2017 – Present
Postdoc in the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group at the University of Oxford. Oxford, United Kingdom.
2016 – Present
Postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Jena, Germany.
Gray, R.D., & Watts, J. (In Press). Macro matters: Cultural macroevolution and the prospects for an evolutionary science of human history. PNAS.
Watts, J., Greenhill, S., Atkinson, Q., Currie, T., Bulbulia, J., & Gray, R. (2015). Broad supernatural punishment but not moralizing high gods precede the evolution of political complexity in Austronesia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biology.
Watts, J., Sheehan, O., Atkinson, Q.D., Bulbulia, J., & Gray, R.D. (Submitted). Ritual Human Sacrifice and the Darker Role of Religion in Human History. Empirical Studies in the Cognitive Science of Religion (Ed. D.J. Slone). Bloomsbury Academic.
Bulbulia, J., Watts, J., & Gray, R.D. (Submitted). The New Collaborative Scientific Study of Religious History.
Articles for a General Audience
Greater political hierarchy predicts faster conversion to Christianity (Talk). European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Conference. Paris, France.
Pulotu, the Database of Pacific Religions: Construction and Data Analysis (Talk). Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University. Stanford, U.S.A.
Announcing Pulotu! A Public Database of Pacific Supernatural Belief and Practice (Talk). World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions. Erfurt, Germany.
The Social Control Hypothesis of Human Sacrifice (Talk). Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, University of Oxford. Oxford, United Kingdom.
The Function of Human Sacrifice in Austronesia (Talk). Human Behaviour and Evolution Society. Columbia, Missouri, U.S.A.
The Evolution of Religion (Talk). Ph.D. Seminar Series. Auckland, NZ.
Big Gods and Big Societies (Talk). In-House Convention. Auckland, NZ.
The Evolution of Moralising Gods and Political Complexity (Talk). Allan Wilson Center Conference. Palmerston North, NZ.
Scholarships & Awards
Ph.D. thesis awarded place on Dean’s List, University of Auckland.
University of Auckland Ph.D. Scholarship.
John Templeton Foundation Ph.D. Scholarship, provided by grant to R.D. Gray.
3 x First in Course Awards, University of Auckland.
Summer Research Scholarship, Victoria University of Wellington.
Quantitative Methods Spring School, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Tutor for testing co-evolution using Pagel’s Discrete
Life Sciences Kolleg, German National Academic Foundation
Guest lecturer on the cultural evolution of religion (Postgraduate course)
School of Psychology, University of Auckland
Graduate Teaching Assistant for Evolution, Behaviour, and Cognition (seminar based tutorials for 3rd year undergraduate course)
Guest lecturer for Evolution, Behaviour, and Cognition (Undergraduate course)
School of Art History, Classics & Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Invited lecture for Advanced Studies in Religion and Society (Postgraduate course)
Invited lecture for The World’s Religions (Undergraduate course)
Education & Workshops
Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences Masterclass. Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany.
Ph.D., School of Psychology, University of Auckland
Anthrotree Workshop, Durham, U.S.A.
B.Sc. Psychology, Honours (First Class), University of Auckland
B.Sc. Psychology and Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington
Other Editorial, Research & Leadership Experience
Regional Editor for The Database of Religious History.
Managed, oversaw and designed Pulotu, the database of Austronesian religion and culture.
Fieldwork, Tanna Island, Vanuatu (26th June till the 24th July).
Fieldwork, Tanna Island, Vanuatu (11th March till the 14th April).
Science. Human sacrifice may have helped societies become more complex. By Emily Benson.
IFL Science. Human Sacrifice May Have Played A Role In The Evolution Of Modern Societies. By Janet Fang.
The Guardian. Study shows human sacrifice was less likely in more equal societies. By Tim Radford.
New York Times. Why Some Societies Practiced Ritual Human Sacrifice. By Tatiana Schlossberg.
Washington Post. The ‘darker link’ between ancient human sacrifice and our modern world. By Sarah Kaplan. Re-posted in The Independent, Stuff.co.nz, and The Age.
Nature podcasts. Sacrificial Man. With Kerri Smith and Adam Levy.
CBC Radio. Human sacrifice helped build complex civilizations. With Bob McDonald.
The Huffington Post. Ritual Human Sacrifice Maintains Heirachy, Says University of Auckland Study. By Cayla Dengate.
Smithsonian. Human Sacrifices May Lie Behind the Rise of Ancient Social Status. By Maya Wei-Haas.
New Scientist. Has ritual human sacrifice shaped societies and class systems? By Colin Barras.
NZ Herald. Human sacrifice in NZ used to keep power.
NPR (US National Public Radio). Human Sacrifice Is Linked To Social Hierarchies In New Study. By Bill Chappell.
Radio NZ. The History Of Human Sacrifice. With Jesse Mulligan.
Radio Live NZ. Historical human sacrifice about class warfare. With Alison Mau and Willie Jackson.
Popular Science. Human Sacrifice May Have Helped Create Complex Societies. By Grennan Milliken.
International Buisness Times. Human sacrifice: How religious rituals played dark role in rise of complex societies. By Hannah Osborne.
Anthropology.net. Ritual Human Sacrifice Paved Way For Complex Societies. By Kambiz Kamrani.
ZME Science. Human sacrifice may have helped the elite consolidate its position. By Tibi Puiu.
The Christian Science Monitor. Did human sacrifice create our social hierarchies? By Eva Botkin-Kowacki.
ABC Online. Human sacrifice may have helped build and sustain social class systems. By Dani Cooper.
The Conversation. Why did early human societies practice violent human sacrifice? By Joseph Watts. Re-posted in IFL Science.
Ars Technica. Thanks to math, we can calculate the benefits of human sacrifice. By Annalee Newitz.
Tech Times. Human Sacrifice May Have Helped Shape Complex Societies. By Alyssa Navarro.
Nature World News.
Ritual Human Sacrifices Helped Build Up Social Classes, New Study Reveals. By Jhay Are See.
Nature. Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity. By Philip Ball. Re-posted in Scientific American, and The Richard Dawkins Foundation.
Science. To foster complex societies, tell people a god is watching. By Lizzie Wade.
International Business Times. Belief in supernatural punishment not ‘big gods’ gave rise to complex societies. By Hannah Osborne.
This View of Life. Did Fear In Supernatural Punishment Build Complex Societies? By Joseph Watts.
Nautilus. Which Comes First, Big Cities or Big Gods? By Robert Hackett.