What is the Spectrums Project About?
Can you explain why some religious believers dismiss the theory of evolution? Or why people who vote Democratic tend to cluster in big cities? If you’re being honest, you’ll probably admit that you’re not quite sure. The reasons behind people’s religious and political beliefs are complex and difficult to penetrate. But in today’s climate of polarized opinion and misunderstanding, gaining insight into them is more important than ever – after all, we’re going to need to understand each other across ideological lines if we hope to tackle problems like how to teach science in public schools, what to do about climate change, and how to integrate a growing diversity of religious traditions in an immigrant society.
This call for understanding means that, in the face of polarized public discourse, we need a new research approach that shows how conservatives and liberals both have valuable perspectives, an approach that reveals unexpected ways for the devoutly religious and the defiantly secular to see eye-to-eye. The Spectrums Project is just such an innovative approach. Applying a multidisciplinary framework informed by the biological sciences, cognitive sciences, social sciences, and religious studies, the Spectrums Project investigates and interprets religious belief along the conservative-liberal spectrum in a cool-headed but empathic way. By focusing on the strengths of differing perspectives, we hope to expand the possibilities for understanding-based empathy. It is easier to disagree patiently and peacefully when we understand why our opponents feel so deeply about their viewpoint, and when we feel they understand what most matters to us.
We don’t argue that religious conservatives are right. We also don’t take sides with liberals. Instead, we acknowledge that religious faith – including a lack of religious faith – is one of the most important motivating factors in human life. By crafting a new framework and research instrument for understanding these motivations, the Spectrums Project offers a clear-eyed, evidence-based way to make sense of some of our most cherished, and challenging, beliefs.