The evolution of religious belief in humans: a brief review with a focus on cognition

Article Type

Research Article

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Journal of Genetics


Religion has been a widely present feature of human beings. This review explores developments in the evolutionary cognitive psychology of religion and provides critical evaluation of the different theoretical positions. Generally scholars have either believed religion is adaptive, a by-product of adaptive psychological features or maladaptive and varying amounts of empirical evidence supports each position. The adaptive position has generated the costly signalling theory of religious ritual and the group selection theory. The by-product position has identified psychological machinery that has been co-opted by religion. The maladaptive position has generated the meme theory of religion. The review concludes that the by-product camp enjoys the most support in the scientific community and suggests ways forward for an evolutionarily significant study of religion.

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