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Evolutionary Processes in the Natural History of Religion

Body, Brain, Belief

  • Book
  • © 2021


  • Scrutinizes the evolution of human religion from the perspective of current evolutionary biology
  • Uniquely approaches the paleontology of religion from a biological point of view
  • Theoretically determines how the evolution of religion should be described by a multi-level and multi-dimensional model

Part of the book series: New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion (NASR, volume 10)

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About this book

The study of religion by the humanities and social sciences has become receptive for an evolutionary perspective. Some proposals model the evolution of religion in Darwinian terms, or construct a synergy between biological and non-Darwinian processes. The results, however, have not yet become truly interdisciplinary. The biological theory of evolution in form of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) is only sparsely represented in theories published so far by scholars of religion. Therefore this book reverses the line of view and asks how their results assort with evolutionary biology:

  • How can the subject area “religion” integrated into behavioral biology?
  • How is theory building affected by the asymmetry between the scarce empirical knowledge of prehistoric religion, and the body of knowledge about extant and historic religions?
  • How does hominin evolution in general relate to the evolution of religion? Are there evolutionary pre-adaptations?
  • Subsequent versions of evolutionary biology from the original Darwinism to EES are used in interdisciplinary constructs. Can they be integrated into a comprehensive theory?
  • The biological concept most often used is co-evolution, in form of a gene-culture co-evolution. However, the term denotes a process different from biological co-evolution.
  • Important EES concepts do not appear in present models of religious evolution: e.g. neutral evolution, evolutionary drift, evolutionary constraints etc. How to include them into an interdisciplinary approach?
  • Does the cognitive science of religion (CSR) harmonize with behavioral biology and the brain sciences?
  • Religion as part of human culture is supported by a complex, multi-level behavioral system. How can it be modeled scientifically?

The book addresses graduate students and researchers concerned about the scientific study of religion, and biologist interested in interdisciplinarytheory building in the field.

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Table of contents (16 chapters)

  1. Religion Through the Eyes of a Biologist

  2. About Evolutionary Biology and the Evolution of Religion

  3. Phenomenology of Paleolithic Religion

  4. CSR: The Cognitive Science of Religion

  5. Modeling the Evolutionary Path to Culture and Religion

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doctor of Science with Habilitation, University of Freiburg, Baiersbronn, Germany

    Hansjörg Hemminger

About the author

Hansjörg Hemminger received his postdoctoral qualification as a university teacher of behavioral biology (Habilitation) from the University of Freiburg (Germany). He was commissioner for world view questions, especially for the dialogue between science and religion, in the Protestant Church until retirement.  As an expert member of a parliament commission (Bundestag) he investigated fanatic and sectarian forms of religion. He published numerous articles and books in German and English.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Evolutionary Processes in the Natural History of Religion

  • Book Subtitle: Body, Brain, Belief

  • Authors: Hansjörg Hemminger

  • Series Title: New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Cham

  • eBook Packages: Religion and Philosophy, Philosophy and Religion (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-70407-0Published: 23 September 2021

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-70410-0Published: 24 September 2022

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-70408-7Published: 22 September 2021

  • Series ISSN: 2367-3494

  • Series E-ISSN: 2367-3508

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: X, 212

  • Number of Illustrations: 4 b/w illustrations, 23 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: History of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Evolutionary Biology

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