Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture and the Study of Religion 9781474232241, 9781474232265, 9781474232258

Radek Kundt compares the notion of evolution in cultural evolutionary theories with neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory to

194 56 2MB

English Pages [192] Year 2015

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD PDF FILE

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title
Title
Copyright
Dedication
Contents
Preface
Introduction
Part 1: Classical Cultural Evolutionism
1. Classical Cultural Evolutionism and the Origins of Religious Studies
2. Critique of Classical Cultural Evolutionism
Part 2: Contemporary Cultural Evolutionism
3. Group Selection Accounts
Group selection accounts in Religious Studies
Critical analysis of group selection accounts
4. Dual Inheritance Accounts
Dual inheritance accounts in Religious Studies
Critical analysis of dual inheritance accounts
5. Memetic Accounts
Memetic accounts in Religious Studies
Critical analysis of memetic accounts
Part 3: Evolution Without Cultural Evolution
6. The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution
7. An Evolution-Without-Cultural-Evolution Approach in Religious Studies
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Recommend Papers

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture and the Study of Religion
 9781474232241, 9781474232265, 9781474232258

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture and the Study of Religion

Scientific Studies of Religion: Inquiry and Explanation Series editors: Luther H. Martin, William W. McCorkle and Donald Wiebe Scientific Studies of Religion: Inquiry and Explanation publishes cutting-edge research in the new and growing field of scientific studies in religion. Its aim is to publish empirical, experimental, historical and ethnographic research on religious thought, behaviour and institutional structures. The series works with a broad notion of ‘scientific’ that will include innovative work on understanding religion(s), both past and present. With an emphasis on the cognitive science of religion, the series includes complementary approaches to the study of religion, such as psychology and computer modelling of religious data. The titles seek to provide explanatory accounts for the religious behaviours under review, both past and present. Religion in Science Fiction, Steven Hrotic The Mind of Mithraists, Luther H. Martin The Attraction of Religion, edited by D. Jason Slone and James A. Van Slyke

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture and the Study of Religion Radek Kundt

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

LON DON • OX F O R D • N E W YO R K • N E W D E L H I • SY DN EY

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2015 Paperback edition first published 2017 © Radek Kundt, 2015 Radek Kundt has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-1-4742-3224-1 PB: 978-1-3500-3707-6 ePDF: 978-1-4742-3225-8 ePub: 978-1-4742-3227-2 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Kundt, Radek. Contemporary evolutionary theories of culture and the study of religion / Radek Kundt. – 1 [edition]. pages cm. – (Scientific studies of religion: inquiry and explanation) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN (invalid) 978-1-4742-3225-8 (epdf) – ISBN 978-1-4742-3224-1 (hb) – ISBN 978-1-4742-3227-2 (epub) 1. Religion and culture. 2. Evolution. 3. Religion. 4. Culture. I. Title. BL65.C8K873 2015 201’.7–dc23 2015018894 Series: Scientific Studies of Religion: Inquiry and Explanation Typeset by Newgen Knowledge Works (P) Ltd., Chennai, India

To Eva

Contents Preface

viii

Introduction

1

Part 1 Classical Cultural Evolutionism

9

1 2

Classical Cultural Evolutionism and the Origins of Religious Studies

11

Critique of Classical Cultural Evolutionism

27

Part 2 Contemporary Cultural Evolutionism

33

3

Group Selection Accounts

35

Group selection accounts in Religious Studies

49

Critical analysis of group selection accounts

53

Dual Inheritance Accounts

65

Dual inheritance accounts in Religious Studies

74

Critical analysis of dual inheritance accounts

78

Memetic Accounts

83

Memetic accounts in Religious Studies

90

Critical analysis of memetic accounts

92

4

5

Part 3 Evolution Without Cultural Evolution

97

6

The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution

99

7

An Evolution-Without-Cultural-Evolution Approach in Religious Studies

Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index

109 117 127 157 175

Preface This book is intended primarily for scholars of religion; for those who wish to study religion in a scientific manner, be they historians, anthropologists, sociologists or psychologists of religion. To name only a few of the disciplines while leaving others unmentioned may, in a sense, undermine the theoretical assumptions, and the philosophy of science that lies behind them, that motivated the writing of this book. That underlying philosophy of science finds problematic definitions of scientific disciplines as unique enterprises applicable only to specific aspects of the world. Rather, it promotes such concepts as consilience, methodological pluralism, multilevel explanations and interdisciplinarity. It also espouses a naturalistic approach to the study of cultural phenomena drawing on methods and theories from multiple research domains, bearing in mind that transference of methods or theories from one domain to another must meet very stringent criteria. In this book I attempt to critically assess whether the relevant criteria were met in applying the biological theory of evolution in the study of religion. Even though I am at times very critical of certain uses of the notion of cultural evolution (when used, for example, in the sense of an autonomous evolution of culture), my intention is not to mock, harm or impair the current evolutionary study of religion as a whole. Rather, my intention is to strengthen, refine and improve the use of the notion of evolution by steering clear of those approaches that are, as I see it, inadequate as evolutionary accounts. This book, therefore, is more than a simple critique of applications of evolutionary theory to the study of religion in that I highlight the benefits of those cautious evolutionary accounts of religions that avoid the logical and conceptual pitfalls in applying evolutionary theory to this cultural domain. Unfortunately, traditional scholars in the study of religion often find themselves outside their comfort zone when use is made of methods and theories drawn from the natural sciences. Consequently, such scientific approaches to the study of religions are met with a comfortable, self-satisfied rejection. Such an attitude can be seen in the rejection of any attempt to

Preface

ix

study cultural phenomena from an evolutionary perspective, which is often accompanied with the claim that such a pursuit has already been attempted and shown to be outdated. In this book I argue against such attitudes, showing that contemporary evolutionary theories do not repeat the mistakes for which the classical cultural evolutionary theories were rejected. Furthermore, I provide a viable alternative to both classical and contemporary cultural evolutionism. I show, that is, that an evolutionary study of culture without cultural evolution can be a deeply enriching line of enquiry, incorporating both biological evolutionary history as shaping cultural change and the feedback-loop in which culture retroactively acts on the gene (evolution through culture). It has been impossible within the scope of this critical assessment to incorporate all approaches applying evolutionary ideas to the study of culture (religion). Confining the focus to the three most influential/widespread uses of evolutionary theory in this field has unavoidably left out other promising theories and approaches which also deserve attention. Among many that stand out I wish especially to draw attention to J. Bulbulia’s Religious Niche Construction and R. Gray’s endeavour to use comparative phylogenetic methods in historical and comparative research in the humanities. Work on this book was supported by the Faculty of Arts at Masaryk University. I am grateful to Donald Wiebe and Robert N. McCauley; our conversations proved an abundant source of much needed guidance. I also wish to thank David Václavík, Jakub Cigán, John H. Shaver, Martin Lang, Aleš Chalupa and Iva Doležalová, who read through substantial parts of the manuscript and offered insightful and encouraging feedback. I am also grateful to all those who provided truly generous help translating my thoughts into English owing a debt of thanks to Zdeňka Čermáková, Petr Čermák, Martin Kulhavý, E. Thomas Lawson, Luther H. Martin, Paul Reddish, Irena Šmérková, Jana Šmídová and Penny Tok, for kindly taking the time. Finally, I wish to thank my wonderful wife Eva, who, like the others, contributed to the completion of this academic project but did a great deal more. We have spent many hours in inspiring discussions. And through good moods and bad, she tended tirelessly to all the necessities of our daily life together.

Introduction

My goal in this book is to compare the notion of evolution in cultural evolutionary theories and in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, to thus determine the value of the notion of ‘cultural evolution’. I do this with special regard to the evolution of religion rather than to the evolution of culture in general. My analysis is not about repeating objections raised against the theories of classical cultural evolutionists (mainly tying the notion of evolution to that of ‘progress’) and then to say that contemporary 1 cultural evolutionists make the same mistakes, as they do not (which is true for a majority of present-day accounts). Instead, I use the first chapter to describe those objections, how destructive they are for those who do not avoid them and in due course I lay out a short historical background of the usage of cultural evolution in the scientific study of religion. In the process, while steering clear of any such associations of the notion of evolution in my project, I also set up the minimal requirements that theories need to meet in order to qualify as contemporary cultural evolutionists worthy of analysis for the scientific study of religion. My analysis, on the contrary, consists of evaluating how contemporary theories of cultural evolution fit all the core requirements of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory of natural selection after they pass the objections to classical cultural evolution. The purpose of this step is to show to what degree it is a legitimate reasonable extension of this theory, thus making it applicable to the study of cultural phenomena (e.g. religious phenomena), or if it is just a metaphor or analogy for what might better be called ‘history’, ‘cultural change’, ‘development’ or ‘historical development’ of cultural phenomena (including religious phenomena) and if this metaphor/analogy is not in the end incorrect, misleading and confusing. In other words, I will try to

2

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

determine whether the adjective ‘cultural’ in cultural evolution elaborates the notion of evolution or distorts it. What form will the critical analysis take? First, I will introduce each of the contemporary approaches to the application of Darwinian evolutionary theory of natural selection to explanation of cultural phenomena that do require genuine processes of cultural evolution. This will concern describing the three most influential theories, that is, group selection accounts, Dual Inheritance Theory and memetics. The introduction will detail a classification of positions of their most significant authors by specifying their hypotheses, a systematization of their basic arguments for the transfer of Darwinian evolutionary theory to the sociocultural domain, unfolding their theoretical presuppositions and elucidating the methods they use. After this introduction, I will show the specifics of how each theory is applied when explaining religious phenomena. Consequently, I will critically assess to what extent those applications are complying with all fundamental principles of neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection (phenotypic variation, heritability and fitness consequences). After the critical analysis of the most influential theories of cultural evolution that are influential in Religious Studies through Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR),2 I will also introduce an alternate neo-Darwinian evolutionary study of cultural phenomena, which in its basic form does not employ genuine processes of cultural evolution. Due to the lack of better term, I call this the Evolutionary without Cultural Evolution (EWCE) approach. I consider it a moderate, ‘safe’ and very enriching application of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory on study of culture. In the chapter ‘The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution’, I will identify its strengths and weaknesses, and then I will evaluate its ability to explain religious phenomena. First, it is necessary to emphasize how important it is for the intention of this analysis to highlight the prefix ‘neo’ in the ‘neo-Darwinian’ denotation. Since Darwin’s era, the Darwinian principles have undergone great advancements and refinements. The principal idea is still the same and its originality, influence and strength in the scientific community are indisputably credited to Darwin. In some principles, though, such as heritability or variation bearers (genes), the shifts are so enormous that they ended up miles away from Darwin’s original ideas. To capture this distinction, modern biology speaks rather of the neo-Darwinian natural selection (or neo-Darwinian evolution/synthesis). It is

Introduction

3

not by accident that those authors who try to promote new extensions of the theory of natural selection refer back to Darwin, often quoting his works and ideas.3 This return to the past not only offers them affiliation with the glory of the famous founding figure’s name, but allows also access to a more ‘primitive’ form of the theory that provides broader space for creative work within those basic principles. Their argument is then as follows: Darwin brought generally valid formal principles of natural selection, which are, due to their formality, to a certain degree content-free, and it is up to theorists to shape them according to the proprieties of the phenomena they study. This argument leads to a position, where Darwin’s theory is used as a meta-framework applicable to all sorts of phenomena beside biological ones (i.e. Generalized Darwinism), supported by the fact that Darwin himself implied the possibility of this applicability when he embarked on the speculative usage of his own theory to explain social phenomena. It is then dependent on the taste of authors in how extensively they want to use this meta-framework. The broadest assumed form is a metaphysical position (Universal Darwinism or Darwinian monism).4 This argument loses its ground whenever we comprehend the theory of natural selection in a strictly scientific definitional framework of modern neoDarwinian theory, refined to current form in biology. That is, evolution as it is conceived in the domain of explanation of particular kinds of phenomena, ruled by particular kinds of laws, which are specific to this domain; the domain for which the theory was originally designated for by Darwin (the domain of organic speciation). This theory, though truly groundbreaking in its foundations, is strictly defined by the neo-Darwinian limitations and in fact needed an immense labour to be set right, and its flaws and errors needed to be reconciled (among others Lamarckism5). Neo-Darwinism is in simple terms synonymous with the term modern biological synthesis which is an integration of Darwin’s theory of natural selection with Mendelian population genetics. The tendency of those advocating Generalized Darwinism is similar to an ambition of employing the principles deduced from Bohr’s atomic theory and using it in current explanations of chemical reactions, and not taking into account the advancement of quantum mechanics that showed some parts of Bohr’s ideas to be naïve or even proved them false.

