The evolution of religion

Joseph A. Bulbulia

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The evolution of religion

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This article reviews recent theoretical and experimental work in the cognitive and evolutionary psychology of religion, and motivates an adaptationist stance. By ‘religious cognition’ and ‘religiosity’, the article means belief and practice relative to supernatural beings and powers — call them ‘gods’. It suggests that religiosity — god commitment and the behaviour it prompts and that motivate it — bears the hallmark of adaptive design. Adaptive religiosity is more like an achievement than a harmless mistake, as spandrelists urge, or catching a cold, as meme theorists urge. It begins with a serious obstacle to any evolutionary treatment of religion. Science assumes methodological naturalism. The article does not stipulate the gods out of existence. However, it suggests the idea that nature is secular and provides a good explanation from minimal assumptions about the complexity of the world.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology; religion; cognition; religiosity; gods; behaviour; adaptive design; nature

Article.  9923 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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