Our most obvious source of data for understanding the mind-culture nexus is the history of human minds in cultures. Several of the Center’s projects are dedicated to understanding the mind-culture nexus in historic moments of dynamic transformation.
Animated Archaeology Project
It’s difficult to picture the very distant past, particularly the early phases of civilization where archaeologists have to labor away to reconstruct the way our human ancestors lived. The answer, according to the Animated Archaeology Project, is 3D animation – archaeologically accurate and truly inspiring visualization that can communicate what human life used to be like, at least in one very special place. Working with our partners in Old Dominion University and with Ian Hodder and other archeologists who study the Neolithic archaeological site in Çatalhöyük, Turkey, we are building an animated world that can also serve as the visualization engine for computer simulations of the transition from small-scale hunter-gather societies to farming in larger towns. This is a visual way into the mind-culture nexus at a fascinating moment in the history of our species.
Civilizational Transformation Project
This project attempts to unearth the way minds and cultures undergo parallel and connected processes of change during key eras of transformation in civilizational form. Such eras include the transformation from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settlements with farmers domesticating crops and animals, the so-called Axial Age in which universal worldviews became widespread, and the period of modernity in which scientific understandings of nature and nation states became widespread.
Sex Differences Project
The biological evolution of sex in our planetary ecosystem is a complex story covering millions of species and billions of years. The human species further complicates this story with the bio-cultural evolution of sex and gender in complex social niches – a classic instance of the mind-culture nexus. This project employs perspectives from biological and cultural evolution, developmental biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, social construction, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, history, and ethics to understand the intricate multi-directional influences among sex, gender, and culture. The Sex Differences Project has several components. (1) An examination of sex-based differences in religious experiences, using surveys and neuroimaging. (2) The generation of two comprehensive annotated bibliographies, one containing resources relevant to the biology of sex differences, including the genetic and developmental basis for sexual dimorphism and intersex morphology, and the other containing resources relevant to the links among sex, gender, and culture. (3) The generation of a cross-cultural historical dataset supporting phylogenetic analysis of the cultural evolution of religion. (4) A bio-cultural-social-ethical analysis of the controversies surrounding sex differences, sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual norms, intersex, and the social construction of gender, particularly in light of the long history of evolution of sex and gender.