- The Oxford Handbook of the Study of Religion
- List of Figures and Tables
- List of Contributors
- Historicizing and Translating Religion
- Theories of Religion
- Religion and Spirituality
- Cognitive Science
- Evolutionary Theory
- Feminism and Gender Theory
- Social Theory
- Gift and Sacrifice
- Initiations and Transitions
- Priests, Prophets, Sorcerers
- The Disintegration and Death of Religions
- Individualization and Privatization
- Tradition and Innovation
- Objectification and Commodification
- Syncretism and Hybridization
- Index of Names
- Index of Subjects
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.
John H. Shaver is Lecturer in Religion at the University of Otago. His research is concerned with understanding intracultural variation in ritual behavior, relations between religion and fertility, and the evolution of syncretic religions.
Benjamin Grant Purzycki is a Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He examines religious cognition, its effects on human coordination and cooperation, and how religious systems co-evolve with social and ecological problems.
Richard Sosis is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Evolution, Cognition, and Culture Program at the University of Connecticut. He is co-founder and co-editor of Religion, Brain & Behavior, an interdisciplinary journal on the biological study of religion.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.