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The Problem with Too Much Fidelity to the Modern Synthesis When Explaining the Origins and Evolution of the Social Universe

Issue: Vol 4 No. 1 (2016) Special Issue on Evolutionary Theories of Religion

Journal: Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Cognitive Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/jcsr.35730


Religion emerged as a cognitive capacity and behavioral propensity by virtue of Darwinian natural selection on hominins and then humans to become more social and group oriented. The capacity to be religious is only a modest extension of the Darwinian selection on cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal propensities of all great apes and, hence, early hominins. However, other forms of natural selection need to be added to the explanation of why religion became institutionalized in early human societies, why religious organizations arise and die from competition, and why violence is so often a part of religious revolution. These additional types of natural selection do not obviate Darwinian selection on the human brain, but they become a necessary supplement to Darwinian analysis if the early institutionalization and subsequent evolution of religion are to be more fully explained.

Author: Jonathan H. Turner

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