Evolution and Theology of Cooperation

Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

The ‘Evolution and Theology of Cooperation’ research project at Harvard University was a three-year interdisciplinary undertaking formed to discuss the implications of the evolutionary phenomenon of ‘cooperation’ for the understanding of the relation of the evolutionary processes and classic theism(s). Given that ‘cooperation’ is now seen to be a ‘natural’ phenomenon, how does this fact cause us to rethink the basic metaphors of Darwinian theory, and how does it relate to the emergence, in cultural evolution, of various theories of ethical normativity, including those that appeal to ‘divine command’? How are traditional arguments for the existence of God to be re-thought in the light of game theory’s explication of the emergence of ‘cooperation’? And how is ‘cooperation’ to be defined analytically, and distinguished from closely-related terms such as ‘altruism’, ‘love’, and ‘self-sacrifice’? Can all these phenomena be regarded as ‘evolutionary’ developments, and if so in what sense?

In addition to tackling these particular questions, the research project aimed, more generally, to lay out a set of logical alternatives for viewing the relation of God and the evolutionary process. It thus intended to complexify the disjunctive choice, as currently represented in the public media, between secular Darwinism on the one hand, and fundamentalism on the other.

see an excerpt of the original research proposal

John Templeton Foundation Milestones: October 2007 article on the ETC project

To Punish or to Prosper? April 2008 article in the Templeton Report

The Evolution of Cooperation. January 2009 write-up in the Templeton Report

Mathematics and Faith Explain Altruism: September 2008 article in the Boston Globe

Harvard Magazine article

Yomiuri newspaper article

The emergence of cooperation: March 2009 lecture at the German Physical Society conference in Dresden.

September 2009 lecture at IIASA conference "Evolution of cooperation: Models and theories"

Sacrifice: bringing evolution and religion together? October 2009 article in the Guardian

Evolution of cooperation: October 2009 lecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Evolution of Cooperation: November 2009 lecture at ETH Zurich

From selfish genes to supercooperators: November 2009 lecture at IST Austria.

God and Evolution: December 2009 lecture (for video click here and select December 12) in Rome Italy


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