The Importance of Being “Ernest”

Robert N. McCauley

in Creating Consilience

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199794393
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919338 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science

The Importance of Being “Ernest”

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Human beings' evolved machinery for representing actions constitutes the cognitive infrastructure for representing religious rituals. By arousing participants, special agent rituals enhance motivation to retain and transmit religious representations and, thus, they perpetuate religious systems. Consequently, all things being equal, selection pressures favor repeating these rituals with the same patients. The logic of special agent rituals, however, renders this repetition with the same patients pointless. Moreover, a combination of psychological considerations makes their continued successful repetition with the same patients difficult. Still, at least three means for increasing their performance frequencies with the same patient have arisen in religious systems. That religious participants explicitly justify repeating these rituals supports claims for the role that participants' cognitive representations of their ritual actions plays in shaping their religious systems.

Keywords: religious rituals; religious representations; religious systems; special agent rituals

Chapter.  8130 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy

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