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The Scientific Approach to Religion

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

Abstract

The evolution of religion can be studied by biological methods phenomenologically as a natural history of religion, and causally by modeling the interactions of behavioral innovations with the environment. The evolution of religiosity as a human capacity has to be distinguished from the evolution of historic religions. Similarly, the capacity (a theoretical term) should be differentiated from religious performances and experiences. They have a “physical” form and an abstract function. The function has to be understood teleonomically, not teleologically, from a biological perspective. The terms religion and religiosity are projective concepts (in theoretical biology injunctions) which have to be identified by describing the transitions to adjacent areas. The religious impulse of humans, in this description, comprises a sense of the transcendent, identification with a religious tradition, and the idea of the sacred. The experience of the sacred subsists in a tension between the mysterium tremendum and the mysterium fascinosum, integrated as an experience of numinosity. Animism, animalism and taboos are discussed as possible initial forms of prehistoric religion.

Keywords

  • Teleology
  • Teleonomy
  • Methodology
  • Religiosity
  • Religious capacity
  • Form
  • Function
  • Proximate explanation
  • Ultimate explanation
  • Injunction
  • Sacred
  • Mysterium tremendum
  • Mysterium fascinosum
  • Numinosity
  • Animism
  • Animalism
  • Taboo

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-70408-7_2
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Hemminger, H. (2021). The Scientific Approach to Religion. In: Evolutionary Processes in the Natural History of Religion. New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion , vol 10. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70408-7_2

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