The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion

Edited By

Yair Lior


Justin Lane

ISBN 9781138331679
Published November 30, 2022 by Routledge
540 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The past two decades have seen a growing interest in evolutionary and scientific approaches to religion. The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion is an outstanding reference source to the key topics, problems and debates in this exciting and emerging field. Comprising over thirty chapters by a team of international contributors the handbook pulls together scholarship in the following areas:

  • evolutionary psychology and the cognitive science of religion (CSR)
  • cultural evolution
  • the complementarity of evolutionary psychology, cognitive science and cultural evolution

Within these sections central issues, debates and problems are examined, including: Cliodynamics, cultural group selection, costly signaling, dual inheritance theory, literacy, transmitting narratives, prosociality, supernatural punishment, cognition and ritual, meme theory, fusion theory, sexual selection, agency detection, evoked culture, social brain hypothesis, theory of mind, developmental psychology, emergence theory, social learning, cultural cybernetics, cultural epidemiology, evolutionary and cultural psychology, memetics, by-product and adaptationist theories of religion, systems and information theory, and computer modeling.

This Handbook is essential reading for students and researchers in religious studies and anthropology. It will also be very useful to those in related fields, such as psychology, sociology of religion, cognitive biology, and evolutionary biology.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Evolutionary Approaches to Religion
Yair Lior and Justin Lane

Evolutionary Psychology

2 Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology
Justin Lane and Yair Lior

3 Child Development: The Effects of Ritual on Cognitive Development
Veronika Rybanska

4 Cognition and the History of Religion
Luther H. Martin

5 Evoked Culture: Cognitive Mechanisms of Religious Belief and Behavior
E. Thomas Lawson

6 Sacred Values: Identity Fusion, Devoted Actor Theory, and Extremism
Kayla Bonnin and Justin Lane

7 Sexual Selection: Long- term Mating Strategies and Religion
James A. Van Slyke

8 Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts: A Unified Theory in the Cognitive Science of Religion?
Muhammad Afzal Upal

9 Faces in Clouds and Voices in the Wind: Anthropomorphism, Agency Detection and Human Cognition
Stewart E. Guthrie and Michaela Porubanova

10 Social Brain Hypothesis: Dunbar’s Number and the Stability of Religious Social Networks
Michael J. Gantley, John P. McKeown and Ángel V. Jiménez

11 Atheism: A New Evolutionary Perspective on Non-Belief
Thomas J. Coleman, Kyle J. Messick, and Valerie van Mulukom

12 Personality and Psychology in the Evolution of Religion
Igor Mikloušić and Boris Mlačić

13 Hazard Precaution: Examining the Possible Adaptive Value of Ritualized Behavior
Martin Lang and Radim Chvaja

Cultural Evolution

14 Introduction to Cultural Evolution
Armin W. Geertz

15 Cultural Group Selection and the Evolution of Religion
Taylor Davis

16 Costly Signaling: The ABCs of Signaling Theory and Religion
Richard Sosis

17 Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDs): When They Work and When They Don’t
Hugh Turpin and Jonathan A. Lanman

18 Dual Inheritance Theory: Religion, Narrative, and Selection
Francesco Ferretti and Ines Adornetti

19 The Co- evolution of Religion and Literate Culture
Daniel Mullins

20 Religion and Prosociality: The Naturalization of Norms
Connor Wood

21 Big Gods Theory: The Cultural Evolution of Social Complexity and Prosocial Religions
Yair Lior

22 The Evolution of Ritual, Cognition, and Modes of Religiosity During the Agricultural Transition
Michael J. Gantley

23 Meme Theory
Justin Lane

24 Institutional Evolution: The Dynamics of Religious Formations
Jonathan H. Turner and Armin W. Geertz

25 Behavioral Ecology: Niche Construction and Religion
John Balch

Synthetic Approaches

26 Synthetic Approaches: At the Intersection of Evolutionary Psychology and Cultural Evolution
Yair Lior and Justin Lane

27 Religion Emerges: The Evolution of Language and Religion
Paul Cassell

28 Cultural Cybernetics of Religion: Computation and Information Transmission in Religion
Justin Lane

29 Major Transitions in Cultural Evolution: A Dynamic Systems Approach
Yair Lior

30 Cultural Epidemiology: Attractors and Representations
Radu Umbreș

31 Differentiating Processes of Biological, Cognitive, and Cultural Selection: Implications for the Adaptation/ Byproduct Debate
Lee Kirkpatrick

32 Synthesis and Explanatory Pluralism
Wesley J. Wildman and David Rohr

33 Concluding Reflections: An Evolutionary Approach to Comparative Religion
William E. Paden


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Yair Lior is Doctor of Religious Studies at Boston University, USA, and a research associate at the Center for Mind and Culture (CMAC), Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Justin Lane is co-founder and CEO at CulturePulse Inc. (USA/Slovakia), Scientific Advisor at DEKK Institute (Bratislava, Slovakia), and collaborates as a researcher with the Slovak Academy of Science (Institute of Ethnology and Social Anthropology).