Dr. David L. Haberman
Professor, Department of Religious Studies
Indiana University, Bloomington
Thoughts on Human Origins
As a lifelong student of the study of comparative religion and professor of religious studies at a large state university, I research and teach about most all religious traditions. I have long been interested in the great variety of stories about origins, as they provide fundamental conceptions that shape our attitudes and behavior toward other human beings as well as nonhuman beings. I find myself fascinated these days while reflecting on the implications of the story of human evolution that is emerging from years of scientific research, for it challenges our conception of self and the world as it reveals the interconnected nature of all life on this planet. Beyond that, it raises such questions as: What is it that is special about human beings, and what is our destiny? What is our place in the vast web of life, and what are the most beneficial ways of conducting ourselves at this time on this magnificent but increasingly threatened planet Earth?
I received my Ph.D. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School and am currently Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Bloomington. Although my research focuses on the devotional cultures of northern India, I have studied and taught all major religious traditions. All religions are regarded equally within the academic study of religion in public universities. I am interested in the way in which religious worldviews shape human conceptions of self, world, and ultimate reality, and determine relationships and behavior toward others – both human and nonhuman. Much of my work has centered on the culture of Braj, the active pilgrimage site in northern India long associated with Krishna and known for its lively temple festivals, performative traditions, and literary creations. My present research interests track the relationship between religion, ecology and nature, with a focus on Hindu attitudes toward and interaction with nonhuman entities. Having recently published River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India (California 2006) and People Trees: Worship of Trees in Northern India (Oxford 2013), I have recently finished a new book titled Loving Stones: Making the Impossible Possible in the Worship of Mount Govardhan (Oxford, forthcoming). I serve on an advisory board for the Forum on Religion and Ecology and on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. I also teach courses on deep ecology and am an environmental activist who works on the related issues of forest protection and climate change. What animates all of these interests is that big question: What is the place of the human in the larger scheme of life?