Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 6 of 6 items for

  • Author or Editor: Richard Sosis x
  • Search level: All x
Clear All
In: Evolution, Cognition, and the History of Religion: A New Synthesis
Author: Richard Sosis

Abstract

The primary debate among scholars who study the evolution of religion concerns whether religion is an adaptation or a byproduct. The dominant position in the field is that religious beliefs and behaviors are byproducts of cognitive processes and behaviors that evolved for other purposes. A smaller group of scholars maintain that religion is an adaptation for extending human cooperation and coordination. Here I survey five critiques of the adapationist position and offer responses to these critiques. Much of the debate can be resolved by clearly defining important but ambiguous terms in the debate, such as religion, adaptation, adaptive, and trait, as well as clarifying several misunderstandings of evolutionary processes. I argue that adaptationist analyses must focus on the functional effects of the religious system, the coalescence of independent parts that constitute the fabric of religion.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

In this paper, we consider the idea that religion is a transsomatic adaptation. At the genic level, the religious system constitutes an extended phenotype that has been fashioned by natural selection to overcome socioecological challenges inherent in human sociality, primarily problems of cooperation and coordination. At the collective level, the religious system constitutes a cognitive niche. We begin our discussion focusing on the former and concentrate our attention on the “sacred coupling” of supernatural agency and ritual behavior. We detail the complex connections between genes, cognitive faculties, and their expression in religious contexts, followed by a discussion of how religious ritual functions to maintain relative social order. We conclude with a discussion about the relevance of niche construction theory for understanding the adaptive nature of religious systems.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Abstract

Many human groups achieve high levels of trust and cooperation, but these achievements are vulnerable to exploitation. Several theorists have suggested that when groups impose costs on their members, these costs can function to limit freeriding, and hence promote trust and cooperation. While a substantial body of experimental research has demonstrated a positive relationship between costs and cooperation in religious groups, to date, this relationship has not held for secular groups. Here we extend this line of research by comparing trust and cooperation among 11 secular groups, including four U.S. Greek fraternities that impose high costs on their members. We find that although fraternities impose greater costs on their members than social clubs, fraternities and social clubs do not significantly differ in their levels of intra-group trust. Moreover, variation in costs does not explain variation in trust among fraternities. We suggest that the lack of an evident relationship between costs and trust in our results is because secular groups, unlike religious groups, lack repeated rituals that are coupled with supernatural ideologies. We conclude by suggesting possible avenues for future research.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture