Current Projects

The Database of Religious History

The Database of Religious History (DRH) aims to be the world's first comprehensive, online quantitative and qualitative encyclopedia of religious and social history. Open source, free and shaped in content and function by its users, it will function as a massive, standardized, searchable encyclopedia of the current best scholarly opinion on historical religious traditions and the historical record more generally, allowing users to instantly gain an overview of the state of scholarly opinion and access powerful, built-in analytic and data visualization tools.

For more information, visit the project webpage.


The Evolution of Culture and Institutions: Evidence from the Kuba Kingdom

We use variation in historical state centralization to examine the impact of institutions on cultural norms. The Kuba Kingdom, established in Central Africa in the early 17th century by King Shyaam, had more developed state institutions than the other independent villages and chieftaincies in the region. It had an unwritten constitution, separation of political powers, a judicial system with courts and juries, a police force and military, taxation, and significant public goods provision. Comparing individuals from the Kuba Kingdom to those from just outside the Kingdom, we find that centralized formal institutions are associated with weaker norms of rule-following and a greater propensity to cheat for material gain. 


The Evolution of Religion and Morality

"The Evolution of Religion and Morality” is a grant awarded to a group of directors from UBC-SFU’s Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC), led by Edward Slingerland (PI) at UBC. It centers on a project of unprecedented scope and ambition aimed at exploring the cultural evolutionary roots of religion. This six-year project brings together the expertise of over fifty scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars from universities across North America, Europe and East Asia—along with postdocs and graduate students—into a research network that will be called the Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC). Over this six-year project, CERC aims to answer the question of what religion is, how it is linked to morality, and why it plays such a ubiquitous role in human existence. The grant will also contribute to the establishment of a new, interdisciplinary Program for the Study of Religion at UBC. Project Webpage.


The Psychology of Kinship

The focus of this project is to open up a detailed psychological study of how we think and feel about our kin relations — in terms of altruism, authority/equality and sexual attraction — that examines the possibility that this psychology is jointly influenced by both evolved psychological mechanisms and by culturally-evolved kinship systems that vary across historical and cultural contexts. Broadly, our comparative study of kinship psychology in Fiji and Vancouver will foster a new line of research for cultural psychologists while at the same time providing crucial tests of evolutionary hypotheses in a small-scale society. Project Proposal.