David J. Hufford

David Hufford, Ph.D., is Professor of Medical Humanities, with joint appointments in Behavioral Science and Family medicine, at the Penn State College of Medicine, where he is also Director of the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine. At University of Pennsylvania he is Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies and a faculty member of the Master in Bioethics Program. Dr. Hufford has taught about religion, spirituality and health at the College of medicine since 1974. He won a Templeton Foundation Faith & Medicine Award in 1995, the first year of that program to support religion and health courses in medical schools, and he has taught that course to fourth-year medical students since that time. At Penn he has taught courses in spiritual belief and in alternative medicine since 1979, and currently leads an imitative to develop a Center for Spirituality, Religion and Health at Penn, connecting the School of Medicine and the School of Arts & Sciences. Hufford's research is centered in the ethnographic and phenomenological study of the beliefs of ordinary people--especially as those beliefs that are in competition with the positions of official institutions. His inquiry has focused on the experiential grounds for spiritual beliefs, and the role of reason in their development and persistence. In the course of his research Hufford has proposed an experiential theory of spiritual belief, suggesting that many widespread spiritual beliefs are empirically founded and rationally derived. Because science is the modern standard of valid rational knowledge, Hufford has also sought to understand the widely held notion that science and spiritual belief are contradictory. His work suggests that while this does prove true in the case of some specific religious beliefs, such as Creationism, these are exceptions. For the most part science and religion are about different things, such as the body and the soul, although those things are related and have implications for each other. Hufford’s publications have primarily been concerned with describing the grounds for spiritual belief, showing their reasonableness and questioning the common assertions that beginning with the Enlightenment science has made religion outdated and not rationally defensible. His book The Terror That Comes in the Night, which considers beliefs about spiritual evil that are found all over the world within the context of scientific research on sleep paralysis, was recently translated into Japanese.

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