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Extra resources for A History of Philosophy (Part I: Hobbes to Paley, Vol 5, Modern Philosophy: The British Philosophers)

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5 Discussion Arguments against religiosity as an adaptation (Kirkpatrick 2005, 2006) emphasize that religiosity is not a coherent functional property, but a bundle of different properties with changing importance, some of them even being absent. And there are no genes (discovered so far) that are specifically responsible for religiosity. There are some indications that religious and spiritual preferences are inherited, but they have a large variability; this can be seen as an argument against a direct adaptation, because vital organs and functions like lungs and breathing cannot be based on too much genetic variability.

Oxford University Press, Oxford D’Aquili E G (1972) The Biopsychological Determinants of Culture. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass Dunbar R (1996) Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Faber & Faber, London & Boston Dunbar R (1999) Culture, honesty and the freerider problem. In: Dunbar R, Knight C, Power C (eds) The Evolution of Culture – An Interdisciplinary View. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh Fehr E, Gächter S (2002) Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415:137–140 Frejka T, Westhoff C F (2008) Religion, Religiousness and feritlity in the US and in Europe.

And the hypothesis of religiosity-as-a-by-product also motivates the search for biological foundations. Even if religiosity is not a direct adaptation, leading to advantages for individuals or groups in the long term, this does not mean that evolutionary studies are irrelevant for a better understanding of religious belief. For even if it turns out to be a purely cultural phenomenon, there is still a need to explain why religiosity is selectively “neutral” or disadvantageous (as a “memetic” parasite) – that is, why religiosity has not already been eliminated by selection.

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