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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter introduces a novel theory for the coevolution of religious belief and intuitive cognition. The theory bridges the byproduct and functionalist perspectives on the evolution of religion, without requiring selection at the level of the group. It starts with the byproduct position that cognitive mechanisms yielding advantages unrelated to belief gave rise to early protoreligious beliefs, and associated empirical evidence that intuition supports belief while deliberation breeds skepticism. It argues that once byproduct-induced early beliefs became prevalent within a community, those who questioned would face sanctions from committed believers (for example, out of fear that those who questioned belief would anger the gods/ancestors, bringing harm to the community). This sanctioning of belief questioning creates individual-level selection pressure to believe and, thus, individual-level selection pressure for intuitive cognition and against deliberative cognition. In this way, religious belief and intuitive cognition can be maintained by natural selection, without creating group-level benefits.

Keywords: evolution, religion, dual-process model, cognitive style, intuition, deliberation

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