4

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

When encountering these two positions in the literature, it is clear that each theory interprets natural selection quite differently. This would not pose too big a problem if the differences were reflected by both positions.6 But what I argue is that, among other things, these positions have unequal standing, and only one party profits from this definitional confusion. While the modern biological neo-Darwinian stance is narrower and more precise, having a century-long history of recognition and success, the meta-framework stance is again and again discredited and falsified; one of few things it has to fall on is the success of its biological ‘relative’. The meta-framework theories are therefore constantly trying to legitimize their endeavour by referring (or being connected) to the success of their ‘biological form’. The problem of this attempt at legitimization is that those from the opposite side of the aisle do not see themselves as a subspecies of the same species, but rather much more – a completely independent species. As I aspire to assess the transfer of a functional scientific theory from one domain to another, and not engage in science-transcending philosophical arguments or legitimacy politics of the meta-framework, I choose (from the very beginning of my work) the only functional version of the theory of natural selection as a default definition (i.e. modern neo-Darwinian biological natural selection). This choice sets the limitations of natural selection that cannot be abandoned as it comprises its own definitional framework. As with other limitations, these constrain the theory, tie it down and set boundaries to its aspirations, but as it happens with any successful scientific theory, also natural selection owes its enormous success to them. My thesis, in a nutshell, is as follows: anything that does not comply with those limitations is not better explained just by comparisons to the natural selection. Alternatively: natural selection is useful for explaining specific type of processes; however, it might not be applicable for explaining other types of processes, or it might not add anything useful to those explanatory approaches suitable. Within the limitations which define neo-Darwinian natural selection, I include according to the standard approach (see Williams, 1966; 1992)7 the following points: (1) There are units in the system that are able to create their own copies (replicators).8 (2) In ideal conditions within the system, their number grows exponentially. (3) If resources are limited, the replicators

Introduction

5

compete for them with each other in their struggle for survival. (4) When copying some replicators suffer random errors. (5) If it happens that some of these errors increase the rate of replication, the error accumulates and starts to dominate the population.9 The basis of natural selection thus consists in increasing (successful entity) or decreasing (unsuccessful entity) the number of units in the population over generations. To make the scope of the definition as clear as possible, it is still necessary to elaborate on the implications of points (4) and (5), as they may not be obvious at first sight, and yet are absolutely crucial. First to the point (4): The randomness of errors (mutations) being truly random is extremely important for the theory, because if it were not so, it would change the theory’s whole point (image as well as consequences). What does randomness mean here? Mutations cannot anticipate what will be their effect in the environment where they occur. On their level, a deliberate planning or influencing of the outcome is non-existent.10 If this randomness is breached, the theory of natural selection would be wrong in its conclusion about the illusoriness of design in nature, as it would actually exist. And in this sense, it might not be just the scarecrow of creationism, where the mutations that benefit the organism are planned and guided by higher intelligent designer. Even Lamarckism, already mentioned, suffices, where the organisms themselves can influence changes according to their needs, respond and adapt to selective pressures and pass characteristics acquired during life on to succeeding generations. In such a case, design enters the process at the level of will and effort of individual organisms. Besides the fact that random means random, it means also mechanistic. The theory of natural selection is mechanistic, that is, the dynamics of changes in a given population can be mathematically deduced from the previous state of the population. The result is determined solely on the basis of the number of copies of the replicators in specific (finite/bounded) populations. Any other criterion of ‘success’ which would compromise this mechanistic criterion compromises at the same time the entire theory. Especially problematic from this point of view are arbitrary anthropocentric perspectives (power, influence), or, more specifically for our purposes, aspects which are culturally dependent (good/ correct/beautiful). But most devastating for the whole theory are those aspects that set an end-state/objective of the process in advance.11

6

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

Now to point (5): The surprising effect of accumulation of several generations of replications has a double impact. First, it results in an illusion of design in the natural world.12 Thanks to the more rapid replication, the error started to replicate more frequently and after several generations of replications, they give an impression of being designed for more effective replication. In reality, it was just the accumulated error that successfully replicated (see Pinker, 2012). Second, the theory of natural selection without replicators would be superfluous. That is to say, it only enriches our explanations where it shows what such repetitive accumulation of replications can ‘unexpectedly’ cause after few generations. In the absence of this ‘special cumulative effect’, we would not need a special theory to explain a given process. Ordinary explanations based on cause and effect would suffice, as in any other single event. This last mentioned feature is very important, because among other things, it allows us to easily distinguish between the theory of evolution based on natural selection and evolutionary theories based on other concepts, which not necessarily but very often originated before the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. In addition to connecting development to normative concepts of progress (progressivist approaches), these ‘other’ evolutionary theories are often characterized by the fact that the development they talk about is explainable by common causal terminology and, consequently, to talk in this sense of evolution is superfluous. Mostly it is development in a sense of ecological succession, where an organism changes its environment and the changed environment in turn influences the organism. Moreover, in human societies and cultures it concerns the ways in which people shape the environment in which they live, by their ‘non-random’13 decisions and how the new environment, in turn, puts pressure on new kinds of decisions. Such ‘development’ is however not evolution; it is actually only the effects of external causes of changes and their consequences that explain everything in the process completely and sufficiently.14 I see this point as a persistent problem in the more current variants of cultural evolutionary approaches, whose effort to get rid of the value-charged criteria bore fruit in the form of abandoning the concept of the unilinear human progress. I consider the limitations of the theory of natural selection as decisive for its definition. It is a theory with great explanatory power, and as long as we move within these boundaries, it also has great potential for explaining

Introduction

7

numerous phenomena. Because of these qualities it becomes very attractive for anyone who deals with cumulative development within any open systems. Its contribution, however, is dependent on these limitations, and if we are not able to respect all of them, when we apply them to ‘our’ open system, the result will always be counterproductive. In its tempting ‘boundless’ application, it is therefore appropriate to be wary of errors, which I divided into two basic types. In the first type all limitations of the theory’s definition are responsibly adhered to, but it will be applied to a process which it cannot be applied to. As a result, the process is forcibly adjusted in feeble attempt to fit it within the theory of natural selection. In this distortion, law-like principles and normative assumptions are imposed by which the process does not operate. And afterwards, it is argued that the process includes what it in fact does not.15 The ‘right’ (undistorted) theory is applied to the ‘wrong’ (distorted) process. Illustratively, S. Pinker (2012) also aptly points to this type of misconduct: There is no end to the possibilities for pointlessly redescribing ordinary cause-and-effect sequences using the verbiage of natural selection. Cities have more old buildings made of stone than of wood because of the process of edifice selection. Cars today are equipped with steel-belted radials because they outcompeted polyester-belted tires in a process of tire selection. Touchtone phones have prevailed over dial phones because of their competitive advantages in telephone selection. And so on. Sure, some things last longer or do better in competition than others because they have traits that help them last longer or compete more effectively. But unless the traits arose from multiple iterations of copying of random errors in a finite pool of replicators, the theory of natural selection adds nothing to ordinary cause and effect.

In the second type of error, the theory instead of the process is distorted. That is, the theory is forcibly adjusted to fit the process we try to explain until it is not the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection any more. And in an ill-motivated attempt to use the theory at all costs we argue that it contains something it does not.16 We apply the ‘wrong’ (distorted) theory on the ‘right’ (undistorted) process.

Part One

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

The current presence of cultural evolutionism in the field of Religious Studies is not new. On the contrary, it has its own long and significant history, during which its value has been both glorified and condemned. This chapter has two main objectives, which are closely tied to this bipolarity, as well as one to another. The first is to show what kind of context (in terms of history of the field) the contemporary cultural evolutionism enters in the scientific study of religion. The second goal is to set the minimum qualification that must be met by the contemporary theory of cultural evolution to be taken seriously and to be discussed in a subsequent critical analysis. The path I choose to achieve both is not a chronological listing of all the ideas of cultural evolutionists and their opponents since their emergence, but rather an analysis of the main arguments of both sides (glorifying/condemning), which I consider to be still prominent and which are particularly crucial for the main analytical goal of my book. This path is also reflected in the structure of the chapter, where the first part is dedicated to the evaluation of the benefits of classical evolutionists, especially the founding contribution of evolutionary theory for the birth of Religious Studies as an autonomous scientific discipline. Only afterwards do I evaluate both the objections that were later raised against them, and objections that could have been, in my view, brought up.

1

Classical Cultural Evolutionism and the Origins of Religious Studies

The fact that cultural evolutionism (in its various forms) formed one of the strongest influences at the beginning of the emergence of our discipline is commonly recognized, a view contested by few if any (see Capps, 1995: 53–87 or Cartwright, 2001). Some theorists go further in this assessment, claiming that it was directly Darwinism, which allowed the discipline to emerge (e.g. J. E. Harrison (1909) and R. R. Marett (1912)). Often these authors were ‘practicing’ cultural evolutionists, or they favoured cultural evolutionism (interestingly, in some cases, the assessment took place shortly after the establishment of the ‘influence’). While I agree with the effort to ‘rehabilitate’ the importance of Darwinism and appreciate its contribution to the establishment of Religious Studies, this statement is not accurate and requires, in my opinion, to be refined in two ways. First, it was not just Darwinism, but Generalized Darwinism (for some even extending to Universal Darwinism/Darwinian monism, for example, R. R. Marett) which vastly contributed to the creation of cultural evolutionary theories (Darwinism itself was designed for biological domains of organic speciation and its influence on classical cultural evolutionism, in comparison to other evolutionisms, such as Spencer’s, was rather ideological). At the same time we cannot avoid the fact that one form of Generalized Darwinism was the infamous Social Darwinism. Second, the influence of other evolutionists on cultural evolutionism was enormous (especially H. Spencer’s as well as other progressivists’).1 More elaborate argument for this claim, as well as definitions of fundamental concepts mentioned above (Generalized Darwinism, Universal Darwinism/Darwinian monism), will be gradually introduced in the next section.

12

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

First overviews and evaluations of the surging wave of interest in the scientific study of religion were created at the turn of the century, from the pens of authors such as C. P. Tiele (1897) and L. H. Jordan (1905). In the extent and scope of the appreciation of the impact of Darwinism in this respect stand out, later on, two already mentioned scholars of religion, J. E. Harrison and R. R. Marett. They both see Darwinism as the initial impulse and the strongest driving force that enabled the creation of scientific study of religion. In 1909, British classicist and scholar of Greek religion J. E. Harrison, in her contribution ‘The Influence of Darwinism on the Study of Religion’ to the volume of essays Darwin and Modern Science, commemorating the centenary of the birth of C. R. Darwin and 50th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, uses very clear words when saying (1909: 494): ‘The title of my paper might well have been “the creation by Darwinism of the scientific study of religions”, but that I feared to mar my tribute to a great name by any shadow of exaggeration.’ Note that her expression not only stresses that she sees the influence of Darwinism as a special one when compared to other influences, in the sense that it represents the foundation of the discipline, but also stresses the adjective scientific as opposed to study in general. R. R. Marett takes this argument even further when he states that it was Darwin’s theory of evolution that provided the basis for all scholarship and, therefore, also the newly institutionalized fields of anthropology and comparative religion can be seen as Darwin’s children (see 1912: 8). According to him, the study of the origins of religion that Darwinism produced was what distinguished the anthropology of religion from theology and as such it was the defining characteristics of the scientific study of religion during its earliest phase (see 1971 [1920]: 143–67).2 As I have briefly indicated, even though I agree with the effort to appreciate the benefits of Darwinism for the foundation of the scientific study of religion, on the other hand, I argue that for a more complete and accurate assessment of that influence, it is necessary to see its impact in context; that is, as part of the broader stream of classical cultural evolutionism. Yet when the picture of classical cultural evolutionism is completed in this way I would be confident enough to argue that it really was this classical cultural evolutionism that provided the most powerful impetus for the foundation of the scientific study of religion as such, even when compared to other ‘rival’ currents.

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

13

When the remark about the origins of Religious Studies is limited to a single person, the name we encounter most frequently is that of F. M. Müller. The reason behind this association is that, due to certain factors he offers a simple answer to a very difficult question. The origins of the social sciences emerging in the second half of the nineteenth century are invariably vague. This fuzziness does not consist of a lack of access to information of a fundamental nature, but rather from a decision as to which information we determine to be essential and why. Are we going to choose, for example, the form of written statements, manifestos, various pamphlets, public lectures, conferences, published scientific studies, chapters of books, books, establishment of associations and scholarly societies, major conflicts in university departments etc., or the creation of the first departments and positions bearing the name the majority of the world’s departments for the Study of religions is still unable to agree upon even today? Moreover, Comparative Religion was, like other social sciences, born from multiple sources, each of which in its own discourse claimed a scientific basis and to decide in this pluralism usually means to evaluate one’s work in terms of criteria arising later in development. I would argue that one of the factors leading to F. M. Müller being such a popular choice for the post of the founding father of Religious Studies is, among other things, his public demonstration of a clear non-theological programme in the study of religion, which makes him an easy and seemingly indisputable alternative. The picture however turns out to be more complicated when we look into fulfilment of this programme with real content. F. M. Müller was an active and enthusiastic supporter of the foundation of a ‘new science’ of religion. His most famous public lectures and performances include those from the Royal Institute (19 February 1870) or later Gifford Lectures (1889–93). His pioneering Chips from a German Workshop: Essays on the Science of Religion (1876 [1867]) and Introduction to the Science of Religion (1873), published lectures from the Royal Institute, are usually mentioned as establishing ‘charters’ of Comparative Religion. He was its open pursuer and defending champion in public life, but he laid its foundations in theory by how he talked about it rather than by actually doing it. His contribution was similarly evaluated at the turn of the century by L. H. Jordan (1905: 522): ‘[. . .] Max Müller did infinitely more for this new discipline as one of its Prophets and Pioneers than he was ever privileged to do for it as one of its Founders

14

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

and Masters’. He outlined and planned it, but in the meantime, it was built by others and in a different fashion. The same was also pointed out by C. P. Tiele in one of the oldest accounts of the field in general (1897: 2), when he writes: ‘[his Introduction to the Science of Religion] dealt with the preliminaries rather than with the results of the Science, and was an apology for it more than an initiation of it’. Also the term F. M. Müller promoted for the science, ‘Science of Religion’, did not, for various reasons, catch on in the Anglo-American environment where he worked predominantly. It is paradoxical that the content that became a real foundation of the new discipline was brought on in the works of thinkers who never sought establishing a separate science per se. Yet, in their treatises on the development of human thinking and behaviour, they devoted unprecedented space to religion and created theories of religion still considered in today’s Religious Studies as genuine and classic works of the discipline. I have in mind especially Darwinian anthropologists of the first wave, such as Sir J. Lubbock, E. B. Tylor and A. Lang. The reason why classical cultural evolutionism succeeded above all other influences was mainly thanks to formulating a big theory of religion, pointedly connected to and compatible with the scientific programme of the natural sciences which was strongly establishing itself, and therefore in many ways offered an alternative to the theological theories of religion. The specific components that characterize this programme include especially: (A) stipulation of a unifying research goal, aptly specified in E. J. Sharpe’s words as (1986 [1975]: 25): ‘[d]iscerning the origins, development and goals of each separate manifestation of the human spirit’; (B) introduction of a uniform method to achieve this goal, that is, a comparative method (for a detailed presentation see H. Balfour’s introduction to the well-known work of A. H. L. F. Pitt-Rivers (1906)); (C) ‘reign of law’ (fascination by laws/law-like processes/behavioural patterns/mechanisms) transferred to the sociocultural domain; and (D) abandoning a static/inert image in favour of the motion/ progression and development. Previously, only doctrine (dogma, doctrine, theology, mythology) was exclusively accentuated. In theological accounts, the interest revolved around truths that are permanent and unchanging, and the only permissible development consisted of the endeavour of trying again and again to approach and express those truths better. The first generation of Darwinian anthropologists turns this approach upside down in the sense that

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

15

they put development/progression and, change and variation in the centre. Moreover, they saw it as a natural component of religious thought, no longer brought down by orthodoxy. We must understand this shift in the context of the fundamental revolutionary idea of ‘continuity of life/the absence of breaks’ (natura non facit saltus) that C. R. Darwin brought to both science and philosophical/religious debates. According to J. E. Harrison The Origin of Species owes its revolutionary character in biology precisely to this idea. In other words, cultural evolutionism alters perspective in such a way that the contemporary scholars started to lose interest in the current ‘final product’, when studying religion, and instead began to focus on the process of genesis and development. It is possible to illustrate this shift in a note by J. E. Harrison, who said (1909: 499): ‘the problem before the modern investigator is, not to determine the essence and definition of religion but to inquire how religious phenomena, religious ideas and practices arose’. The following section is devoted to clarifying what kind of context I have in mind when I stress that we cannot accurately assess the influence of Darwinism on the origins of Religious Studies unless we take a closer look. Namely we need to see how the classical cultural evolutionism drew primarily on two inspirational sources, Generalized Darwinism and universalistic progressivist evolutionary theories. Darwinism was an integral and considerable component of mainstream classical cultural evolutionism, but only in a specific form, and it certainly was not the only source of inspiration for this stream. By a specific form, I mean the fact that scholars of religion did not use the form of Darwinism applicable to a limited biological domain, but a form of Darwinism characterized by extended applicability to other areas of interest. For this form of Darwinism, I use the term Generalized Darwinism, by which I mean any attempt to apply the core Darwinian principles of variation, selection and replication3 outside of the original biological domain. If we generalize Darwinism when trying to explain social evolution, the result would be called social Darwinism. If we generalize Darwinism when trying to explain cultural evolution the result would be called cultural Darwinism. This could be done for virtually any other domain,4 so it can be concluded that if we generalize Darwinism to such an extent that we can use it when trying to explain any open and evolving system, the result might be called universal Darwinism.

