Religion as an Evolutionary Byproduct: A Critique of the Standard Model

Russell Powell, Stephen Clarke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    32 Citations (Scopus)
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    The dominant view in the cognitive science of religion (the 'Standard Model') is that religious belief and behaviour are not adaptive traits but rather incidental byproducts of the cognitive architecture of mind. Because evidence for the Standard Model is inconclusive, the case for it depends crucially on its alleged methodological superiority to selectionist alternatives. However, we show that the Standard Model has both methodological and evidential disadvantages when compared with selectionist alternatives. We also consider a pluralistic approach, which holds that religion or various aspects of religion originated as byproducts of evolved cognitive structures but were subsequently co-opted for adaptive purposes. We argue that when properly formulated, the pluralistic approach also has certain advantages over the Standard Model.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)457-486
    Number of pages30
    JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012

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