Pascal Boyer is a French anthropologist who advocates the idea that human instincts provide us with the basis for an intuitive theory of mind that guides our social relations, morality, and predilections toward religious beliefs. Boyer and others propose that these innate mental systems make human beings predisposed to certain cultural elements such as belief in supernatural beings. Boyer has conducted long term ethnographic fieldwork in Africa, where he studied the transmission of oral epics, and has held teaching and research positions at several universities. He is currently Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His books include Memory In Mind And Culture, Religion Explained, The Naturalness of Religions Ideas, Cognitive Aspects Of Religious Symbolism, and TraditionAsTruthAndCommunication.
Pascal Boyer Quotes
The explanation for religious beliefs and behaviors is to be found in the way all human minds work.
This is why, although bookshelves may be overflowing with treatises on religion, histories of religion, religious people's accounts of their ideas, and so on, it makes sense to…show how the intractable mystery that was religion is now just another set of difficult but manageable problems.
Having a normal brain does not imply that you have religion. All it implies is that you can acquire it, which is very different.
The reason why psychologists and anthropologists are so concerned with acquisition and transmission is that evolution by natural selection gave us a particular kind of mind so that only particular kinds of religious notions can be acquired.
The content and organization of religious ideas depend, in important ways, on noncultural properties of the human mind-brain.
People created religion to explain puzzling natural phenomena.
Refutation is more difficult than belief.
Religious ideas are entertained and transmitted partly because they seem intuitively unnatural to the subjects who hold them, yet the range of notions and assumptions humans are likely to include in their religious systems is strongly constrained by (noncultural) cognitive capacities.