16

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

Universal Darwinism is a term that was coined by R. Dawkins (1983). It takes the definition even one step further and postulates the assumption that core Darwinian rules of variation, selection and replication would be followed by any life should it exist elsewhere in the universe. According to this view as long as there is a population of replicating entities that makes imperfect copies of themselves, and not all of these entities have the potential to survive, then Darwinian evolution will occur (see Hodgson, 2005). Among others that recently suggested such a broad applicability of Darwinism are R. C. Lewontin (1970), D. C. Hull (1988b), Hull, Langmann and Glenn (2001), H. C. Plotkin (1994) or, most famously, D. C. Dennett (1995). The idea that natural selection could be a law-like process applicable to all life in much broader sense than just the biological one actually precedes Dawkins’ Universal Darwinism. As early as fifty years after Darwin J. M. Baldwin developed a similar concept (see 1909) and even introduced the concept of cultural inheritance (learning by imitation and instruction) for which he used the term social heredity (see 1896). The main aspiration of theoretically elaborated Generalized Darwinism is that you do not use Darwinian principles as a mere analogy. On the contrary, it is based on the assumption that it is in theory possible, and therefore should be in every case required, that its application shows how all basic Darwinian principles operate within the system it tries to explain. In other words you need to be able to show how processes specific to the system5 are still governed by basic Darwinian principles. They need to be evolving according to basic Darwinian principles. So what are these basic Darwinian principles again? And a word of caution – they cannot be mistaken/confused with the more restrictive principles set forward by neo-Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection (for those see ‘Introduction’). Original Darwinian evolution was not limited to genes or DNA. First because Darwin and his contemporaries knew nothing of such; second, there were unresolved specifics within some (if not most) of the proposed mechanisms of the evolutionary processes Darwin suggested. What Darwin gives us is actually a general evolutionary matrix and promoters of Generalized Darwinism maintain that this matrix can be modulated and refined according to specific needs of the data it is to be filled with. For Generalized Darwinism, the general matrix only states four principles. First of all, we need to identify an entity that is capable of replicating itself (unit

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

17

of selection, unit of transmission). Then mechanisms of variation, selection and replication/inheritance/retention need to be specified but they are not limited to any special kind.6 If you are not able to define those mechanisms that are specific to your level of analysis then you cannot argue that Darwinian evolution applies to the development of the system you are interested in (at least on that level). But if you are able to argue that there is a mechanism of retention, no matter how different they might be across various domains, it is sufficient to argue that in every case Darwinian evolution takes place. As one of the recent promoters of Generalized Darwinism, G. M. Hodgson, puts it (2005: 901), core Darwinian principles constitute: ‘a rigorous theory, but it explains little on its own’. It needs additional work to provide us with something useful as it is needed in biology as well. It is a framework that needs to be filled in with details. It does not provide us with all necessary causal mechanisms and explanations of particular emerging properties at any level, be that biological or sociocultural, and it does not free us from the necessity to search for those detailed explanations in addition. On the other hand it allows us to complete the puzzle by putting particular explanations into a common complementary framework (see Hodgson, 2005). It was exactly this kind of enhanced Darwinism that most classical cultural evolutionists used when/if they incorporated Darwinism at all, and furthermore in a very rudimentary shape of this form. For the most part they failed in working out the four core principles specific for sociocultural phenomena they were interested in explaining (and sometimes they did not even try). Generalized Darwinism could be, from its definition, both a value-free scientific framework and philosophical, even a value-based normative framework, depending on the taste of its proponents and where they want to take it. In its early rudimentary forms used by classical cultural evolutionists these two were hardly ever distinguishable. A good example of this mixture and of a rather ideological usage of Generalized Darwinism that had also its impact on classical cultural evolutionism was the aforementioned Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is a very fuzzy notion that has a long history of use and abuse. As a term, it is a pretty new invention7 and there was never a coherent group of authors defined by the term.8 Throughout this later time the demeaning label9 trumped all other meanings of the term and most

18

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

people when asked would imagine some kind of a right or left wing ideology justifying various forms of eugenics, racism or sexism. This demeaning label comes from those teachings that have not broken free from various fallacies, mainly from the naturalistic fallacy10 which makes the claim that the course of nature (‘that which is’) is an inherent model to follow or a source of values (‘that which ought to be’). To some extent the stigmatizing tag is not at all wrong as those teachings form an integral part of social Darwinian accounts. On the other hand, the remaining parts of those accounts are formed by legitimate extensions of Darwinian principles to human social evolution, as defined by Generalized Darwinism (no matter how ill-informed, confused or plain wrong they were). Applying the main Darwinian principles to explain other than just the biological phenomena kicked off very early. C. R. Darwin himself embarks in this transmission only a few years after the publication of The Origin of Species, where he abstains as much as he can from making any kind of judgements about humans. He was later open to such extensions and applied it himself to an evolution of social groups, language and moral principles (both Darwin, 1859 and Darwin, 1871). Many early works of Generalized Darwinism grew up within heated academic debates, sometimes with large audiences and great publicity (see Desmond, 1989 or Browne, 2002). At the centre of those were clashes with prominent clergymen11 or scientists defending theories allowing space for more fundamental creationist views. C. Overy (1997: 56) in this context states that one clergyman is reported to have called Darwin ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’. It was however mainly Darwin’s contemporaries with different expertise who were ‘dangerous’ in this respect as it was them who started actively using his principles to explain sociocultural phenomena. And many times they opened new possible generalizations of his principles even to C. R. Darwin himself. One example can be the manner in which C. R. Darwin congratulated E. B. Tylor upon reading his Primitive Culture in 1871 (F. Darwin, 1887: 151): ‘It is wonderful how you trace animism from the lower races up the religious belief of the highest races. It will make me for the future look at religion – a belief in the soul, etc. – from a new point of view.’ However, it should be noted at this point that, as with so many other classical cultural evolutionists, even with E. B. Tylor it is difficult to say if the principles he made use of, were specifically of

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

19

Darwin’s origin or if they were Spencerian. This brings us to the second major source of inspiration for classical cultural evolutionism, which was, in addition to Generalized Darwinism, universalistic progressivist evolutionary theory. Using evolutionary themes to explain sociocultural phenomena precedes Darwin’s Origins (Hawkins, 1997). Often they happened to be universalistic theories of evolution reaching all possible domains and sometimes culminating in the all-encompassing principles such as the principle of increasing complexity. H. Spencer is their best representative, not only because of the immense popularity his writings basked in, but also because he surpassed all his contemporaries in the broadness of the application of evolutionary principles to sociocultural phenomena, and was also the first to extend, in theory and in practice, evolutionary theory to the study of religion (for more details see chapter Manners and Fashion in Spencer, 1891b [1854]). The scope and reach of Spencer’s synthesis on his contemporaries can be seen even in the works of Darwin, when he writes in The Origin of Species (1859: 428): ‘In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr Herbert Spencer, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.’ It is also worth mentioning that H. Spencer was one of the first authors, who, in the evolutionary thinking of the nineteenth century, took seriously the Degenerative Hypothesis, that is, the idea that ‘savage’ peoples degenerated from a more advanced state. On top of it being a legitimate scientific hypothesis, this idea was often used also for ideological purposes, mainly by Church thinkers. Even Darwin felt the need to deal with the hypothesis; he wrote in the second edition of The Descent of Man (1901[1871]: 221): ‘The arguments recently advanced by the Duke of Argyll and formerly by Archbishop Whately, in favour of the belief that man came into the world as a civilised being, and that all savages have since undergone degradation, seem to me weak in comparison with those advanced on the other side.’ To appreciate the universalistic progressivist evolutionary theories as an independent source of inspiration for classical cultural evolutionism, it is important to remember that H. Spencer cannot be seen as someone who took Darwin’s principles designed to explain biological phenomena and transferred them to the domain of sociocultural phenomena, as the prevalent tradition too often suggests. That is simply not the case and it is just another insufficiently

20

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

destroyed myth pervasive in science. Given that many of H. Spencer’s evolutionary ideas (1851; 1891a [1852]; 1855) predate Darwin’s Origin of Species, some authors in this regard even suggest a more accurate term for Darwinism – Biological Spencerism (Turner, 1985).12 The reason why I call these universalistic theories progressivistic, is because they have been using, since the Enlightenment, developed concepts of evolution as the unidirectional progress which are inherently infested with values. Not even in philosophy of history does the concept of progress originate with the Enlightenment. However, it is there, during the eighteenth century, that it had been systematically elaborated for the first time. Its origins can be traced back to fifteenth-century Renaissance and later to the Modern period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (R. Descartes, F. Bacon). Some authors, such as J. Baillie (1950), argue that its assumptions are fundamentally Christian. This concept is presented in different forms by D. Hume and J. G. Herder and we can trace these different forms in emerging theories of Comparative Religion. The strongest form of its expressions comes from Comte’s positivism, and is traceable mainly in E. Durkheim and L. Lévy-Bruhl (see Sharpe, 1986 [1975]: 19–25). Herder’s romantic form, especially as developed under the influence of the idealism of J. G. Fichte, F. W. J. Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel, is taken on by F. M. Müller in his concept of Comparative mythology. Hegel’s influence was apparent later, yet in more pronounced fashion, in the Phenomenology of religion (see Sharpe, 1986 [1975]: 25). The idea of progress (entailing normative judgement) is in many accounts deeply entangled also with two other concepts, namely that of teleology (preexisting underlying purposes) and that of direction (towards, for example, increasing differentiation). Though they represent three distinct notions, they are usually overlapping in complex ways. Among the most famous thinkers, in whose work the idea of evolution is, in one form or another, closely intertwined with these two concepts, are, for example, H. Spencer, L. H. Morgan, A. Toynbee or K. Marx. When disentangling relationships between evolution and progress in the progressivistic accounts, it is possible to go into many levels and although it is an interesting topic which is very informative, especially in relation to the emerging science of religion, it is not the subject of this work, and, therefore, I will just briefly refer to one of its other dimensions. In addition to the possible determination of whether a given ‘scientific’ theory

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

21

is loaded with values or not, it is also possible to make the distinction as to whether it carries positive or negative valences in relation to religions. On the one side, for example, is the form of overcoming a religious developmental stage by a metaphysical stage and, subsequently, overcoming the metaphysical stage by a positivistic stage, or in the ideal of achieving freedom from religion, as opposed to just freedom of religion. On the other side, as mentioned by D. Wiebe (2008: 341), for example, C. P. Tiele, one of the founding figures of the Religious Studies, sees the evolution of religion essentially as religious evolution, a ‘growth or maturation in religiosity which is envisioned as taking place both at the level of the individual and society’. To sum up my argument – to say that Darwinism created our discipline is quite inaccurate, yet it makes a lot of sense to see classical cultural evolutionism as one of the true starting points of our discipline. And a special form of Darwinism, that is, Generalized Darwinism (especially in the form of its attempts to be applied to explaining religious phenomena), together with universalistic progressivistic theories, formed essential and inseparable parts of this movement. This connection was typical for most classical cultural evolutionary conceptions of authors relevant to the origins of the Study of Religions (i.e. particularly the first generation of Darwinian anthropologists). The biggest competitor (unless you count the common enemy of both, that is, various theological accounts) was the Nature School of Mythology of F. M. Müller (sometimes referred to as Comparative Mythology). Both schools shared an interest in identifying and explaining the origin of religion. With a certain degree of simplification, generalization and typifying, each of them can be classified into one for centuries cultivated philosophical traditions that can be traced through the history back to Antiquity. The first one is Euhemerism, second, the allegorical interpretation of myths developed by Stoics which let up to the concept of natural religion. Some of the first classical cultural evolutionists, particularly H. Spencer and E. B. Tylor, see the origin of religion in the worship of ancestors, that is, deceased individuals who were gradually deified either due to their importance or because the living still were in contact with them in their visions and dreams and thus believed that they live on elsewhere and that they can influence the lives of the living. They thus belong to the first tradition, elaborated and renowned mainly by E. B. Tylor in his concept of animism – ‘the ghost theory of the origin of

22

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

religion’. The Nature School of Mythology, led by F. M. Müller, claims, on the contrary, that religion arises from the experience of the infinite, which we perceive beyond everyday manifestations of the finite visible phenomenal world, when our mind connected it to the moral appeal. Unknown forces of nature are in a certain stage of development captured in language with the help of personification and from the sun, moon, stars, lightning and storms, gods are formed in mythologies. Both schools also competed in the shared interest of progress. F. M. Müller was its key supporter but it was a progress, as we have seen, differently oriented (under the influence of romantic idealism) and he remained sceptical of Darwinian evolutionism. His interest was primarily philological and most of his publications were focused on Comparative linguistics and subsequently Comparative mythology (see 1869; 1875; 1889; 1891; 1892; 1893; 1899). For the philological school, mythology was phases of ‘disease of language’, ‘a period of temporary insanity in human mind’, while the anthropological school understood it as anachronisms (‘survivals’ from earlier ages of mankind; a form of ‘fossilized thought’). The solution offered by classical cultural evolutionists seems to be more elegant and straightforward in a sense that it does not need to postulate a special phase suddenly arising in the evolution of language use, some kind of language abuse that followed after previous stages of its use where myth was not present and which later again passed. Contrarily, in their suggestion, it is a natural consequence of the gradual upward development of thought where there is in each successive stage something traceable from the previous stage. In this case, something we brought with us from earlier animalistic, cruel, irrational, bestial phase. Perhaps the hardest blow in the polemics between the two schools, according to E. J. Sharpe (1986 [1975]: 60), was inflicted in 1884 when the Anthropological school was given priority in the draught of the entry of ‘Mythology’ in the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. To uncover what actually was the more basic and important inspiration for the early science of religion (Comparative Religion), whether the ideological impact of Darwin’s work or Spencer’s synthesis, is very difficult, if not impossible due to the subsequent feedbacks13 and it is not a primary goal of this work. Crucial to my argument is that it was only the combination of both of these influences that managed to contribute to the creation of major classical cultural evolutionary theories we see as belonging under Religious Studies, as the ones of Sir J. Lubbock, E. B. Tylor, A. Lang, W. R. Smith or R. R. Marett.

