I was selected as one of 11 teams of researchers to receive inaugural awards of the Grand Challenges for Human Flourishing with a project titled ‘What does cultural evolution look like in the 21st century, and how can we use the answer to ensure continued human flourishing?’.
Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) announced the initial investment in a $60 million commitment for bold research that pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge to help people flourish.
More than 500 teams of scientists from over 350 academic institutions across the world answered the request for ideas, which push beyond traditional measures of physical and mental health to include happiness, meaning and purpose, spiritual well-being and striving in adversity. The 11 awards represent the work of more than 40 researchers at over two dozen institutions and amount to more than $1 million to encourage further exploration of these ideas and the advancement of science in human flourishing.
Some of the questions I hope to tackle include:
What does cultural evolution look like when people are united by a global Internet, but separated by filtered social network feeds?
How does our social learning psychology interpret this information to decide what is true, what others think, and whom we can trust?
What does cultural evolution look like when people separated by geographic and cultural distance regularly interact and even live together in the same country?
How do societies with very different cultural evolutionary histories find common ground to cooperate on global challenges?
Cultural evolution and dual inheritance theory are the closest we have come to a “theory of human behaviour” and “theory of social change”. But so far, we’ve focused our efforts on understanding the past – human origins and human history – rather than understanding the present or preparing for the future. The framework offers answers for what has led to human flourishing thus far, how we’ve overcome challenges on the path toward greater cooperation, and why some societies have diverged from others. I will be helping the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) strategise about how cultural evolution works in the 21st century. How this framework that helps explain human flourishing can also help ensure continued flourishing—support economic development, strengthen democratic institutions, and catalyse collective action to tackle the challenges of a post-climate changed world.
Ted Slingerland, M. Willis Monroe, and I were awarded a John Templeton Foundation grant for The Database of Religious History: “Exploring the Cultural Evolution of Religion Employing a Large-Scale, Quantitative-Qualitative Historical Database” ($4,792,151). The grant will take us through to 2023.
We will be hiring several new postdocs to expand the time depth, geographic range, and domains of data collection efforts. If you notice your area of expertise missing from our dataset, please reach out. Otherwise, stay tuned for job ads.
Ted Slingerland and I were awarded a Templeton Foundation grant for “The Database of Religious History: A Digital Humanities Approach to Religious
Cultural History” ($2,342,841). The grant will take us through to 2020, by which time we hope to have set up the project as a foundation.
I was recently awarded an 18 month grant (with Co-PI Ted Slingerland) for “The Database of Religious History: Data Science Approaches to Religious Cultural History” ($215, 050). The grant will enable us to continue a critical period in the project’s development. We are hoping to secure additional funds to ensure a self-sustaining future for the project.
Part of this period was improving the data entry and browsing interface. If you’re a historian, please let us know if you would like to contribute. For everyone else, I encourage you to browse through our data: http://religiondatabase.org/browse/landing/
I was invited by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to elaborate on the vision and achievements of the Database of Religious History, complementing the winning video, which you can watch below:
The panel of 4 judges included Shari Graydon, author, journalist and founder of Informed Opinions; Antonia Maioni, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences; Pierre Normand, Vice-President, External Relations and Communications at the Canada Foundation for Innovation; and Bruce Wallace, editor of Policy Options magazine and former foreign editor for the Los Angeles Times.
I was awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Launched in 2009, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (Vanier CGS) Program’s goal is to strengthen Canada’s ability to attract and retain the world’s top-tier doctoral students by providing successful candidates with significant freedom to pursue and complete doctoral studies. Vanier scholars demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement. The award is worth $150 000 over 3 years.
This award will fund my research for the next 3 years and hopefully raise the profile of research on the role and evolution of culture in human evolution.
I was recently made a Liu Scholar by the Liu Institute for Global Issues. The Liu Scholar Program brings together doctoral students from various disciplines whose research intersects with global issues. As a Liu Scholar, I hope to collaborate with researchers and other stakeholders to explore how the science of culture and cultural evolution can be applied to issues, such as sustainability, security, and social justice.