Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not 1st Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199827268
ISBN-10: 0199827265
Why is ISBN important?
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $2.00
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Buy used On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$24.95 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
Buy new On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$31.95 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
More Buying Choices
11 New from $19.99 14 Used from $9.89
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Amazon Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student

Save Up to 90% on Textbooks Textbooks
$31.95 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not
  • +
  • Studying Religion: An Introduction Through Cases
Total price: $139.93
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews


"Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not provides a powerful new paradigm to explore the relationship between science and religion."--Journal of Religion

"McCauley's book is a superb introduction to the problems of intuition, reflection, science, and religion, opening up an entirely new way of looking at the debates concerning science and religion from a cognitive perspective." --Journal of the Cognitive Science of Religion

"McCauley's richly illustrated and wonderfully accessible book is an intellectual treat. He brings the emerging Cognitive Sciences to bear on the issue of the cognitive awkwardness humans typically feel when trying to grasp the concepts of Theoretical Science, as compared to the cognitive naturalness we typically feel when contemplating the doctrines of Religion. Unlike others, McCauley has no particular doctrinal axe to grind here: he is simply concerned to understand a gulf that is familiar to all of us. This is a book that will engage everyone." -- Paul M. Churchland, author of The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul

"Robert McCauley is a philosopher of science and was a pioneer in creating a cognitive science of religious thought and behaviour. No one could better explain what he calls the naturalness of religion and the unnaturalness of science. In the past, discussions of 'science' and 'religion' have been as sterile as they were poorly informed. McCauley re-examines this contrast in cognitive and evolutionary terms. He shows how our mental systems make religious belief so easy and scientific thinking so difficult, and explores the consequences of these divergent ways of thinking for the future of religious organizations and scientific knowledge." -- Pascal Boyer, author of Religion Explained

"In Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not, McCauley strikes a pleasing balance between erudition and precision, and between accessibility and sophistication. This is the best book I have read on the cognitive science of religion and on the cognitive science of science. McCauley makes an exciting contribution to each area and places the so-called science-religion debate on entirely new ground. " -- Justin L. Barrett, author of Why Would Anyone Believe in God?

About the Author

Robert N. McCauley is William Rand Kenan Jr. University Professor and Director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture at Emory University. He is the co-author of Rethinking Religion and Bringing Ritual to Mind.

Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at Audible.com. If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at ACX.com.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199827265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199827268
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,436,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a marvelous book about the differences between science and religion. It is scholarly enough to make McCauley's arguments persuasive, and accessible enough to make it a pleasure to read.

McCauley presents a compelling case for the claim that religion is a cognitively natural human activity, whereas science is not. He starts with the concept of `maturationally natural systems,' that is, human cognitive systems that operate automatically, unreflectively, and (mostly) unconsciously. Maturationally natural systems are those that were so evolutionarily advantageous that they became (nearly) invariable capacities of the human mind. They include things like language, face recognition, and most importantly, "theory of mind."

The phrase "theory of mind" refers to the human cognitive capacity to interpret behavior in terms of the mental states of agents. McCauley explains how evolutionary selection pressures resulted in "hyperactive agency detection," a natural human tendency to interpret events in terms of agents and their actions.

According to McCauley, hyperactive agency detection is at the core of the cognitive naturalness of religion. Religions universally invoke what McCauley calls "minimally counterintuitive agents" to explain a wide array of natural phenomena. In effect, religion is getting a free ride on some of our most basic cognitive capacities. As McCauley puts it, religion is like a Rube Goldberg device, a collection of functionally unrelated mechanisms strung together to serve a purpose outside their proper domain.

In essence, the naturalness of religion is a consequence of the naturalness of the cognitive systems it activates.
Read more ›
8 Comments 35 of 37 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
This was an enjoyable and interesting read. According to the author, for evolutionary reasons, some things are easier than others for people to think (what the author calls cognitive naturalness). For example, we find it easy and "natural" to explain events in terms of agents and their intentions (i.e. the boy hit his sister because he finds her annoying). According to the author, religious explanations or ways of thinking usually fit well with our "natural" cognitive impulses or biases (i.e. the deity made the boy sick because he hit his sister), while scientific explanations or ways of thinking very often do not fit well with our "natural" cognitive impulses or biases. Partially as a result, religion is pervasive and persistent, while science is rare, fragile, and requires enormous institutional support.

Overall, this book offered a persuasive explanation for the pervasiveness and persistence of religiosity - that religion is cognitively appealing - an explanation that I had not encountered before. While the faithful may not find this book likable, it should certainly offer them reassurance that religion is going to stick around without too much effort on their part. On the other hand, the book offers a cautionary tale for supporters of science, because it suggests that science will only persist if we maintain the environment in which it thrives and if we continually invest the resources that are required to sustain it. This book will be an interesting read for those interested in science or religion, and, particularly, for those interested in the relationship of those two domains with public life. Highly recommended.
Comment 16 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Robert McCauley has written a user-friendly gem of a journey into the ancient - and now, modern - world of science vs. religion. By "user-friendly," I am referring to the surprising ease with which a lay man, fascinated by this age old debate, may enthusiastically enter into McCauley's unparalled work and vision. His unpretentious, non-judgmental, often witty and always engaging writing style is an invitation that reads, "Academic credentials in this field absolutely not required!" Yes, WHY RELIGION IS NATURAL AND SCIENCE IS NOT, is a challenging read ... so chew slowly, taste mindfully, swallow carefully, but most importantly, enjoy the meal: McCauley serves gourmet food for thought in this triumphant book destined to become a classic. I will return to it time and time again!
2 Comments 7 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found the early going a bit too academic for me but the final chapter which was great made it more than worthwhile.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse