Adaptation, Fitness, and Empty Niches

  • Ina Wunn
  • Davina Grojnowski
Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR, volume 6)


When we speak of a religion’s adaptation, we mean a religious community’s (or a religion’s) outfit in terms of its contents and ideas and their subsequent symbolization in idols, rituals, and cultic actions as well as their organization. These factors allow the religion to compete successfully with other religions or other interpretations within one’s own religion, and they also allow the religion to endure the social, economic, political, and natural environments. Adaptation means more psychic and social efficiency as well as efficiency when dealing with other notions, attitudes, and actions towards a reality which people refer to as powers or power, ghosts or demons, gods or god, the Holy or the Absolute, and finally as transcendence. The cause behind this adaptation is a two-stage process of firstly producing varieties and then secondly, and independently, the effects of selection. In each generation of communication, the varieties best suited for the respective situation are selected and can be communicated successfully. In this fashion, the familiar set of beliefs, rules, and behaviours gradually transforms, a transformation which leads to an increasingly better adaptation of the respective religion to the respective environment. Should the environment change, then the same process causes the religion to react actively to the environment’s change and to adapt further.


Niche Fitness Cultural adaptation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ina Wunn
    • 1
  • Davina Grojnowski
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyLeibniz University of HanoverHanoverGermany
  2. 2.Formerly King’s CollegeLondonUK

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