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

23

Sir J. Lubbock (1865; 1870), in his concept of the religious evolution of mankind, connects Comte’s philosophy of history and Darwinian principles. He may serve as a prime example of unilinear evolution, as he asserts that, regardless of the diversity of origins and the diversity of environments, if the races are at the same stage of mental development, they will have highly similar concepts. As C. Overy, who was Darwin’s neighbour in his childhood, points out (1997: 56), he ‘lived three miles from Down House as a boy and was greatly influenced by Darwin’ and is regarded as the first Social Darwinist ever (see Trigger, 1998) who developed one of the first theories of race based on Darwin’s ideas. In the works of E. B. Tylor (1861; 1865; 1871) and A. Lang (1884; 1887; 1898) it is similarly to those of R. R. Marett (1971 [1920]), much easier to trace the influence of A. Comte and H. Spencer than that of C. R. Darwin (see Capps, 1995 and Cartwright, 2000). W. R. Smith (1885; 1889) was one of the first classical cultural evolutionists, who laid emphasis on the primacy of ritual and the social. Because of this fact he is sometimes referred to as the father of social anthropology, for example by M. Douglas (see 1970: 20). Douglas appreciated his interest in the present, in a sense that he was interested in what is common/shared in the experience of modern and primitive man, rather than in anachronisms and what they can tell us about the past, which was in her view the prevailing interest of most of his contemporaries (especially E. B. Tylor’s). The figure of R. R. Marett, whose main works appeared later, compared to the first generation of Darwinian anthropologists, is interesting also for two other reasons. To begin with, he illustrates how dynamic was the movement of classical cultural evolutionists, how rapid shifts and changes it witnessed. Second, he illustrates how close some classical cultural evolutionists’ ideas are, on closer inspection, to the ideas of contemporary CSR (for its general principles on which there is the widest consensus see Sørensen, 2005). In the first aspect, he, for example, criticized E. B. Tylor and also J. G. Frazer for not putting enough stress on the emotional component of personhood which, according to him, should be accentuated primarily, while so far a favoured intellectual component is, he asserts, only secondary. Furthermore, in the fight against intellectualism he pushed for the main emphasis of the study being transferred from what is being thought, to what is being done (1941: 157): ‘I preferred, in dealing with very primitive folk, to lay less stress on what they

24

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

thought, or were supposed to think, than on what they did’. This resulted in the scope of classical cultural evolutionism, quite contrary to how it is usually being portrayed, to a development moving from intellectualism towards an interest in behaviour/action which is well traceable; in the words of J. E. Harrison (1909: 495): ‘Creeds, Doctrines, theology and the like are only a part, and at first the least important part, of religion.’ In other words, ritual gradually ceases to be seen as a secondary phenomenon, which was earlier understood and appreciated at best as a way of expressing stabilized beliefs, but now becomes central. As J. E. Harrison adds (1909: 503): ‘Man, we imagine, believes in a god or gods and then worships. The real order seems to be that, in a sense presently to be explained, he worships, he feels and acts, and out of his feeling and action, projected into his confused thinking, he develops a god.’ To illustrate my second point: R. R. Marett does not search for genetic origins of religion, he was very well aware that neither a single primordium nor an evolutionary stage for the origin of religion could be laid down (see Sjöblom, 2007: 295). He also brings a particular emphasis on the mind and on states of mind. For him, religious beliefs and behaviours are of complex nature and what evolutionary investigations of religion should be composed of, is laying out the psychological conditions for them to come into being (see Marett, 1909: viii–xi). He understands religion as a ‘composite or concrete state of mind’ (i.e. he has an explicit psychological assumption that the religion stems from the states of mind). He decomposes composite concepts of animism – spirit, soul – into simpler building blocks which they are built from, and which make their existence possible. T. Sjöblom (2007: 295) draws attention to the point when he writes: ‘Marett actually defined the whole field of Comparative Religion as a branch of psychology and argued that it was the human mind that should be the foremost object of study for all scholars working in the field’ (Marett, 1909: 143–69; 1920: 1–26). That the early evolutionists failed to do so (see Preus, 1987: 208–9), due to the lack of proper methods and data since experimental psychology or cross-cultural psychology was still in its beginnings or nonexistent, is another matter.14 To get back to the main argument, Generalized Darwinism had an important ability to be incorporated in the highest kind of synthesis, into a broader unifying perspective which goes beyond the objectives of specific sciences, offering a comprehensive philosophical picture, a determining place

Classical Cultural Evolutionism

25

for all kinds of human knowledge, and which possessed all-encompassing cosmic principle of evolution, as did the views of A. Comte or H. Spencer, whose systems have enjoyed enormous respect and popularity at this time. Its main principles were open to generalizations that resonated with values of the industrialists and commercialists of Victorian Britain. All 1250 copies of the first edition of The Origin were sold out on the first day of its publication (see Dickens, 2000). The very same fact is highlighted similarly by E. J. Sharpe in his summing evaluation (1986 [1975]: 25): ‘In effect, scientific theory had joined hands in the theory of evolution with a dominant philosophy of history. Neither, on its own, could have made the impact [. . .]; together they conquered the nineteenth century [. . .].’

2

Critique of Classical Cultural Evolutionism

Theories of classical cultural evolutionism have their faults. However, it is necessary to distinguish between objections that become valid only when we agree to some sort of ‘ideological turn’ and objections that have, so to speak, absolute validity, because they affect either scientific means in general or tap into already disproved theoretical assumptions of given theories. Among criticisms of the first type, we can place, for example, the objection to originalism. What is this objection about? It attacks the conviction that religion remains in its basics (i.e. in its essentials, in what we should be truly interested in) as ‘primitive’ – that how religion is today is how it was in its origins.1 Said differently, the origins are the most interesting, the most informative and the most important point even in explanations of the current functions of religions. Such an objection is, of course, justified against the clean-cut form of this approach, where someone would want to argue that such ‘basics/origins/origin’ of religion is the only thing that is possible or even meaningful to study in religion or that it is something exhaustively covering all current functions of this phenomenon. However, by itself, the objection does not offer an argument against the fact that these ‘basics’ are there in the present forms of religions and that they still are functional and it is not valid against the moderate form of this position which claims that ‘basics’ remain informative but little known/explored. In the following section I will try to formulate as concisely as possible five errors I consider absolutely valid. It should be borne in mind, given the scope and objectives of this chapter, that we may understand these deficiencies in some sense as typical or characteristic of classical cultural evolutionism as a whole, yet it is necessary to point out that it is, however, a generalization of objections which may in fact relate to only some authors, or even to only some works of these authors.

28

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

The first of the objections is about linking any evolutionary process with progress,2 in which the explanatory claims and normative statements (propositions that are value based and essentially culturally embedded) are merged together. What should have been a value-neutral description of the developmental stages of the evolutionary process was changed into an evaluative tool – into a means serving goals other than the mere pursuit of knowledge. These additional goals can be prompted by various motivations, most frequently by the effort to improve the quality of the examined phenomenon (e.g. social life or a particular religious practice). But to bring in extra agendas is to threaten one of the cornerstones of any scientific endeavour. Contemporary authors who still uphold the possibility of this connection, and there are only few of them, deal with this criticism by trying to define their evaluative criteria as precisely as possible and by devoting much space and great attention to argue why they see those criteria as ‘value-free’ and claim they are universal. S. K. Sanderson, whom we can use as an example, applies, in his theory Evolutionary Materialism: A General Theory of Social Evolution (2007: 307–25), criteria such as: ‘the desire to consume high levels of calories, nutrients, and animal proteins; the desire for good physical and mental health and well-being; the desire for material possessions that are labour saving and that make life more gratifying, interesting, and enjoyable; the desire for individual autonomy and thus for minimizing the social constraints placed on an individual’s behaviour; or the desire for nonmaterial modes of abstract expression as represented by cosmic understanding, art, literary forms, and music’.

S. K. Sanderson is also interested in the evolution of religion per se (outside mainstream CSR circles). Under one term ‘evolution of religion’, he conflates both biological/genetic and cultural (in his terms: social) evolutionary perspectives. That allowed him to use by-productivist Kirkpatrick’s Attachment Theory of Religion (see chapter ‘The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution’) and turn it into a more general adaptationist account, in which religion is seen as an adaptation (for standard textbook definition of adaptation, see Rose & Lauder, 1996) for ‘dealing with existential anxiety and ontological insecurity’ (Kirkpatrick, 2008: 72). Based on this notion and the concept of cult institutions, he creates a macro-historical account of four major stages of religious evolution: shamanic (individualistic practices), communal (collective and calendric rites), Olympian or polytheistic, and monotheistic

Critique of Classical Cultural Evolutionism

29

(specialized priesthoods). As the two best predictors for religious evolution, he suggests the mode of subsistence technology and the presence or absence of writing. Subsequently, he uses the Attachment Theory to explain the transition from the third to the fourth major stage. Monotheism emerges as a reaction to a massive increase in the scale of war and urbanization in the social ecology from 600 BCE to first century CE, which increased social and psychological disruption, resulting in the rising of new types of ‘monotheistic religions of human compassion’ (Sanderson, 2008: 71). The second mistake theories of evolution can commit is related to the equally problematic connection of the evolutionary processes with the concept of teleology (developmentalism/immanent change/directionality/internal potency).3 Basically it is a dual error. First, it is a procedural error of a selfconfirming theory which seeks to prove its own assumption through that assumption. In this case, it assumes that it is typical for an evolutionary process to have its own internal direction that is its inherent latent quality which gradually unfolds/develops and leads the process to a particular end state. This endogenous quality is over time being raised to a law-like process and the evolutionary change thus becomes its own explanation. Second it is an error of reversing causal effects. Not only does it attempt to explain (explanans) what is being explained (explanandum) by the explained (explanandum), but in this explanation it also works not with external pressures, which would under certain circumstances in particular time and space cause something, but rather with an inherent natural function coming/emanating from within the investigated object that brings the change/evolution by how it is inclined to fulfil its existing potential. Developmentalism in the evolutionary thinking of his contemporaries saw as problematic even Darwin himself and for a long time he refused to use the term evolution because of it. As S. Toulmin points out (1972: 330–1): ‘he did not use this word [evolution] at all until the sixth edition of Origin, and then did so only sparingly’. In this sense, there is a huge discrepancy between what we might call traditional evolutionary theory and the theory of natural selection. To appreciate its contribution it is important to realize that the theory of natural selection arises inter alia as a critical response to the traditional evolutionary theory. For some authors, it is precisely this critical response, wherein lies the genius of the whole theory. The problem addressed in Darwin’s time was not to show (prove) that there is a design in nature. The problem was how to explain

30

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

that nature is so full of design, which was a generally shared assumption, when and how does it get there and what carries it. As S. Pinker puts it (2012), it was ‘one of the great mysteries of science’. The theory of natural selection took it as a question of the utmost importance. What it actually differed in from the standard answers at that time was that it revealed the design in the natural world as illusory. Thus it was a solution to the problem with a twist in the end that few expected: the natural world seems to be so full of design because of an illusion which gets created as a ‘by-product’ by natural selection. This effect is produced by the accumulation of error during replication over many generations. Originally a random error, which had as one of its random consequences a successful replication, is now so widespread in the population that it looks as if the given population was from the very beginning equipped with the ability to successfully replicate. The third major shortcoming that classical cultural evolution accounts (or any uninformed evolutionary treatises for that matter) were not able to avoid refers to the overuse of unverifiable statements. By which I mean hypothetical stories from the prehistory of the human race, where there is no way how to confirm or refute them. Speculative stories which are not based, in any strict sense, on empirical research.4 I do not see them as problematic when they are intentionally used only as a kind of thought experiment that seeks to provide readers with a certain mode of ‘evolutionary’ thinking, followed by the actual scientific data processing. Real error occurs when authors think that the scientific work in the area of application of evolutionary theory begins and ends with these hypothetical stories.5 Thanks to the evolutionary biologists S. J. Gould and R. Lewontin, this kind of stories is known as ‘just-so stories’6 due to their criticism of the ‘excessive’ adaptationist programme. Such a programme is, according to Gould and Lewontin, characterized by the vulgarization of the otherwise useful term ‘adaptation’, into an obsession to see adaptation in everything and behind everything. In an effort to prove it in everything and behind everything the term ends up being nothing more than simply a piling up of these stories over one another (see 1979). Overall, this objection is not a criticism of an evolutionary approach per se, it is rather a critique of poorly done science in general.7 The fourth major problem I see is in any attempt to link the evolutionary process with the concept of rigid unilinearity. This is the idea that evolution should

