The merit of the academic study of religions lies in its ability to undertake interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. Its subject, religious beliefs and behaviour, can be understood as a historical, cultural and social phenomenon. On the other hand, religion seems to be a universal human trait, explainable by means of scientific methods of evolutionary biology, ethology, neuroscience, or genetics. If we try to locate the study of religions in the overlapping fields of humanities and science, it seems worthwhile to recall the distinction between understanding (Verstehen) and explaining (Erklären) as proposed by Wilhelm Dilthey.

The founding myth of the discipline tells a story of the liberation of research from the hegemony of theology, and of the creation of an empirical discipline. Understanding religious phenomena was proclaimed as one of the main objectives of our research. At the beginning, religious texts were approached as data to be commented on and interpreted through the use of philological and historical methods. Later, the birth of anthropology, sociology and psychology of religion contributed to the broadening of the field, and to the introduction of new methodologies. Recently, new research fields, such as evolutionary psychology, genetics, cognitive sciences and sociobiology, changed the landscape and climate of the study of religions by applying state-­‐of-­‐the-­‐art scientific methods in hope of explaining religious beliefs and behaviour.

We would like to dedicate this edition of the Kraków Symposium to the memory of Walter Burkert, a philologist, historian, and a scholar of classics who undertook a search for "tracks of biology" in religious phenomena. Approaches such as his made it possible to bring religious traditions of the past to the contemporary laboratory for the study of religions.