Toward an evolutionary psychology of religiosity 
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 Toward an evolutionary psychology of religiosity

Toward an evolutionary psychology of religiosity

CASPAR SOELING & ECKART VOLAND

Neuroendocrinology Letters,2002; 23(suppl 4):98-104

How can the evolution of religiosity be explained? To answer this
question, we attempt to develop an understanding of the
psychological domains underlying religious behaviour. We see four
evolved domains, the sum and interaction of which constitute
religiosity, namely: mysticism, ethics, myths and rituals. Even if
the individual content, accents and implementations differ in each
specific religion, they nevertheless derive from evolved Darwinian
algorithms that are species-specific adaptations of homo sapiens.
Mysticism. Intuitive ontologies are the basis for mystical
experiences. Usually they serve to classify reality into animate and
inanimate objects, animals or plants, for example. For a variety of
psychological reasons, supernatural experiences result from a
mixture of different ontological categories.
Ethics. The basis for ethics lies in the social competency of human
beings. Ethics is founded on the concept of social exchange
("social-contract algorithm") with its ideas about
reciprocity, fairness, justice, cheater detection, in-group/out-
group differentiation, etc.
Myths. The basis for myths is the "language instinct". We
interpret myths as the verbal expression of the cognitive content of
those individual modules that constitute the belief system. Above
all, myths document the experience and processing of contingency and
thus help social bonding.
Rituals. Rituals are based on the handicap principle. By making
certain symbols and acts more expensive, they signal commitment for
a reliable in-group morale.
In conclusion, we argue that human religiosity emerges from a
cognitive interaction between these four domains. Religiosity
processes contingencies and enhances co-operation through social
bonding, norm setting and cheater detection. It fulfils those
functions for which the mental modules of its four domains have
evolved so that we feel it appears to be justified to attribute to
religiosity the evolutionary status of an adaptation.

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Sat, 02 Jul 2005 03:28:16 GMT
 
 [ 1 post ] 

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