But my mentor and collaborator Rich Sosis and I have a different perspective. While there’s no one-size-fits-all definition of religion, we think that looking at religions as a complex adaptive systems helps make sense of both their persistent cross-cultural similarities and their widely varying differences. Recently, we published a chapter on a computer model exploring this vision in an edited volume, Human Simulation.
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