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The University of Alabama

Lecturer to Discuss Evolution of Religious Studies in UA’s ALLELE Series

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. William “Lee” McCorkle Jr., a cognitive and evolutionary anthropologist, will present a lecture on the evolution of religious studies March 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ferguson Center Ballroom on The University of Alabama campus.

The lecture is part of the Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution, or ALLELE, series at UA and is titled “Religion, a Cultural Virus: Evolutionary Approaches in the Historical, Anthropological, and Scientific Study of Religion.”

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Dr. Eleanor Finnegan, UA assistant professor of religious studies, said she’s excited to hear from a scholar who academically studies religion as part of the series.

“It’s an important topic to cover,” Finnegan said. “Academic religious study is different than theology or Sunday school. It’s important to get that word out.”

Finnegan expects that McCorkle will present a variety of theories about religion that use evolutionary theory. Some of McCorkle’s work has focused on death rituals and how cognitive science can help to explain religious ritual.

“He’s been on the forefront of this research,” Finnegan said. “It’s exciting to have someone on campus who’s on the cutting edge of this field.”

McCorkle is the managing editor for the Journal of Cognitive Historiography. He served as director of the Laboratory of the Experimental Research of Religion, or LEVYNA, and as an associate professor of religious studies at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, from 2011 to 2013. He is now a distinguished fellow at the University of Aarhus in Aarhus, Denmark, and a senior research fellow at LEVYNA. He has been involved in experiential research in religious studies.

The ALLELE series brings speakers to the UA campus to discuss aspects of evolution.

The 2015-2016 ALLELE series is supported by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Office of Academic Affairs, Honors College, the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, the Summersell Center for the Study of the South and UA’s departments of anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, communicative disorders, education studies in psychology, research methodology and counseling, English, geological sciences, history, New College, philosophy, physics and astronomy, psychology, religious studies and telecommunication and film.

Learn more about the series at

The ALLELE lecture series is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships and Goldwater Scholarships.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Courtney Corbridge, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,
  • SOURCE: Dr. Eleanor Finnegan, assistant professor of religious studies, 205/348-1653,