The Scientific Landscape of Religion: Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

Scott Atran

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780199543656
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 The Scientific Landscape of Religion: Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

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Religion has no evolutionary functions per se. Rather, existential anxieties and moral sentiments constitute – by virtue of evolution – ineluctable elements of the human condition; and the cognitive invention, cultural selection, and historical survival of religious beliefs in the supernatural owe much to its success in accommodating these elements. Other factors in the persistence of religion as mankind's provisional evolutionary destiny involve naturally selected elements of human cognition. These include the inherent susceptibility of religious beliefs to modularized conceptual processing systems, such as folk psychology, which favour the survival and recurrence of the supernatural within and across minds and societies.

Keywords: religion; evolutionary function; cognitive invention; cultural selection; folk psychology

Article.  8979 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion and Science

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