Philosophia

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 397–408 | Cite as

Is God an Adaptation?

Robert Wright’s, The Evolution of God, Little Brown, 2009.
Book Review

Abstract

In this critical notice to Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God, we focus on the question of whether Wright’s God is one which can be said to be an adaptation in a well defined sense. Thus we evaluate the likelihood of different models of adaptive evolution of cultural ideas in their different levels of selection. Our result is an emphasis on the plurality of mechanisms that may lead to adaptation. By way of conclusion we assess epistemologically some of Wright’s more controversial claims concerning the directionality of evolution and moral progress.

Keywords

Cultural evolution Religion Moral progress Group selection Teleology 

References

  1. Andrews, P. W., Gangestad, S. W., & Matthews, D. (2003). Adaptationism—how to carry out an exaptationist program. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25(04), 489–504.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson, Q. D. & Bourrat, P. (in press). Beliefs about God, the afterlife and morality support the role of supernatural policing in human cooperation. Evolution and Human Behavior.Google Scholar
  3. Atran, S. (2002). In gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Betzig, L. L. (1986). Despotism and differential reproduction: A Darwinian view of history. Aldine Pub.Google Scholar
  5. Bowles, S., Choi, J. K., & Hopfensitz, A. (2003). The co-evolution of individual behaviors and social institutions. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 223(2), 135–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boyd, R. & Richerson, P. J. (1985). Culture and the evolutionary process. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (2002). Group beneficial norms can spread rapidly in a structured population. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 215(3), 287–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (2009). Voting with your feet: payoff biased migration and the evolution of group beneficial behavior. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 257(2), 331–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boyer, P. (2002). Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Dennett, D. C. (2006). Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. Viking Pr.Google Scholar
  11. Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel. Norton.Google Scholar
  12. Gray, R. D., Greenhill, S. J., & Ross, R. M. (2007). The pleasures and perils of Darwinizing culture (with phylogenies). Biological Theory, 2(4), 360–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lewontin, R. C. (2000). The triple helix: Gene, organism, and environment. Harvard Univ Pr.Google Scholar
  14. Lieberson, S. (2000). A matter of taste: How names, fashions, and culture change. Yale Univ Pr.Google Scholar
  15. Maynard Smith, J., & Szathmary, E. (1996). On the likelihood of habitable worlds. Nature, 384, 107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McClenon, J. (2002). Wondrous healing: Shamanism, human evolution and the origin of religion. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Michod, R. E. (2000). Darwinian dynamics: Evolutionary transitions in fitness and individuality. Princeton Univ Pr.Google Scholar
  18. Morris, S. C. (2003). Life’s solution: Inevitable humans in a lonely universe. Cambridge Univ Pr.Google Scholar
  19. Nisbett, R. E. & Cohen, D. (1996). Culture of honor: The psychology of violence in the South. Westview Pr.Google Scholar
  20. Norenzayan, A., & Shariff, A. F. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322(5898), 58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Odling-Smee, F., Laland, J. K. & Feldman, M. W. (2003). Niche construction: The neglected process in evolution. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Richerson, P. J. & Boyd, R. (2005). Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Roes, F. L., & Raymond, M. (2003). Belief in moralizing gods. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24(2), 126–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Snarey, J. (1996). The natural environment’s impact upon religious ethics: a cross-cultural study. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 85–96.Google Scholar
  25. Soltis, J., Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (1995). Can group-functional behaviors evolve by cultural group selection?: An empirical test. Current Anthropology, 36(3), 473–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sosis, R., & Bressler, E. R. (2003). Cooperation and commune longevity: a test of the costly signaling theory of religion. Cross-Cultural Research, 37(2), 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Whitehouse, H. (2010). Four recipes for religion. International Institute for Cognition and Culture, http://www.cognitionandculture.net/index.php.
  28. Wilson, D. S. (2003). Darwin’s cathedral: Evolution, religion, and the nature of society. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute d’Histoire et Philosophie des sciences et des techniquesUniversite de Paris-1/ENS/CNRSParisFrance
  2. 2.Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordParisFrance

Personalised recommendations