Religion, Nature and Evolution in Modern Japan and East Asia

The intellectual impact of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is almost impossible to overstate, having far-reaching implications for fields as diverse as biology, philosophy, psychology, politics, economics and theology. This working group seeks to examine the reception, application and perceived implications of evolutionary theory in Japan and other East Asian countries. Central to this exploration is an acknowledgment that advocates of evolution emphasized different facets of the theory and their interplay with religion and politics.

This group seeks to bring together an interdisciplinary group of historians, philosophers, sociologists and biologists to examine these issues. We seek to examine how evolutionary biology, and views of nature and the environment more broadly, intersected with religion and society in modern Japan and East Asia. We will explore how evolutionary ideas and beliefs about the natural world intersected philosophy, politics and theology in non-Western and non-Christian contexts historically, and how they continue to manifest today. We hope that these virtual meetings provide the seeds to apply for funding to host an in-person conference, with the long-term goal of producing an edited volume on the topic.  

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Group Conveners

  • Arvid Ågren

    Arvid Ågren is a Research Associate at the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and an Affiliated Researcher at the Evolutionary Biology Centre at Uppsala University. His work focuses on the evolution of within-organism conflicts, including selfish genetic elements and cancers. He also works on foundations of selfish gene theory and is the author of The Gene’s-Eye View of Evolution (OUP 2021; paperback 2023). Together with Manus M. Patten, he is the editor of The Paradox of the Organism: Adaptation and Internal Conflict (under contract at Harvard University Press). He is an Associated Editor of Proceedings of the Royal Society B and BioScience.


  • Stephen Weldon

    I am associate professor and chair of the University of Oklahoma’s Department of History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. I am very interested in the nature of science in modern culture. My recent book The Scientific Spirit of American Humanism (2020) explores the intellectual and cultural shifts in 20th-century America related to science and religion, focusing on the fate of the humanist movement, group of American intellectuals and activists who placed science at the center of their worldview and who repudiated God and the supernatural. I am also editor of the Isis Bibliography of the History of Science, and in that capacity, I am closely involved in data-focused projects that push the boundaries of how we think about and do history in the digital age.


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