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Religion as a Culturo-Immunological System

Discussions and disputes about the reality, role and importance of analytic constructs such as ‘world-view’, ‘religious tradition’, or ‘culture’ seem endemic to the academic study of religion. Despite decades of often harsh critique, such concepts seem to be idealizations hard to do without, functioning as they do, as means to capture and direct attention towards apparent conceptual and behavioral continuities. But how do we model these local stabilities without falling into the trap of reification and cultural determinism? Taking its point of departure in the so-called “epidemiology of representations” proposed by Dan Sperber, this project will investigate an understanding of religion as an example of an (emerging) “culturo-immunological” system, that regulates the boundaries of human cooperative and communicative units. Inspired by discussions in theoretical biology of what constitutes and organism and by neurocognitive models of ‘Predictive Processing,” the project tentatively present a model of how cultural systems, such as religions, stabilize and how specific cognitive and social processes immunize these systems against both internal semantic decay and external destructive forces.