Critique of Classical Cultural Evolutionism

31

be uniform and unidirectional – sort of a fixed pattern of development, where there is no room left for regression, stagnation or skipping the developmental stages. It is a view in which all cultures have to go through all the ‘prescribed’ stages inexorably.8 The fifth and the last of the big problems with classical sociocultural evolutionary theories is any effort to link the sociocultural evolutionary processes with the development of individual personality. In other words, an effort to show that there is a homology between these two processes which can take various forms. This idea was originally inspired by the biological theory called ‘recapitulation theory’, and in a nutshell it says that the development of individuals during their lifetime (ontogeny) reflects the evolutionary history of its species (phylogeny). Nowadays already disproven, this theory was in the evolutionary thinking of the nineteenth century widely accepted. Transfer to the sociocultural evolution did not take long and it can be found perhaps most strongly advocated, in the concepts of L. Lévy-Bruhl (1926 [1910]), who brings together specific forms of thought with a specific level of technology and social organization in which a given person finds itself located in. In this chapter, I gave a basic assessment of the benefits as well as the criticisms of classical cultural evolutionism. During this, I have defined two important concepts, that is Generalized Darwinism and Universal Darwinism/ Darwinian monism, the definition of which is essential for grasping the difference between them and Darwinism, between them and neo-Darwinism and last but not least between Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. In the very conclusion I explicitly outlined the objections against cultural evolutionism, which I consider crucial, unsurpassed and in a way forever current. Avoiding the mistakes these lead to is what I see as the minimal qualifying prerequisite for any account to make it on my list of assessed theories of contemporary cultural evolutionism. Contemporary theories of cultural evolution rarely use classics to legitimize their stances, and if they do, it usually couples them with two elements. First is the selection of names authors use as examples of founding figures of the field (in our case, it is usually anthropology), which often reflects how large a role authors are willing to attribute to cultural evolutionary thinking in general. It is especially the case if they mention only one or two names. Besides E. B. Tylor, it is only L. H. Morgan that gets typical mention (see Richerson & Boyd, 2005:

32

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

58). Second, they see as necessary in a single breath to distinguish their ‘new evolutionism’ from the ‘progressivistic evolutionism’ and to oppose to it whether in its classical form or in one of its further developed modern forms (in the twentieth century for example by authors such as L. White, M. Sahlins, J. Steward, M. Harris, R. Carneiro, A. Johnson, T. Earle and others). Yet the only progressivistic principle that can be saved is also the least informative one which has nothing to do with evolution as defined by the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection. What I mean is the principle of increasing complexity/differentiation distilled from the work of H. Spencer after removal of other progressivistic parts. I continue with the critical analysis of three cultural evolution theories that meet this prerequisite, and at the same time are most widely used in the current CSR, in the following chapter.

Part Two

Contemporary Cultural Evolutionism

In the current CSR, we can find several kinds of extensively used and developed theories of Darwinian evolution transferred to the domain of sociocultural phenomena.1 When we take a closer look, we soon learn that the concept of evolution is sometimes used vaguely and sometimes even on different semantic levels which need to be carefully distinguished. One of the main distinguishing traits we may choose is whether a given theory of evolution applies a genuine process of cultural evolution (evolution of culture) or not. Among the three most important theories that do use evolution of culture, I include various group selection accounts, Dual Inheritance Theory and memetics. As the first theories I will critically assess, I choose those that work with the concept of group selection, namely because the concept has in comparison with other analysed theories, the longest but also the most controversial modern scientific history.

3

Group Selection Accounts

Group selection accounts can be traced back to Darwin,2 who started to utilize the concept in his later books. Let us pause now for a moment to examine the traditional conception he presented in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, as his main argument remains for the theory of group selection basically unchanged to this day (1871: 166): It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.

C. R. Darwin presents in this passage on a small space the basic idea of the whole concept, which in its principle is very simple: natural selection operates not only at the individual level but also at the group level. The only thing needed to express such a hypothetical possibility is actually the idea that there is a greater number of groups, who compete among themselves as rival units, and with this idea to expand the existing range of effects of selective pressures. Whereas the attention was previously focused on the individual as an adaptive unit, receiving and bearing the advantages and disadvantages of competing with other individuals within a group, now a group becomes the adaptive unit competing with other groups for resources within the same ecosystem containing a given population of groups (to use the language of evolutionary biology). The hereby adjusted model then incorporates the fact that natural

36

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

selection can produce individuals who will contribute to the good of the group even when it harms themselves or their relatives. However, it is much more complicated to actually show that natural selection really does take place on such a level, because for that you need more than just a thought experiment. For this kind of demonstration we really need empirical data that would show how exactly in this process do phenotypic variation, heritability and fitness consequences look like. In evolutionary biology, these issues were a vividly discussed topic in the 1960s and in the end, group selection was heavily outweighed and rejected.3 The winner was the main alternative hypothesis, concentrating on the individual (or even individual genes), which basically states that the type of selective pressure on individuals within the group is always stronger, and that group selection is in comparison with it, invariably so weak a force that it can in most cases be ignored.4 A group is not an independent organism, it is just a name for what individual organisms (individuals) do to one another when fighting for survival when they find out they can use other organisms to their advantage, or even increase the fitness of their own genes in the bodies of other individuals. Rejection of group selection prevailed in evolutionary biology (and in other disciplines) until today, even though, as S. Pinker notes (2012): ‘[. . .] the group selectionists tend to declare victory, and write as if their theory has already superseded a narrow, reductionist dogma that selection acts only at the level of genes’. However, the status of group selection, with the introduction of more precise procedures and especially with narrowing down the angle of its impact,5 gradually improved, which is mainly related to the increasing popularity of multilevel selection theory in other fields of study. In starting to take the theory of group selection seriously again, it is valuable to keep in mind the criticisms raised against it in the 1960s. This is especially so for scholars of religion who, for obvious reasons, often lack a strong background in the history of evolutionary biology due to which they run a significant risk of neglecting objections that have already been raised, as well as of siding with only one party in an uncritical (uninformed) unilateral fashion. Group selection accounts entered the Study of Religions, through the current CSR, mainly through the work of D. S. Wilson,6 who for a long time has been one of its most prominent advocates. They also appeared through dual inheritance accounts, yet in a narrower form of cultural group selection (for

Group Selection Accounts

37

details and proponents see the next chapter). For a better comparison of D. S. Wilson’s view to other evolutionary concepts dealing with religion, it is worth to explicitly mention some of its major characteristics. In contrast to Dawkins’ concept that underlies the theory of memes (Dawkins, 1976; Blackmore, 1999), Wilson does not claim that human nature would be fundamentally selfish.7 He certainly does not share Dawkins’ hostile attitude towards religion, which so often manifests itself in the rhetoric of the parasitic or virus-like nature of religious beliefs. Unlike Dawkins, Wilson does not decompose culture on genelike units that do not always serve the best interests of their bearers. Contrary to the position of the EWCE approach, Wilson does not confine himself to work only with genetic evolution. According to him the EWCE approach is not flawed, just too limiting for his taste, as it covers only a part of the story. Wilson claims that due to the cultural component, human evolution is a rapid and continuous process. Genetic evolution, working with the ‘ready-made’ Stone Age human nature, is in comparison very slow. He uses the term cultural evolution only scarcely, as if he fears the negative connotations it carries in the social sciences. However, he argues that he addresses human evolution and that he is not limited to genetic evolution only. Yet, where it is not possible to avoid it any longer, he identifies the process for what it is, that is, cultural evolution (see 2002: 11). In CSR we find the concept of group selection in different modifications most frequently in the works of group-level adaptationists. What does this theory applied to the explanation of religion claim? Given that group selection refers to several different conceptions, when answering this question, first we have to make clear which of these conceptions we have in mind. Only then can we look at how this conception applies to religion. It is possible to come across such a usage where the term denotes any competition taking place on a group level. Sometimes the term is used very loosely in the sense of the evolution of organisms living in groups. Sometimes the term is used more as a very precise expression for the change in gene frequency of subsets of genetically related and reciprocally cooperating individuals that does not deviate in any way from the standard gene-level theory of natural selection (see West, Griffin & Gardner, 2007). However, I focus my attention solely on the conception that starts with the standard gene-level theory of natural selection and, as an addon, extends its scope beyond the limits of individual organisms to groups.

38

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

Claims which define such a form of group selection applied to religion might be as follows: (A) Religious groups qualify as organisms. Like any other organism, even they are products of natural selection. Religious groups go through the process of adaptation to their environment, which takes place in the background of countless generations. Through variation and selection they gradually acquire characteristics which help them survive and reproduce. Religious groups, in this view, become autonomous adaptive units which maximize their fitness as individual organisms do, thanks to among-group selective pressures (i.e. due to this pressure, increase the number of copies in the next generation as genes do). (B) Among-group selective pressure can be, in specific cases, strong enough to overcome within-group selective pressure.8 (C) Current religious groups resemble previous religious groups, and it is therefore justified to speak in this sense, of the mode of reproduction in which, with certain modifications the characteristics are passed to descendant groups. (D) The cultural evolution of religious groups itself is much faster than genetic evolution. Opposing adaptationist hypothesis argues that some elements of religion are products of within-group selection favouring certain individuals of the group at the expense of other group members. Group selection is inseparably linked to a search for alternatives to this position. It was also historically connected with the development of concepts of ‘self-sacrificing’ altruism,9 which would in fact be an adaptation to group-against-group competition. Also the opposing hypothesis where natural selection operates at the level of individuals to such an extent it might threaten cohesion of groups, it has to solve the problem which obviously altruistic traits of social behaviour cause to classical Darwinian theory. However, in its solution of the ‘problem of altruism’, evolutionary pressure to create the psychological trait of ‘self-sacrificing’ altruism finds no place. The two most famous individual gene selection solutions emerged from evolutionary biology in the 1960s and 1970s. The first one, called ‘kin selection’, was developed by W. D. Hamilton. In a nutshell it says that the altruistic behaviour will be selected for by evolution when it will be directed towards relatives according to the degree of their relatedness. Thus even the individual who behaves altruistically, profits, as the behaviour increases the chance of survival and reproduction of shared genes. The second solution,

Group Selection Accounts

39

called ‘reciprocal altruism’, created by R. L. Trivers is somewhat broader in its scope. Altruism may be selected for even when it is in fact just a benefits delay, benefits of which the individual will become a recipient in the future. In this case, people provide at first glance an altruistic service, yet expect it will be repaid (quid pro quo or also you-scratch-my-back-and-later-I’ll-scratchyours model). Even Darwin himself was well aware of the fundamental problem with which the social life of certain species confronts his theory10 and the previously mentioned expansion of effects of selective pressure on groups was part of his proposed solution addressing mainly the evolution of human moral virtues. So, where does this fundamental problem of social life lie? Darwin’s theory is based on the maximization of survival and reproduction of individuals. Groups on the other hand function best while maximizing the mutual enrichment of one member by the other. But what of the behaviour that on one side enriches the individual and at the same time hurts the group? The interest of an individual and interest of a group more often than not come into conflict with each other (e.g. the comfort of a single driver in one car compared to the use of public transport) and Darwin’s theory in its simplest unexpended form predicts that the maximization of the individual interests will prevail. This preference should in the long run lead to the dominance of selfish individualistic instincts in the population to such an extent that it would effectively disrupt any social tendencies. This is especially so when the best possible strategy any group member can make use of is to reap group benefits without having to share costs necessary for its maintenance (free-rider problem). Despite of this fact social life flourishes. As such, Darwin’s theory faces a problem: how to uphold its basic principles and yet explain this paradox? Kin selection and reciprocal altruism are two possible answers to this paradox. Group selection offers another path which gets often presented by the laity and popularizers, and unfortunately sometimes even by its own authors/ advocates/proponents, as the way where altruism would not in result be only an illusion. In such moments, expressions of dissatisfaction with how narrow the ‘purely selfish’ account of human nature is often appear. Authors often devote space for such expressions in Prefaces (Introductions) and Conclusions (Epilogues) of their books, which is perfectly fine if (A) they clearly distinct between philosophical extensions (overlaps) and the actual scientific work and

40

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

(B) they clearly distinguish whether they use altruism/egoism (selfishness) in their psychological or biological meaning (for the distinction see main following text). The actual scientific research in biology is in fact on the ultimate level, led in parsimonious Egoistic monism paradigm, but that says nothing about proximate psychological mechanisms, which are in its service. It does not pose any threat to including genuine altruism (genuine altruistic motivations) as the most effective way how to achieve the selfish biological goals an organism has. However, to infer from this fact conclusions about egoistic monism on (1) ultimate psychological level (human motivation) or even (2) ultimate philosophical level (human nature) can be very misleading and confusing, as can be similar general statements from the other end without them making more detailed (A) and (B) specifications. For instance, D. S. Wilson in the introduction to Darwin’s Cathedral (2002: 2) writes: ‘I do not believe that human nature is fundamentally selfish, such that genuine altruism and morality become illusions.’ Also, a big problem exists if, in any way, this value-based motivation drives scientists to save the ‘real’ human altruism because they see it as a morally right thing to do. If it is the case, it brings to the table the age-old problem of the interconnectedness between a scientist’s motivation and any other hidden agendas crawling their way into the research which inevitably casts shadows on its value-free objectives it strives for. Every scientific result needs to be judged above all on the merits of its poignant quality and I do not assert that to accept money from agendas-driven institutions means, in this sense, to automatically discredit your research. On the other hand it is not without interest to look at how many works of promoters of group selection accounts had been funded by those striving for harmonization of faith and science, among other things of which this might be the least of our concern, especially if we are in business of the scientific study of religion (e.g. C. Boehm: Study of Free-Rider Suppression among Hunter-Gatherers – John Templeton Foundation; C. Boehm: CrossCultural Survey of Altruistic Behavior – John Templeton Foundation; C. Boehm and D. S. Wilson: Evolution of Conflict Resolution and Forgiveness – John Templeton Foundation).11 The problem lies in the fact that it is not just bias/prejudice which such motivations draw into the research, but that they are also based on an error of

