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School of Psychology Research Seminar
Speaker: Anastasia Ejova (University of Adelaide)

Title: Using Bayesian modelling to construct an evolutionary tree of global religions

Abstract: Cultures change, but they also 'stick'. Bayesian phylogenetic modelling enables us to track the rate of change in cultures, as reflected in languages and religions, over thousands of years. I will describe work I am conducting with the University of Auckland and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History to map genealogical/evolutionary relationships between the major denominations of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism: 275 denominations in total. We find that, across these different traditions, across some 6000 years, rates of separation/schism in denominations tended to remain stable at between one and three new lineages per 1,000 years. However, we also uncover evidence for a small number of rate shifts corresponding to historical events such as the Protestant Reformation, in which rates of schism increased by as much as an order of magnitude. Our results indicate that, while historical contingencies (unique events) have played a major role in religious evolution, these contingencies have occurred against a background of relative constancy that may reflect underlying laws of cultural evolution.

Time: Friday 30 September, 12pm

Location: Room 526, Hughes Building, North Terrace Campus, or register here to join via Zoom

Sep 30, 2022 12:00 PM in Adelaide

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