The Emergence of Religion in Human Evolution: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Emergence of Religion in Human Evolution

1st Edition

By Margaret Boone Rappaport, Christopher J. Corbally


280 pages

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Hardback: 9780367245207
pub: 2019-12-18
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Religious capacity is a highly elaborate, neurocognitive human trait that has a solid evolutionary foundation. This book uses a multidisciplinary approach to describe millions of years of biological innovations that eventually give rise to the modern trait and its varied expression in humanity’s many religions. The authors present a scientific model and a central thesis that the brain organs, networks, and capacities that allowed humans to survive physically also gave our species the ability to create theologies, find sustenance in religious practice, and use religion to support the social group. Yet, the trait of religious capacity remains non-obligatory, like reading and mathematics. The individual can choose not to use it.

The approach relies on research findings in nine disciplines, including the work of countless neuroscientists, paleoneurologists, archaeologists, cognitive scientists, and psychologists.

This is a cutting-edge examination of the evolutionary origins of humanity’s interaction with the supernatural. It will be of keen interest to academics working in Religious Studies, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, and Psychology.

Table of Contents


Part I. Introduction to Theory

1 New Sciences, New Findings, and a New Model

2 Shifting Evolutionary Paradigms and the Study of Advanced Neurocognitive Traits

Part II. The Model

3 The Human Hearth, the Circle of Light, and the Evolution of Morality

4 Model for the Evolution of a Trait for Religious Capacity

Part III. The Implications

5 The Neuroplastic Species

6 Staying Alive, Becoming Religious

7 Future Artificial Species: Will They Be Moral? Will They Be Religious?


About the Authors

Margaret Boone Rappaport, Ph.D. is a cultural anthropologist and biologist who works in human cognitive evolution, and as a futurist, lecturer, and author in Tucson, Arizona. As President, Policy Research Methods, Incorporated, she conducted research for federal agencies for 30 years. She lectured at Georgetown and George Washington Universities. Dr. Rappaport is also a prize-winning short story and poetry writer, and the Co-Founder of The Human Sentience Project, LLC.

Christopher J. Corbally, S.J., Ph.D., is a Jesuit priest and an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory Research Group, for which he has served as Vice Director, and liaison to its headquarters at Castel Gandolfo, Italy. He is an Adjunct Associate Astronomer at the Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, and ministers to a wide variety of Catholics, including Native Americans, in Tucson, Arizona. He is the Co-Founder of The Human Sentience Project, LLC.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Neurotheology, Cognitive Science and Religion

Neurotheology and the relationship between cognitive neuroscience and religion form a new and developing field of scholarship that seeks to identify the link between the brain and religious and spiritual phenomena. This book series is looking for proposals featuring high quality research on topics related to this emerging discipline.

Projects in this series might include some of the following topics: psychological or health related issues impacted by religion and spirituality; practices such as meditation or prayer; studies of consciousness and altered states; drug induced experiences; and pathological conditions or near death phenomena. Research on rituals, liturgy, and other spiritual practices is also welcome, as are proposals that delve into philosophy, ontology, metaphysics, epistemology, and theology. Importantly though, any book in this series must consider both the function of the brain and one or more religious and spiritual worldview together. By engaging with the fresh insights and various controversies that exist within these topics this series better clarifies the many exciting issues relating cognitive neuroscience, religion and spirituality, and neurotheology.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christian Theology / Anthropology
RELIGION / Religion & Science
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Evolution
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Neuroscience
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General