The goal of the MODRN project is to create cutting edge computer simulations of religious and social conflict in Norway, using modeling systems that enable “virtual” social experimentation by integrating empirically validated theories in the scientific study of religion (and secularization) within complex “causal architectures.” These simulations will be calibrated using massive Norwegian datasets in dialogue with national and international experts in the fields of computer modeling, religious and secular diversification, and Norwegian public-policy.
MODRN will produce new tools for evaluating hypotheses about – and policies for – religious and socio-political change in Norway, Northern Europe and beyond. The three-year project began 1 July 2016 and runs through 30 June 2019. It is funded primarily by the Research Council of Norway, with additional funding from the University of Agder (UiA) in Kristiansand, Norway, the Institute for the Bio-Cultural Study of Religion (IBCSR) in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Virginia Modeling, Simulation and Analysis Center (VMASC) in Suffolk, Virginia, for a total budget of approximately 1.4 million USD.
The project hosts colloquia and conferences about the simulations, and their implications for public policy, in Kristiansand, Boston and Suffolk. Its advisory board includes experts in the scientific study of religion (with an emphasis on religious conflict and secularization), public policy (with an emphasis on immigration, women's equality, peace-making and similar issues), and computer modeling. The core team members are:
- Principal investigator: F. LeRon Shults (UiA)
- Co-principal investigator: Wesley J. Wildman (IBCSR)
- Co-principal investigator: Ross Gore (VMASC)
- Post-doctoral fellow: Carlos Lemos (UiA)
The MODRN project is developing multi-disciplinary syntheses of theories, based on empirical findings within a wide variety of scientific fields relevant to the study of religious diversity, as the basis for the construction of causal architectures within agent-based and system-dynamics computer models that simulate social interactions in virtual societies. The development of these models will enable researchers and policy-makers to test probabilistic claims about the role of religious and other factors in fostering social cohesion and conflict in the past – and to evaluate new policy proposals by experimentally projecting into the future of a “virtual Norway.”
The application of advanced strategies in computer simulation to the task of understanding the interrelation between micro- and macro-levels of social change will facilitate far more precise analysis (and creative synthesis) within academic and public discourse about the dynamics shaping religious conflict and secularization in an ecologically fragile, pluralistic and globalizing environment.