Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Lecture | Pascal Boyer | Why “Religion” Cannot Be Adaptive: Understanding the Cognitive and Historical Varieties of Religious Representations

Episode Summary

Lecture | Pascal Boyer | Why “Religion” Cannot Be Adaptive: Understanding the Cognitive and Historical Varieties of Religious Representations

Episode Notes

Why is there some “religious stuff” in all human societies? A tempting answer is that religions are somehow grounded in evolved properties of human minds. Recently, some have even suggested that religion could have been selected for ensuring large-scale cooperation and prosocial behavior. Considering the empirical evidence leads to a more sober understanding of the evolutionary processes underpinning the emergence and spread of religious concepts and norms. The term “religion” misleadingly lumps together three very different kinds of social-cultural processes, unlikely to have spread in the same contexts. I propose to model the diffusion of religious concepts in terms of cultural epidemics based on universal cognitive dispositions, showing how some (not all) religious concepts can serve as recruitment devices in building coalitions. [March 24, 2015]