The Evolved Brain: Understanding Religious Ethics and Religious Violence



We are living in the midst of one of the greatest periods of intellectual discovery in the history of religious studies. Scholars from anthropology, psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience and philosophy are developing a cognitive science of religion which promises to revolutionize and profoundly deepen our understanding of religion. Scholars have tried for centuries to lay bare the empirical bases for religious beliefs but, without disparaging those efforts, it is only with the development of the cognitive sciences that we can move beyond arm-chair speculation or merely phenomenal descriptions of religion and develop an empirically grounded explanation for religious belief and behavior.


Religious Belief Evolutionary Perspective Evolutionary Psychology Religious Experience Evolutionary Morality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alexander, R. D. (1987). The biology of moral systems. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  2. Atran, S. (2002). In gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Boyer, P. (2001). Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Frank, R. H. (1988). Passions within reason: The strategic role of the emotions. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  6. Hamilton, W. D. (1964).The genetical evolution of social behavior, I, II. Theoretical Biology. 7, 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hartung, J. (1995). Love thy neighbor: The evolution of in-group morality. Skeptic, 3, 86–89.Google Scholar
  8. Hefner, P. (1996). Theological perspectives on morality and human evolution. Religion and science: History, method, dialogue. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Holy Bible. (1974) Revised Standard Version, Meridian Publishers.Google Scholar
  10. Holy Qur’an. (1990) (M. H. Shakir, Trans.). Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc.Google Scholar
  11. Irons, W. (1996). In our own self image: The evolution of morality, deception, and religion. Skeptic, 4, 50–61.Google Scholar
  12. Irons, W. (2001). Religion as a hard-to-fake sign of commitment. In R. M. Nesse (Ed.), Evolution and the capacity for commitment. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  13. James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience. New York: Modern Library.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Nesse, R. M. (Ed.). (2001). Evolution and the capacity for commitment. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  15. Newberg, A., D’Aquili, E., & Rause, V. (2001). Why god won’t go away: Brain science and the biology of belief. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  16. Pagels, E. (1995). The origin of satan. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  17. Persinger, M. (1987). The neuropsychological bases of god beliefs. New York: Praeger Press.Google Scholar
  18. Persinger, M. (1999). This is your brain on god. Wired, 7, November.Google Scholar
  19. Ramachandran, V. (1997). Society of neuroscience, 23, Abstract No. 51.1, October.Google Scholar
  20. Theissen, G. (1984). Biblical faith: An evolutionary approach. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  21. Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Vanneste, S., Verplaetse, J., Van Hiel, A., & Braeckman, J. (2007). Attention bias toward noncooperative people. A dot probe classification study in cheating detection. Evolution and Human behavior, 28, 272–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Verplaetse, J., Vanneste, S., & Braeckman, J. (2007). You can judge a book by its cover: The sequel. A kernel of truth in predictive cheating detection. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 260–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin’s cathedral: Evolution, religion, and the nature of society. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ReligionHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

Personalised recommendations