Group Selection Accounts

41

confusing two different meanings of the words altruism and selfishness. First meaning is the original natural language meaning, which finds detailed and professional elaboration in the tradition of moral philosophy (or psychology). Second, the transferred meaning is the one to which it was shifted in evolutionary biology. This error is understandable among the general public, especially because it is easy to be misguided towards it by famous metaphor of the selfish gene.12 However, it is unforgivable for a specialist in the field. Evolutionary biology does not define selfishness and altruism of the behaviour on the basis of conscious thought or psychological motivations of the individual, that is, the original meanings, which are used in natural language, moral philosophy and psychology, but only in terms of their impact on the fitness.13 The definition of both terms in evolutionary biology is as follows: behaviour is selfish when it increases the fitness of the actor, relative to other members of its group. Behaviour is altruistic when it increases the fitness of the group, relative to other groups, and decreases the relative fitness of the actor within the group (see Sober & Wilson, 1998).14 Error of confusing this meaning with the original meaning leads some to think that the standard individual-gene selection theories (kin selection, reciprocal altruism) argue that there is no genuine altruism in the world or that these theories cannot explain it. Moreover that all psychological motivations of individuals are always selfish and every good (altruistic) act is a sham and insincere.15 Thus some conclude that there is a need for new theories that can take full-hearted altruism seriously. But the opposite is true. These theories arose exactly in order to explain the existence of genuine altruism, and according to them it developed because it was, and still is, from the perspective of gene-replicators, the best possible strategy for their own propagation (see Trivers, 1971). It is the genuine full-hearted altruism they talk about, as the false altruism is easily detectable by control mechanisms. Pretending is too challenging and/or expensive for the body and the price when being detected is too high (see Frank, 1988). To be fair, to see the group selection as always and necessarily motivated by a desire to rescue the good reputation of humans would be very inaccurate. For non-misled authors the psychological motivations of individuals are identically sincere/genuine, their theories do in no way affect them and the

42

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

only difference between the two types of theories lies in what pressures they see as crucial in the development of these sincere/genuine motivations. Some authors try to defend themselves against such discrediting by arguing that group selection certainly does not eliminate the conflict from the natural selection. On the contrary, as stated by D. S. Wilson (2002: 10) it: ‘rather elevates it up the biological hierarchy, from among individuals within groups to among groups within a larger population’. Thus he effectively not only moves the conflict to another level, but also extends the scope of its actual influence.16 Conflict-free are not even the proposed solutions of mechanisms through which group selectionists try to overcome the extremely strong within-group pressures, mechanisms by which group selection is supposed to enforce altruistic traits that are otherwise disadvantageous for the individual. Social control (including supervision and enforcement) is among the most frequently promoted solutions of the fundamental problem of social life. Here, we have lightly touched what might be, for us as scholars of religion, probably the most interesting point in the theories of group selection in general. I will return to it in more detail a little later on in this book. How is the application of group selection to religion done? Now that we know the basic claims of the theory ((A)–(D)) and also the major obstacles that must be overcome in order to fulfil its claims (showing in what respect can religious groups be taken and seen seriously as organisms in science; demonstrating that among-group selective pressure can, in specific cases, be stronger than the within-group selective pressure), it is time to see what specific steps need to be undertaken for this fulfilment. From my perspective, there are four most important steps. First of all, the relevant group must be identified. The fitness of individuals within that group must be compared. Third, compare the fitness of all groups in the overall population. Finally, proceed to the most difficult step, which hides, compared to the previous three steps, largest number of pitfalls for successful implementation of the theory that D. S. Wilson (2002: 13) formulates as to: ‘compare these effects to determine the net results of what evolves’. The main ‘analytical/creative’ part of group selectionist’s work, therefore, lies in subsequent comparison/evaluation of results of the second and the third step. When and where are we to find the cultural evolution in group selection accounts, which is after all the main interest of this chapter? So far, it might

Group Selection Accounts

43

seem that, except for the moments when we chose religion as the defining characteristics ((A) and (C)), it is just a rivalry of two biological hypotheses that do not spill over to the sociocultural domain. Nevertheless we have already touched on the important role that group selectionists attribute to the social control in dealing with the fundamental problem of social life. Cultural evolution comes to the surface when both parts click into each other. Religious systems do in most cases include a special kind of ideological interconnection of systems of ideas and moral systems, and as a result they can develop a strong type of social control that could be used to explain the evolution of certain social behavioural traits. For example, self-sacrificial altruistic behaviour has always been a big puzzle for classical Darwinian theory. It is the most extreme kind of altruistic behaviour whose existence from an evolutionary perspective traditionally encounters the above-mentioned problem – how could similar behavioural traits have evolved when they are so disadvantageous to individual-within-group fitness? The answer of group selection accounts is social control as a form of supervision and enforcement of such behaviour (i.e. self-sacrificial behaviour). Supervision and enforcement is, in itself, a low-cost altruism, as the individual uses his own energy (resources) and exposes himself to the risks, though minimal, for the good of the group.17 However, group selectionists also view more extreme kinds of altruistic behaviours (which carry large risks for the coerced group members and thus more profit for the group) as a product of the process of social control. For group selection theory, this procedure is a typical way18 of dealing with the objection that group selection would have to be exceptionally strong to oppose withingroup selective pressures. In this fashion they try to argue that it need not be the case, not all the time and not necessarily. The way in which proponents of the group selection theory deal with specific objections against its basic theorems is used here as an example of the kind of arguments they generally use. But the previous problem is too specific and we cannot allow it to divert our attention from the essential differences between the two camps. Moreover, the demonstration of argumentation could be confusing, as social control is used at some point by both sides when explaining issues of altruism. To avoid that, let us go back once more to the very foundations of their solutions and look at the predictions each offers.

44

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

The standard neo-Darwinian individual-gene selection theory (the Theory of ‘Kin Selection’ as well as the Theory of ‘Reciprocal Altruism’) explains altruistic behavioural traits as beneficial for genes (real replicators), which the individual organism, the real executive in the realm of cause and effect, carries. It is only because of these effects that it could have developed. By contrast, group selection argues that there is a trait of ‘self-sacrificial’ altruism, a behavioural trait, which results in damaging the executives (both the individual organism and its genes) in an effort to bring benefits to the group. Such a trait could be selected for in evolution only thanks to strong group-against-group competition, where there could have originated a pressure for its development. As I mentioned a moment ago, to talk about a factor of social control can be confusing as it is used at some point by both parties. However, each party has a different focus which I will try to demonstrate on different predictions that can be inferred from both positions. Standard individual-gene selection predicts that individuals will behave altruistically only if this altruism ultimately leads to an advantage for their gene (in themselves or in their relatives). They (individuals) will be restrained/ reluctant towards its extreme self-sacrificing form. It is not going to form a part of their natural profile, they would have to be trained against this restrain/ reluctance or forced to obtain it and it would be rare in a population. There would be a need of a constant social control for its implementation. Contrarily, group selection accounts argue that social control, in the form of enforcement and education, was in our evolutionary history long enough and was sufficiently distinctive to equip ‘current’ individuals with propensities for a self-sacrificing form of altruism. Thus, this behavioural trait has become part of our natural profile, which should necessarily lead to the prediction that it should now be widespread in the population and we should feel impelled to act altruistically without any external pressure. Its implementation should be simple, without the need to overcome anything. But precisely ‘therein lies the problem’, and it can serve as a concentrated example of the differences between the arguments of both sides. In a particular variant of an economic game, specifically the Public Goods game,19 there is an opportunity to punish at one’s own expense those who free-ride. From empirical studies using this game, we know that people tend to punish free-riders even when it costs them their own resources and they do not automatically benefit

Group Selection Accounts

45

in the form of direct enhancement of their reputation from this behaviour.20 Group selectionists see in such behaviour a manifestation of the ‘self-sacrificing’ altruism trait and therefore evidence of the influence of group selection. On the other hand, individual-gene selectionists claim it is a part of the everyday efforts of a person living in a group to protect their own interests and that it is therefore far better to see it as a result of individual-gene selection.21 According to the latter, such altruistic behaviour is always accompanied either by expectations of reciprocity, or by triggering the mechanism of reputational management. It is therefore a product of our intuitions, evolved in a collaborative environment of small non-anonymous groups we are configured for due to our evolutionary history. Similarly to how we begin to salivate at the authentic representation of food in advertising, although food intake does not follow, this ‘artificial’ situation (guaranteed anonymity; playing for a single round) initiates a kind of ‘instinctive’ response (from the world of our evolutionary prehistory, where anonymity or games for one round could not be guaranteed), even though it misses the target. Now we are getting to the core of why I actually devoted this part of my book to group selection. That is, to an exploration of how the principles of group selection used in some theories of sociocultural evolution address religion. Before that, however, it has to be noted that there are also purely biological treatises working with group selection that do not step beyond the boundaries of genetic evolution. While those treatises may be marginal in biology, they are interesting for the overall objectives of this work, especially when they subsequently engage in an attempt to uncover the effects of genetic evolution of our species on the origins and development of religious behaviour. This is because purely biological accounts working with group selection also fall into the study of religion from the unifying evolutionary perspective. They are, therefore, discussed in those parts of the book dedicated to the EWCE approach, where they compete with the widely accepted theories of genetic evolution of our species using standard individual-gene selection. Group selection theories thus complete the picture of this EWCE approach. Nevertheless, given the objectives of this section of my book, from now on, accounts dealing with ‘genetic evolution only’ shall cease to interest us. On the contrary, we will focus our attention on those treatises working with group selection that also venture intentionally beyond the borders of genetic evolution.

46

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

D. S. Wilson is one of the prime examples.22 He argues that it is crucial to not only see between-group selective pressures as a strong and at times dominating evolutionary force (which is a common postulate of all theories of group selection indiscriminately), but rather seeing cultural evolution as a process that takes place largely at the group level. Another, and for our purposes an even more important, step is to venture beyond the boundaries of genetic identification of groups into the area of determining the groups on the basis of uniform patterns of behaviour. Such uniform patterns of behaviour are defined as dependent only on social norms, not on genes, which designates the group as a uniformly functioning moral community. In D. S. Wilson’s definition of an adaptive unit through moral community, it is clearly visible that he sees groupwide traits as culturally rather than genetically determined. Group-wide traits do not rise up from the genes of individuals to influence their behaviour and subsequently influence the whole group. Rather, they are culturally propagated through religious beliefs and social norms.23 What is radical about this step is that it disconnects a link between genes and behaviours so firmly held in some other accounts, the link that alone can guarantee the meaningfulness of the claim that this behaviour is a phenotypic effect of Darwinian adaptation that evolved through natural selection.24 After these steps follows the decision as to what kind of time span do we want to cover. With a longer span we will often get interested in creating a model of interconnectedness between sociocultural evolution and genetic evolution. At that moment, we will follow several thousands of generations of Hunter-Gatherers. That may be at times confusing as in some parts the autonomous process of sociocultural evolution starts to be closely tied together with autonomous genetic evolution, and may lead to overlaps with results delivered by the EWCE approach. A complete blend occurs especially when the cultural evolution is seen as a strong player who can change the parameters of the evolutionary process by selecting for traits that would be never developed by genetic evolution alone. If we choose a shorter time span, we will follow only faster sociocultural evolution of modern social groups (in the words of D. S. Wilson (2002: 37): ‘fast-paced evolutionary process with cultural rather than genetic mechanisms of inheritance’), which will help us more explicitly reveal the differences of both autonomous processes (see point (D)). Nevertheless, the attention in both cases, at this stage, is focused only

Group Selection Accounts

47

on the sociocultural evolutionary process and the difference lies only in the length of the time covered, that is, if we cover a shorter time, we still assume that all principles work just as if we cover a longer time, but we will not be able to show these principles at the genetic level, because its ‘change recording’ requires long periods of time.25 D. S. Wilson’s group selection account states that, like genes, even the cultural variations can spread at the expense of other cultural variations within a group or can cause the group carrying the given cultural variant to expand at the expense of other groups. Although it makes use of the analogy with genetic selection, it does not mean that the sociocultural-multilevel-selection evolutionary process would not require specialized mechanisms to direct it, quite the contrary. These mechanisms are essential for the autonomy of the process. Despite this, D. S. Wilson still works mainly with ‘traditional’ psychological mechanisms (traditional in terms of evolutionary psychology that searches for them with the help of standard individual-gene selection) which are automated and in most cases not subject to conscious processing, and he just tries to argue that their origin is different. The element of the conscious un-reflectivity has interesting and important consequences, as it allows the theory to see the culture and its development, in most cases, as independent of the intentions of the executives/agents. The expression ‘in most cases’ I use purposefully here, because the theory does not say that conscious processes could not be at certain times important agents in cultural evolution. Where he speaks about the specific mechanisms of cultural evolution, he claims they are not only largely unconscious, but in some cases also distributed. This yields a radical innovation closely related to the group selection’s definition of an organism applied on human social groups. That is, as long as the surviving and reproducing adaptive unit is the whole group and not just the individual, as in the standard individual-gene selection, even the unconscious mechanisms operate at the level of the whole group and not only at the level of the individual. D. S. Wilson is in this context clear (2002: 33): ‘If the individual is no longer a privileged unit of selection, it is no longer a privileged unit of cognition. We are free to imagine individuals in a social group connected in a circuitry that gives the group the status of the brain and the individual the status of the neuron.’ To increase scientific credibility of the concept of a ‘group brain’, frowned upon by many as taken out of science fiction, its advocates frequently use

48

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

metaphors or analogies from the realm of social insects such as of ants or bees. However, those are in many respects diametrically different from other social species and its use for illustration is not random.26 In the case of social insects, the self-sacrificial altruism (as an extreme form of altruistic behaviour in which an individual harms oneself for the good of the group) really occurs and in quantities that we would seek in vain in any other socially living organism. However, there is an essential difference: reproduction in social insects is a privilege given to few chosen individuals. Sacrifice for the good of the group, which can in the extreme case take the form of suicide attack of a bee or the creation of a whole caste of ‘eunuchs’ who dedicate their entire lives to slave labour or combat deployment, is thus motivated by benefiting the queen, who is always the ‘martyr’s’ mother or sister.27 Thus there is no need to postulate here group selection and see the trait of self-sacrificing altruism without the benefit for individual’s genes. To explain this kind of behaviour it is enough to use the theory of individual kin selection (increasing the benefit of one’s own genes in the bodies of others). Mathematical conditions (models) under which group-level selection works have yet to be found in any real-world empirical data observed in any other social species. To this point our attention is drawn especially by experimental biologists, for whom the praxis is what really matters. And it is not that they did not see, did not want to see or could not assess the importance of theory, but rather the fact that when there is a disputed claim between two different theories whose models are capable of achieving the same theoretical sophistication and mathematical accuracy, they tend to decide the argument by the assessment of the contribution they can produce in praxis. It is for them, in a sense, suspicious and quite informative at the same time, that most attempts to defend group selection focus on examples of logical and mathematical accuracy of its models, rather than examples of what (in the sense: how much) and how (in the sense: how well) is it able to explain from the world ‘out there’.28 Evolutionary biologist J. Coyne even claims to be unaware of a single behaviour in animals that is completely disadvantageous to individuals but useful for groups (see Coyne, 2009). For another critical assessment of group selection’s ability to promote useful and productive research see the recent review articles by West, Griffin and Gardner (2008) and Bourke (2011).

