Industrialisation leads to relaxed selection and thus the accumulation of fitness-damaging genetic mutations. We argue that religion is a selected trait that would be highly sensitive to mutational load. We further argue that a specific form of religiousness was selected for in complex societies up until industrialisation based around the collective worship of moral gods. With the relaxation of selection, we predict the degeneration of this form of religion and diverse deviations from it. These deviations, however, would correlate with the same indicators because they would all be underpinned by mutational load. We test this hypothesis using two very different deviations: atheism and paranormal belief. We examine associations between these deviations and four indicators of mutational load: (1) poor general health, (2) autism, (3) fluctuating asymmetry, and (4) left-handedness. A systematic literature review combined with primary research on handedness demonstrates that atheism and/or paranormal belief is associated with all of these indicators of high mutational load.
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We would like to thank A. J. Figueredo, Dimitri van der Linden, Bruce Charlton, and Michael Woodley of Menie for their valuable advice on this study. We would like to thank Harold Koenig, Elijah Armstrong, Paul Reddish, and Jennifer Vonk for forwarding us relevant literature.
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Dutton, E., Madison, G. & Dunkel, C. The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”: the Rejection of Collective Religiosity Centred Around the Worship of Moral Gods Is Associated with High Mutational Load. Evolutionary Psychological Science 4, 233–244 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0133-5
- Social epistasis model
- Mutational load
- Developmental stability