darwin godHere’s a fascinating New York Times article that goes in to the evolution of religion. It’s a scientific look at why we as a species have come to believe in God. Is it an advantageous trait that we evolved to survive or was it handed down to us from God?

The read is rather long and somewhat involved, but I found it interesting and I assume many of you will too. It’s great for all you stuck out there in cubicle land like myself, but be warned that it will suck you in :)

Here’s a little taste to wet your palette:

So trying to explain the adaptiveness of religion means looking for how it might have helped early humans survive and reproduce. As some adaptationists see it, this could have worked on two levels, individual and group. Religion made people feel better, less tormented by thoughts about death, more focused on the future, more willing to take care of themselves. As William James put it, religion filled people with “a new zest which adds itself like a gift to life . . . an assurance of safety and a temper of peace and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.”

Such sentiments, some adaptationists say, made the faithful better at finding and storing food, for instance, and helped them attract better mates because of their reputations for morality, obedience and sober living. The advantage might have worked at the group level too, with religious groups outlasting others because they were more cohesive, more likely to contain individuals willing to make sacrifices for the group and more adept at sharing resources and preparing for warfare.

This internal push and pull between the spiritual and the rational reflects what used to be called the “God of the gaps” view of religion. The presumption was that as science was able to answer more questions about the natural world, God would be invoked to answer fewer, and religion would eventually recede. Research about the evolution of religion suggests otherwise. No matter how much science can explain, it seems, the real gap that God fills is an emptiness that our big-brained mental architecture interprets as a yearning for the supernatural. The drive to satisfy that yearning, according to both adaptationists and byproduct theorists, might be an inevitable and eternal part of what Atran calls the tragedy of human cognition.

Related posts:

  1. Are Americans Ignorant About Religion?
  2. Sam Harris–Link Between Religion And Violence
  3. George Carlin’s Take On Religion
  4. Jewish — Race Or Religion?
  5. Evolution Is A Religious Deception