Barbara King Explores Evolutionary Origins of Religion at LSTC on September 28 September 12, 2006

The Zygon Center for Religion and Science will offer a public lecture on September 28 presenting cutting-edge research on what the evolutionary origins of religion might be. In "Beyond Genes and Memes: Evolutionary Science and the Origins of Religion," Barbara King, Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, will discuss evolution's impact on human beings' sense of the sacred. King's lecture will be held at 7:00 pm in the Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 1100 East 55th St. The lecture is open to the public, with a recommended donation of $5.00. Admission is free for students.

"The human religious imagination, gloriously unique in its dimensions, has a surprisingly long evolutionary history," Barbara King says. Rather than studying how evolution proceeded genetically, King studies cultural evolution. She suggests that the deepest roots of religious imagination may be traced back to tendencies for empathy and compassion, and for xenophobia and brutality, seen in our ape-like ancestors. She argues that the key to this history is the emotional transformation in meaning-making that takes place when people come together in groups to pray, sing, dance, grieve, or exult, and experience dimensions beyond the here and now.

King's focus on mutual creativity and transformation provides an alternative to the "God genes" of recent popular scientific literature. It has implications for the study of emergence as well as for an understanding of the relationship between science and religion.

Dr. Barbara King is Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. A biological anthropologist, she has studied monkey behavior in Africa and ape communication among the gorillas housed at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. She is the author of The Dynamic Dance: Nonvocal Communication in African Great Apes, published by Harvard in 2004. Her new book, to be published by Doubleday in January, is called Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion.

If you would like further information, or to learn more about the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, visit or call the center at 773-256-0670.

The Zygon Center for Religion and Science was established in 1988 as a partnership program of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and the Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science (CASIRAS). It is dedicated to relating religious traditions and the best scientific knowledge in order to gain insight into the origins, nature, and destiny of humans and their environment, and to realize the common goal of a world in which love, justice, and responsible patterns of living prevail.


Jan Boden
Director of Communication and Marketing

The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.

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