Group Selection Accounts

49

As with any evolutionary account, the evolutionary account of religion must be capable of clearly showing that it can fulfil and how it can fulfil all the principles of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Only then can it be an implementation of a functional theory, and not just a misleading metaphor or analogy often causing more harm than good. Such isomorphic implementations are successfully created in various fields, for example, in simulations of artificial life forms in cybernetics. But there is a fundamental difference between creating a simulation of new forms of life and modelling them according to evolutionary biological laws discovered in real-life forms, and arguing that the same evolutionary laws are also ruling other forms of existing things (e.g. religions, political systems, etc.). To evaluate how successfully did this or that evolutionary account meet the principles of neoDarwinian evolutionary theory, forms the basic frame of my critical analysis. It is motivated by the question: do similar efforts actually bring anything in addition to metaphors and analogies, something that would extend our concept of ‘history’ (cultural change over time)? To reiterate, these principles include variation, selection and retention. In order to successfully identify all three of these mechanisms, we first need to define some other essentials in which they are fulfilled.29 Among these are mainly: what constitutes the adaptive unit (unit of selection), the fitness of the unit, the selective pressure of a given level and the mechanisms of inheritance and transmission.30 Yet before the time comes to devote an appropriate space to this critical analysis I will in greater detail introduce the group selection accounts that are most relevant for Religious Studies.

Group selection accounts in Religious Studies As I mentioned above, group selection accounts come to Religious Studies mainly from the work of D. S. Wilson. His model of the evolution of religions is built upon a combination of Dual Inheritance Theory, presented by P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (a gene-culture coevolution model using cultural evolution), and the adaptationist programme with special emphasis on group selection effects. According to Wilson, group selection plays a major role in cultural evolution by creating unifying systems (systems that unite

50

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

people into adaptive units of which religion is a special case). This is, according to Wilson, because these systems (of which morality is a central phenomenon31) produce a specific kind of pressure, in the absence of which group selection effects would stay close to nothing (as for example, in genetic evolution). Namely this pressure amplifies between-group selection forces (by increasing differences and competition between groups), while at the same time decreasing within-group selection forces (by decreasing differences and competition within group). In genetic evolution, there is no such pressure and genetic variant stays at low frequency within the group unless it increases the chances of survival and reproduction of its bearer. Group selection favours genetic variant even if it would decrease the fitness of its bearer relative to other individuals within the same group, thus causing it to spread and dominate in the group, if and only if, this genetic variant would increase the fitness of the whole group relative to other groups. However, this is highly unlikely and according to most geneticists and evolutionary biologists almost non-existent in nature. Cultural mutation, on the contrary, can be spread in the group with the help of various mechanisms (conformist bias, prestige bias, rational thought, social control mechanisms etc.), despite decreasing the fitness of its bearer, thus making it possible for previously rare behaviour or individual-fitness-decreasing behaviour to become common within the group. D. S. Wilson subsequently argues that religion is exceptionally effective in spreading cultural mutations within groups, creating human groups that are sufficiently stable and setting the stage for rapid cultural evolution. These groups can be understood, as needs of this approach dictate, as adaptive units (organisms),32 and following repeated group-level selection33 helps to spread traits which would not evolve by genetic evolution alone (selfless altruism as opposed to ‘just’ selfish altruism etc.).34 Hence, religion is a group-level adaptation which increases cooperativeness and cohesiveness of the group and its otherworldly elements are understood as proximate mechanisms that motivate these group-level adaptive behaviours (see Whitehouse, 2002; 2008;35 Wilson, 2005). The group selection approach is being extensively used also by, in the current CSR present but far less influential, E. O. Wilson’s sociobiological evolutionary account of religion (for early sociobiology see Wilson, 1975;

Group Selection Accounts

51

1978 and 1998, or Lumsden & Wilson, 1981). The main reason behind this is notoriously problematic mind-blindness and the selective use of anecdotal evidence that is supposed to connect putative fitness-motivating factors in religious behaviours with ostensible fitness consequences. The majority of sociobiological explanations lack causal accounts of how these ostensible material functions produce religious practices, especially when contra-cases show that similar practices arise or endure independently or regardless of material need. S. Atran and A. Norenzayan introduce in this respect an example of an aspiration to explain ritual human sacrifice by a relationship between individuals needing protein and a lack of large game as a source of protein in the environment. E. O. Wilson (1978) makes use of this argument in the case of Aztec cannibalistic sacrifice in animal-poor environment of Mesoamerica, yet as Atran & Norenzayan point out (2004: 718). ‘game was abundant for Mesoamerica’s Lowland Maya, who also practiced human sacrifice’. Interestingly, even though E. O. Wilson originally favoured the Theory of Reciprocal Altruism as a best of possible explanatory models of altruism on the grounds that group selection is problematically weak, in a recent ‘comeback’ of sociobiology, there is a visible tendency to converge the theoretical bases of both Wilsons. This is clear, for example, from the quotation of their joint publication summarizing sociobiology’s new theoretical foundation in the form of a paraphrase of famous one-phrase summary of Torah by Rabbi Hillel (Wilson & Wilson, 2007a: 345): ‘Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.’ Both authors lately combined forces to promote group selection also on more popular science level, see Wilson & Wilson (2007b or 2008). E. O. Wilson’s sociobiological account follows a similar trail and reaches the same conclusions as D. S. Wilson’s account, with the exception of granting cultural evolution an autonomy from genetic evolution, as does D. S. Wilson or even memetics (for more details see also ‘culture on a leash concept’ in the chapter ‘Memetic Accounts’). Another author, with relevance to CSR,36 who assumes effects of group selection on the emergence of altruistic traits is C. Boehm (see 1999b), who developed yet another distinct social selection model in humans. Social selection here takes place by social preferences being expressed (sometimes referred to as sanctioning selection). The model, known as Guarded Egalitarianism

52

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

Hypothesis, addressing evolution of social control (see Boehm, 2000), makes use of R. D. Alexander’s (1987) concept of indirect reciprocity (selection by reputation, different from kin selection or direct reciprocity, also very close to what is today’s narrower usage of costly signalling) which was embedded in standard individual-gene selection model (leaving group selection model that works through direct group conflict alone, albeit possible, still unverifiable due to the great unknown of warfare recurrence in the Palaeolithic). Boehm subsequently combines the concept of indirect reciprocity with enhanced group selection, and adds as important additional mechanism ‘free-rider suppression’ (which he holds works on the phenotypic as well as genotypic levels, although forces are weaker on the latter). Also important is another of Boehm’s additions, which is, by no means, self-evident, that the most effective human free-riders have been alpha bullies. Free-rider suppression on phenotypes means not allowing free-riders to express their free-riding tendencies, for example, through moralistic aggression (R. L. Trivers’ term; see Trivers, 1971). In another words, it operates through the threat of punishment, resulting in free-riding genes staying in place. Freerider suppression on the genotypic level means punishments for not refraining from the free-riding behaviour and results in free-riding genes dying out (through capital punishment, ostracism). This type of social selection, according to Boehm, sets a path, not only for altruistic traits, but also for the emergence of the beginnings of conscience37 through the mechanism of selfrestraint/self-control (one starts to worry about the outcomes, for example, group turning on oneself), which became an important feature of individuals who were reproductively successful. For the extended argument on how moral38 communities were essential for the appearance of egalitarian societies see Boehm (2012). Free-rider suppression mechanism was selected due to the novel problems inherent in hunting large game39 (equitable workload – cooperation in hunting) in our ancestral environment (equitable shares – cooperation in sharing). To overcome pressures we needed to curtail our hierarchical nature. That set the stage for altruistic traits that prevent would-be dominant males from taking the resources of others or even hoarding resources they themselves have acquired. For the extended argument on the evolutionary origins of egalitarianism see Boehm (1999a). Free-rider suppression has the effect of reducing individual

Group Selection Accounts

53

selection within groups (reducing phenotypic variation at the within-group level), while increasing it at the between-group level, and making it easier for selection to act on any existing cultural variation between groups (see Boehm, 1997). Moreover, this selection pressure was stable in our ancestral environment (Pleistocene hunter-gatherers) for a long enough period of time for a new evolutionary trait to evolve.40 Another source of group selection approach in the Study of Religions could be found within some memetic evolutionary theories. It is mainly S. Blackmore (1999), who uses the concept and in classical memetic accounts, she is an exception. But the analysis of her conceptualization of origin and development of religion can be found in the chapter devoted to memetics. The notion of group selection appears in CSR also with Dual Inheritance Theory. The coevolutionary model by P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd is cautious with reference to the group selection – rather than trying to prove its effect and influence, the authors engage in hypothetical modelling of conditions that theoretically enable group selection to occur. In those instances, when they entertain the idea of group selection and use the group as adaptive unit, they usually refer to it by the term ‘crude superorganism’ (Richerson & Boyd, 1999), which nicely illustrates their careful approach to the ‘organismic concept of human groups’. Nevertheless, they count on group selection and use it in their work (for more see the chapter ‘Dual Inheritance Accounts’).

Critical analysis of group selection accounts Following a presentation of the applications of group selection to explanations of religious phenomena, and after making its assertions more specific, explicitly relating individual opinions to the whole position and after shedding light on some of their assumptions and argumentative patterns, I come now to the critical analysis itself. Specifically, I will assess to what degree these applications are able to meet all criteria given by the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection as defined in the introduction. By this, I intend to show to what extent this pursuit can be judged either as a legitimate extension of this theory or as its misuse as bad metaphor or poor analogy. First of all, let me reiterate the criteria of neo-Darwinian theory. Within a system there are

54

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

replicators (units that can create high-fidelity copies of themselves) which compete with each other for limited resources and if the conditions are ideal they will grow in numbers exponentially. In the copying process these units sometimes suffer accidental errors (mutations) that might result in an increase in replicating frequency. Such errors, which are inadvertent/unintended/ involuntary, have as a consequence their gradual accumulation in a given population. This process is mechanistic and the replicators’ success is judged solely by the number of their copies. Do group selection accounts meet the criteria? When we encounter an ‘evolutionary’ process in which units are shaped on many levels by the deliberate/voluntary actions of their bearers, such group selection account begins to violate the condition of the accidentality of errors (mutations). System of beliefs, values, ritual behaviours and other elements that constitute the religion of a specific group are all subjected to the ‘engineering practices’ of intentional agents. No matter what the status/standing of these agents is, from the very last forgotten, unimportant, nameless pawns of the masses to the memorable victors, founders, reformers or elite leaders, only the degree but not kind of our problem is changed. And that problem is the non-randomness of the agents’ purposeful actions and their ability to modify, adjust and tailor the units of transmission to fit their needs. The admittance of design/intention on this level simply violates the all-important randomness principle. Similar violations also concern the principle of success evaluation. The theory of natural selection in this case is very restrictive and the only admissible method/evidence is the number of replicators within the population under consideration. Yet group selection accounts neglect the process of replications of groups (it never is about copies of groups; in fact, group is not what replicates; there never is a set of groups in which some groups would be more successful than others in duplicating/replicating themselves; group itself is not a replicator). Group selection accounts use different success evaluations altogether when they judge the success of religious systems. We do not find statements that monotheistic traditions replicate better than polytheistic traditions and therefore there is larger number of monotheistic religions than polytheistic religions in the whole of population of religions in the world (see Pinker, 2012). And that is because the success of religious traditions is judged on the grounds of arbitrarily established analogies of success, such as wealth,

Group Selection Accounts

55

influence, power, longevity, territorial expansion or size.41 But the problem lies in the fact that these analogies are burdened with anthropocentrism and consequently, we assess their validity according to our own cultural background. Additionally, this ‘success’ is ascribed to the whole entity not only to the entity founded on the chain end of all descendants (see Pinker, 2012). My other criticism relates to the definition of organism. Religious groups do not meet the basic definitional conditions of organism. This objection is very similar to pointing out troubles that group selection accounts have when it comes to justifying their choice of relevant group (D. S. Wilson sometimes refers to them as human societal organisms, see 2002: 37). And as I have argued before, the choice of a relevant group is at the very core of every attempt to apply group selection theory successfully. Nevertheless, achieving more accurate (unambiguous, sufficiently satisfactory) definition of a group that would suit the needs of group selection theory amounts to much larger problem than would appear at first sight. To a certain extent, it is the same issue that we know from our own discipline of how to justify a demarcation (narrowing down) of certain notions such as culture, identity or religion. Such a demarcation would help to show that group adaptiveness is not an empty word that could be arbitrarily assigned to any phenomenon, which seems to resemble vaguely defined traits of groupishness. Too often we may encounter ‘obvious’ adaptive traits being assigned to almost anything in popular opinion. Every sneaky means of catching prey is an adaptation, every colour is in the right place for perfect camouflage, every smell and shape of a flower petal is there to attract just the right pollinator etc. You cannot ‘miss’ them when you watch flocks of birds, schools of fish, herds of deer, ant colonies etc., that are ‘visible to naked eye’ even as whole species or enormous ecosystems. The whole planet can be seen in this sense as one big organism (Gaia Hypothesis). And some authors do not mind how many levels they skip to reach the desired ‘obvious’ results or they switch perspectives every time they bump into new features. Such perspectives, based in evolutionary theory, need to be held consistently but if they were, they would yield contradictory results. I acknowledge that this kind of axiomatic view of every group as an adaptive unit is not present within the modern group selection accounts that I review here. What remains, however, is a dire need to base studies on much larger samples and especially randomly chosen samples, without which the doubts of

