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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

People in all cultures entertain beliefs in supernatural agents and engage in ritual behaviors that are related to those beliefs. This suggests that religion is a product of a shared evolutionary history. Currently researchers employ three major evolutionary frameworks to study religion—evolutionary psychology, behavioral ecology, and dual-inheritance theory—each with different assumptions, methods, and areas of focus. This chapter surveys these approaches and describes the major sources of disagreement between them. Two of the largest sources of disagreement among evolutionary scholars of religion are: (1) whether or not religion is a cognitive byproduct, or a manifestation of adaptive behavioral plasticity, and (2) whether or not individual or group-level selection processes are a more potent evolutionary force in shaping the significant features religion. The authors suggest that integrative frameworks that incorporate aspects of all these perspectives offer the best potential for real progress.

Keywords: behavioral ecology, dual-inheritance theories of religion, evolutionary psychology of religion, evolutionary theory of religion, group selection, religion as by-product

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