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?
- Dopamine Receptor Agonist Drugs Linked To Gambling And Hypersexuality
- New Tractor Beam Can Repel And Attract
- What's Hiding Under The Clouds Of Venus - Heavy Metal Frost?
- Amenhotep III: Ancient Egyptian Mummies Didn't Have Spinal Arthritis
- #GAMERGATE Style Harassment Does Not Happen in the Male Dominated Sciences
- Get A Heart On: Viagra Is Good Outside The Bedroom Too
- Psychiatry Should Switch From Symptom-based Prescriptions To Target-based
- "Since there's no actual link between vaccines and autism, I think the phrase Vaccines have been..."
- "I'll not argue that humanity made God in their image, because we sought to explain something we..."
- "I think we all are atheist, agnostics, and believers throughout our life time. I also, think some..."
- "The scenario mentioned above (Poor person shows up at emergency room with a fever... No health..."
- "Actually, I used to believe. It was what I was taught as a child and I was raised a Christian...."
- Mutagenesis: One way Europeans wish it was 1936 again
- Closer examination of risk factors for Latinos underscores cultural diversity
- Saving bees requires less pesticides, changing farming
- Could GM plants replace airport security scanners?
- In a battle of brains, chimpanzees match human toddlers
- ‘Urban farmers’ behind GMO labeling initiatives
- Measuring on ice: Researchers create 'smart' ice skating blade
- Paralyzed man recovers some function following transplantation of OECs and nerve bridge
- Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy can damage future child's lungs
- Non-smokers exposed to 3 times above safe levels of particles when living with smokers
- The Lancet: Three people infected with Ebola predicted to fly from West Africa every month if no exit screening takes place