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The paper deals with philosophical and methodological aspects of incorporation of the study of religion into the system of life sciences. There are three main theoretical aspects: naturalistic approach, method of reductionism and modern evolutionary theory. The main part of the article defines naturalism as the philosophical basis of scientific research and its relation to humanities. The naturalistic approach assumes the exclusion of the category of “supernatural” and dualism of “spirit” and nature traditional for humanities. As the result, human culture and religion are described in terms of physical and biological determinism. The article also analyzes the methodological strategy of reductionism through the prism of opposition between the phenomenology of religion and its anthropological study. The main parameter that determines the advantage of reductionism is the rejection of search for a definition of religion in favor of pointing to a specific element of reality being investigated. In this case religion is understood as “natural” result of evolution of the psyche in the sense that beliefs and religious behavior are determined by the activity of human cognitive system. As the result of biological reduction, religion is understood as a set of cognitive, neurological and other elements of human nature. In conclusion, the role of modern evolutionism in the formation of a new research tradition in the study of religion is considered. A working definition of evolutionism is formulated. It is understood in a broad sense as a concept of universal development of single objects and complex systems and in a narrow sense as a synthetic theory of evolution. Considered theoretical aspects are positively assessed from the point of view of their methodological and heuristic potential. Naturalistic approach in the study of religion strengthens interdisciplinary positions of scholars of religion and allows them to look at “old” problems from the new point of view. 

Keywords: naturalistic paradigm, life sciences, biology of religion, reductionism, cognitive science of religion, evolutionary theory of religion, modern evolutionism, methodology of the study of religion, integration of sciences, conceptual integration definition of religion 

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2020.1.142-148

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About the author 

Anastasiya A. Zubkovskaya – Master in Religious Studies, post-graduate student at St. Petersburg State University;
7–9 Universitetskaya Emb., Saint Petersburg, Russia,
199304; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.