Science and Religious Conflict Project

SRC Project Overview

This project was funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council standard grant, and ran from January 2009 until June 2012.

Project summary

The past decade has seen an explosion in empirical work on moral reasoning. We are coming to understand how people's moral judgments are shaped by interactions with others in their society. There are good reasons for thinking that people's moral judgements are mostly intuitive (recent empirical work by Jonathan Haidt and his collaborators supports this view) and that people's intuitions are powerfully shaped by the institutions around them, including religious institutions. There is also evidence that deeply religious societies may conceive of morality in ways that more secular societies find difficult to understand, making the process of overcoming moral differences very challenging. We will investigate this recent work, in cognitive science, neuroscience, evolutionary biology and social psychology to try to understand the behaviour of people involved in disagreements about religious matters, including disagreements between distinct religious groups, disagreements within particular religious groups and disagreements between religious groups and a broader society. We will try to understand whether moral differences reflect religious disagreements, or whether they are independent of them. Our aim is to help develop policies that can enable religious disagreements to be resolved before conflicts are generated. In order to achieve this goal we need to understand how religious perspectives give rise to moral views that lead to conflicts and how there might be scope to resolve those conflicts while allowing religious differences to be tolerated.



Download PDF listing all publications produced during the grant period.


Our conferences


18-19 June 2012

In June 2012, the Science and Religious Conflict Project team in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University hosted a two-day international and interdisciplinary conference on the theme of reducing religious conflict.
Conflicts between different religious groups and between religious groups, governments and broader society are endemic to modern life and have been a feature of human existence for thousands of years. What can be done to reduce the rate of occurrence and the severity of such conflicts? In this conference leading international experts from different disciplines take up the theme of reducing religious conflict. In this conference leading international experts from different disciplines took up the theme of reducing religious conflict.

Speakers included: Scott Atran, Liz Carmichael, Tony Coady, Eran Halperin, Miles Hewstone, Julian Savulescu, Ingmar Persson, Monica Toft, and Paul Troop.

Many of the talks were recorded: search on Oxford Podcasts.


21-22 January 2012

An interdisciplinary international two-day conference organised by the Science and Religious Conflict Project Team, under the auspices of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and kindly sponsored by The Mind Association, the Society for Applied Philosophy and the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. The conference examined and promoted discussion of the role of evil as a moral concept in practical ethics and explored its positive and negative implications to moral thought and practice.

Speakers included: Gwen Adshead, Claudia Card, Steve Clarke, Eve Garrard, Shlomit Harrosh, John Kekes, Robin May Schott, Arne Johan Vetlesen, and Alan Wolfe.

Many of the talks were recorded: search on Oxford Podcasts.


17-19 May 2010

An interdisciplinary and international three-day conference organised by the Science and Religious Conflict Project team.  The conference aimed to discuss empirically informed approaches to an understanding of the ways in which religion increases or decreases tolerance. 

Speakers: Daniel Batson, Patricia Churchland, Tony Coady, Robin Dunbar, Owen Flanagan, Benjamin Kaplan, Mark Sheehan, Miles Hewstone, Dominic Johnson, Sue Mendus, Ara Norenzayan, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Roger Trigg, and Harvey Whitehouse.

Listen to Podcast Album.