Crespi and Summers define religion as “a sociocultural belief and behavior system involving both supernatural ideas and morality.” Definitions of institutions as complex as religiosity are always arguable; I’d have preferred a more explicit emphasis on practice, on specifically what people do. In fact I think Crespi and Summers do, as they lay out their hypothesis, rely heavily on practice rather than only beliefs, more so than their definition suggests. …
When, seven years ago, my book Evolving God was published and I gave interviews based on it such as this one at Salon, I grappled with the same basic questions that preoccupy Crespi and Summers. I went in a different direction by emphasizing that human religiosity was primed by the meaning-making, imagination, empathy and rule-following of other primates (primates with whom we shared a common ancestor in the past, or those common ancestors themselves). Religious imagination flowered later, in the hominin lineage, as our brains were increasingly selected over time to think beyond the here-and-now.
My framework back then focused more on preconditions for human religiosity than Crespi and Summers’ does, and also on attempting to pinpoint the roots of religion in the archaeologically visible behavior of Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens. But I see the two core sets of ideas as basically complementary.
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Feeling better informed yet?
Evolutionary psychologists will front any thesis, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, except that religion is a response to a message from a divine source. And evidence is irrelevant. It’s not actually a science, it is a branch of naturalism.
In other news, the beard trend is guided by evolution:
The ebb and flow of men’s beard fashions may be guided by Darwinian selection, according to a new study.
The more beards there are, the less attractive they become – giving clean-shaven men a competitive advantage, say scientists in Sydney, Australia.
When “peak beard” frequency is reached, the pendulum swings back toward lesser-bristled chins – a trend we may be witnessing now, the scientists say.
This is “science,” you understand. Show proper respect.
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