Religion is a hotly debated topic both among scholars and the general public, and a new paper authored by researchers from the University of Helsinki and Harvard University is only likely to up the level controversy surrounding the subject. Published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the study suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.
"Some scholars claim that religion evolved as an adaptation to solve the problem of cooperation among genetically unrelated individuals, while others propose that religion emerged as a by-product of pre-existing cognitive capacities," explains study co-author Dr. Ilkka Pyysiainen from the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Although there is some support for both, these alternative proposals have been difficult to investigate.
Citing recent empirical work in moral psychology, the authors argue that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas.
"This supports the theory that religion did not originally emerge as a biological adaptation for cooperation, but evolved as a separate by-product of pre-existing cognitive functions that evolved from non-religious functions," says Dr. Pyysiainen. "However, although it appears as if cooperation is made possible by mental mechanisms that are not specific to religion, religion can play a role in facilitating and stabilizing cooperation between groups."
"It seems that in many cultures religious concepts and beliefs have become the standard way of conceptualizing moral intuitions. Although, as we discuss in our paper, this link is not a necessary one, many people have become so accustomed to using it, that criticism targeted at religion is experienced as a fundamental threat to our moral existence," concludes co-author Dr. Marc Hauser.
Citation: Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Marc Hauser, 'The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product?', Trends in Cognitive Sciences, February 2010; doi:10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.007
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Could A Star Orbit A Planet? - Just For Fun
- Germany Versus Science, Round Two
- Japanese Soda Study—Good God(zilla)!
- Bel's Temple in Palmyra Is No More
- An Historical Moment For Diabetes
- Cannabis Use May Influence Brain Maturation In Young Males
- Daratumumab Immunotherapy Agent Benefits Patients With Drug-Resistant Multiple Myeloma
- "Can light contain dark in a circle or can dark contain light in a circle?Read below why this may..."
- "The risk of different of energy of electron is of serious health risk for Dirac and matter energy..."
- "Thanks. Unfortunately, it works. The Washington Post bought this big time. It's just about impossible..."
- "Great article. Junk science seems to be at an all-time high with so many just looking to make headline..."
- "Thanks, that's an interesting idea :). If you could somehow collect enough Mercury density material..."
- Radioactive contaminants found in coal ash
- Neuron responsible for alcoholism found
- Poor women twice as likely to develop clinical anxiety as poor men
- Disruption of a crucial cellular machine may kill the engine of deadly cancers
- Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider confirms tiny drops of early universe 'perfect' fluid