56

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

cherry-picking of theory-confirming cases will remain to cloud its implications/ conclusions. D. S. Wilson (2005) attempted to take this step when he tested his major evolutionary hypotheses about religion with a random sample of 35 religions drawn from a 16-volume encyclopaedia of world religions. However, as well noted by J. Bulbulia and M. Frean (see 2009), even though randomly assigned, the sample was not chosen from a randomly selected population. The encyclopaedia from which the research draws its samples, records only historical cases, that is, victors that have already proven to be ‘adaptive’ in the sense of Wilson’s theory. Evolutionary biologists, because of their professional training, are sensitive to similar offenses. Cognitive/evolutionary scientists of religion must build this sensitivity gradually and as scientists in any other discipline they must try to achieve it also with more precise definitions. The question remains to what extent they are successful so far and what the subsequent effects of accurate definitions are on the theory in question. My conclusion in this section is that group selection accounts have so far failed to provide a definition of a group that would be needed for them to successfully defend and maintain their claims. Group selection definitions of a group continue to suffer from arbitrariness and ambiguity. Their choice of determining characteristics, which necessarily omits other characteristics, is still too vague. For example, D. S. Wilson suggests a criterion of ‘trait-group’ (1975) which allows him to define a group time and again differently depending on what trait he is currently interested in. His goal then becomes the evolutionary history of a particular trait (e.g. altruistic trait) and the characteristics of the trait will determine how the group will be circumscribed (Wilson, 2002: 15; endnote 5): ‘It is the localized nature of social interactions and not sharp boundaries that form the basis of multilevel selection theory.’ This solution, although seemingly natural and meaningful, brings with it a number of other problems. It is, for example, necessary for a particular trait to be always associated with a specific activity as this activity determines exactly one type of group. Yet such a condition is very hard to meet with most of the traits we are interested in when we study religions in humans. To strengthen the solution, D. S. Wilson states that in biology (2002: 16): ‘the groups are decided by the biology of the organism, not the whim of the biologist’. But he fails to mention what kind of troubles we would get in if we relied solely on

Group Selection Accounts

57

biology for definitions of human groups throughout the evolutionary history of our species from its beginnings to the present. There is a huge variability in human groups. Our ability to expand (to some extent cross/overcome – figuratively speaking) biological limitations allows us to function (interact) in various kinds of groups which differ in the ways and levels of interaction as well as in size. Biology is not going to be very helpful when we address several groups, differing in size, function, goals, interaction etc., when from a biological point of view all the participants are the same. If D. S. Wilson meant the biology of the organism as an analogy for, for example, the biology of religious group, it remains a mystery what that could be and in what domain of science it will be met. We might quickly reach the conclusion that it has been successfully pursued for more than a century by sociology. But such an analogy would be confusing as the initial example from biology is meaningful, only if it helps to determine the way of organizing and functioning of the group, based on limitations and predeterminations given from the lower (more basic/profound) level, that is, biological level. In such figurative use, in which there is a transfer of rule to the next level, the only thing we would be allegedly stating is that the organization and functioning of a group is determined by the organization and functioning of that group. That would, of course, be a tautology and would not get us far. Some authors define group as any subset of interacting individuals (two or more), where the interaction is frequent and more intensive than the interaction between random individuals from the same population (see Queller, 1992). S. Pinker points out that if we choose such a criterion, and there might not be any other option for group selectionists, we lose sight of or even brush away fundamental psychological differences between groups. Only such an artificial step would allow us to see them and work with them as if they were equivalent. In his own words (Pinker, 2012): ‘While mathematically speaking one can identify a “group” with any arbitrary set, in practice using a single construct for a pair of siblings, a person holding a door open for a stranger, a waitress and a customer, a married couple, a street gang, a traditional band or tribe, a nation, and an empire conceals the significant psychological differences among them.’ My criticism of the selection of a relevant group may be better understood, if I rephrase it as a criticism of the way group selection accounts define an

58

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

organism. Conventional biological definition sees organism as a unit which is adaptive with respect to many traits. It is a bundle of phenotypic effects which are intertwined in such a fashion that the survival of each gene is dependent upon the survival of other genes. This is, by the way, also the reason why genes cooperate and join forces to create individual bodies in the first place. As they subsequently share with all the others the only way out to next bodies in the following generation, R. Dawkins (2012) speaks in this context of the ‘same/ shared exit route’. You cannot consider an organism to be something that behaves adaptively only in one context but not in others (see Sterelny & Grifffiths, 1999). Human groups therefore do not meet the standard conditions to be considered vehicles for natural selection. For example, a single human being behaves as a single organism in many contexts. He/she moves as a single unit, eats as a single unit, reproduces as a single unit, struggles for survival as a single unit. But as we have seen, the concept of group trait can change the definition of organism (superorganism) again and again with every change of observed/examined trait. In this concept, an organism can be an adaptive unit in regards to one trait (chosen as important for the moment) while other traits it carries can be deliberately marginalized, ignored or go unnoticed.42 In support of the groups-as-organisms view, authors sometimes use the advances in evolutionary biology made since the 1960s. Some try to illustrate these shifts with several radical theories introduced in the 1970s. These theories basically state that it appears likely that a change/transition can take place from groups of organisms to groups as organisms. In short this means that single organisms are themselves highly integrated social groups. For example, L. Margulis (see 1970) argued that eukaryotic cells are actually symbiotic communities of bacteria whose members led a more autonomous existence in the distant past. However, even this view has rather damaging consequences. First of all, the analogy to such impressive and extraordinary transitions which evolutionary biology tags as ‘major transitions of life’ (see Maynard Smith & Szathmary, 1995), looks more like wishful thinking than evidence when carried over to human-groups-as-organism concept. It is not hard to argue that there is no reason to think that the exceptional transition occurred just because the organism lives in groups. Especially when there are a vast number of

Group Selection Accounts

59

counterexamples (therefore the adjective ‘exceptional’) which do (did) not lead to the transition. Second, when considering human groups, the analogy is again imprecise. While these theories allow for the fact that an assessed ‘produced’ organism (eukaryotic cell) is an organism in the more restricted sense, that is, is an adaptive unit in respect to many traits, the same is still untrue about human social groups. This supportive analogy is part of a broader argument trying to justify the possibility of using functionalist thinking at a higher level than that of genes themselves. Its classic example is the procedure in which it appears that we use functionalist thinking on the level of individual organisms as a standard, even though, from the gene’s point of view it means omitting its individual interests. If we are, for example, interested in the size and shape of a particular organ, we ask what function it has for a single organism (animal), not for a single gene and we want to know what environmental selective pressures and played their role in its shaping, and why. This explanatory procedure provides satisfactory results, that is, it delivers valid answers to our question about the size and shape of the organ. So, the argument goes, we can proceed in the same way at the group level, because the conflict between the interests of individual genes within the single organism (intragenomic conflict) is equivalent to a conflict between the interests of individuals within a group. Then why can we not use this functionalist thinking at higher levels (i.e. human groups)? It should be noted that the term ‘interest’ might possibly be a source of a number of confusions. And primarily I do not even mean the dimension in which only individuals may have interests, because they alone are gifted with intentionality genes and groups lack. The confusion I emphasize here comes even if we continue with a purely biological understanding of the term interest. In this understanding, an interest has to do with anything that actively interacts with its environment and thus expresses its preference for (tendency to) specific objectives. A single-celled organism or gene has such interest. So what kind of confusion do I have in mind? The moment we begin to switch between levels (gene, individual, group) without recognizing one of them as basic (primary/dominant), we switch between interests of these units without having a rule that would guide us in deciding which is in the services of which. If the interests are in this view equivalent then it might happen that they might also be contradictory with no way of how to see some of them as proximate

60

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

mechanisms in the service of ultimate goals (such as it is elegantly done by the ‘gene-view revolution’). It is at this point the supportive analogy used by group selection/multiple selection becomes confusing, because it does not hold a unifying perspective of the interests of the lowest level (i.e. gene’s) as primary thus confining/conditioning the interests of the two remaining units (individual, group). If we leave the dominant perspective which begins with the interests of genes that shape the interests of individuals that shape the interests of groups, we lose one essential thing. That is, a justification of why genes would even bother to form individuals and why would individuals form groups if not to enforce (or enhance their ability/opportunity to achieve) their own interests. But this kind of functionalist thinking was the cause of the crisis that an earlier evolutionary biology found itself in and that the ‘gene-view revolution’ led it out of. Part of the solution was a greater focus on the distinction between replicators and vehicles (for more see ‘replicators and vehicles/interactors distinction’ below). Also the gene-individual/individual-group analogy is not as accurate as proponents of group selection would have wished for, because, as I have mentioned before, the fate of individuals and genes is tied together in a much stronger fashion than is the fate of individuals and groups (see ‘shared exit route’, ‘instability of groups’ etc.). Moreover, as M. E. Price points out (see 2012b), intragenomic conflict is very rare, while within-group conflict is the norm. The next big problem related to the definition of groups by means other than a standard definition of organism is the one connected to J. Tooby’s ‘Heterarchic Pathway Feedback Theory’ (see 2012), where he criticizes multilevel selection theory already on the biological level. He thus turns the standard way of criticizing which usually focuses on the demonstration of errors that occur when somebody tries to biologize the sociocultural domain. He claims that multilevel selection theory suffers from errors of reverse procedure, when we try to impose on the biological world the kind of hierarchical classification (‘nested class inclusion’) that is not inherent to it. On the contrary, structures in which the biological domain operates appear to be very different and what is worse they interfere with (contradict) such an imposed order of things. Natural selection operates on the basis of positive feedback causal pathways between the effects of genes and their subsequent frequencies. Those genes

Group Selection Accounts

61

that succeed will be favoured by selection. The problem is that, as J. Tooby (2012) asserts: ‘These pathways need not be, and often will not be aligned, mutually consistent, or representable as operating at different levels in a hierarchy, but instead will often be cross-cutting and heterarchical.’ Even on the intragenomic level, different genomes have different fitness interests and therefore press for different adaptations sometimes disrupting one another (see Cosmides & Tooby, 1981). The problem of group demarcation (hence the definition of an organism) is inextricably linked to the problem of determining what actually constitutes the fitness of a group and how we are able to access it. Fitness of every organism needs to be considered as relative and localized. Relativity in this context means that it is neither possible nor necessary to determine absolute values but rather to compare it with the fitness of other relevant organisms. Fitness is, therefore, a matter of relatedness and benchmarking. The question is not whether the organism managed to survive and reproduce in the best possible manner but whether it survived and reproduced better than relevant alternative types of organisms.43 Perhaps the biggest controversy in this process lies in fitness averaging as used by the standard individual-gene selection theories, specifically, an averaging of individual fitness across all groups. Standard individual-gene selection theory measures fitness in relation to the entire population (resulting in self vs. others’ fitness), while group selection theory in relation to the group (resulting in a differentiation of within-group and between-group fitness). The moment we use averaging when defining fitness, as do individual-gene selection theories, we ignore the differences that exist in the fitness of the population between various groups and we blur the information that is most important for the group selection theory. Actually, by very definition, we erase an area in which group selection theory could prove its competence. Not to use averaging is therefore crucial for group selection theories because this practice blurs the differences they use to determine the possible superior strength of between-group selective pressures. D. S. Wilson and E. Sober therefore put much weight on a criticism of this principle and they try to promote the term ‘averaging fallacy’. But to average fitness in the definitional framework is the norm in all major theories working within the framework of the main neo-Darwinian hypothesis, such as the Inclusive Fitness Theory (see Hamilton, 1963; 1964;

62

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

1975), the Evolutionary Game Theory (Maynard Smith, 1982; Skyrms, 1996; Dugatkin, 1997) or the Selfish Gene Theory (Williams, 1966; Dawkins, 1976). Proponents of averaging argue that avoiding it can lead us to fundamental errors, as it did, according to them, in the case of the concept of weak altruism (D. S. Wilson, 1975). Altruism redefined in this way, in their opinion: ‘leads to the confusing situation where a trait could be favoured because it selfishly increases an individual’s direct fitness, but will be weakly altruistic by Wilson’s definition’ (West, Griffin & Gardner, 2007: 420). It is important to realize that if we asses an individual’s fitness relative to the individuals that it interacts with in its group and not to the individuals of the whole population (breeding population), and if we accept D. S. Wilson’s definition that behaviour which leads to reduced fitness of the individual, in comparison to the fitness of other individuals of the group, is ‘weakly altruistic’, it creates possible instances of behaviour by which the actor increases the fitness of all group members, including their own, which, however, in comparison to other group members, increased less due to actor’s costs (as with for example, production of a public good). For other semantic confusions generated by the group selection literature see Grafen (1984), who shows how different types of group selection can be mixed up. Grafen (2006) focuses especially on the fallacy that sees new group selection as broader than inclusive fitness or kin selection and in this respect more suitable for explanation of some empirical cases. Similarly West et al. (2007: 425) state that: ‘there is no biological model or empirical example that can be explained with the new group selection approach, that cannot also be understood in terms of kin selection and inclusive fitness’. And Wade (1985) identifies the problem of how numerous can be potential meanings of ‘group selection’ when it is based only on partitioning of selection into withingroup and between-group components which can be done for any arbitrarily defined group. Also see Reeve & Keller (1999), who pay special attention to reoccurrence of confusions as new fields embrace relevant aspects of social evolution theory. For a deeper critical evaluation of disputes about the correct procedure (calculation/analysis) between the two approaches, it is therefore necessary to keep in mind that you cannot just compare the ‘equations’ of both and say which of them reached the correct result, but that there is also a difference due to the different default definitions.

Group Selection Accounts

63

It remains an open question which of the definitional frameworks might be more accurate and more useful for grasping the issue of whether religious groups are adaptive or not. What arguments allow evolutionary biologists to blur these differences by definition when calculating individual fitness at the level of genetic evolution? And should a majority consensus at this level, namely the fact that most prominent evolutionary biologists find these arguments convincing, play any role? Or is it important to maintain the differences in the data because of our intentions and not to lose them by averaging? The main argument for averaging (see Grafen, 2006) is that how well a gene will spread is dependent on how well its fitness is doing in comparison to the fitness values of all the other genes within the whole reproducing population and not just in comparison to those with whom it finds itself interacting with at the moment (group). In other words, natural selection selects for the gene that increases its replication frequency in the whole population and not just in some arbitrarily designated group/subset (see West et al., 2007: 421–2). I will conclude my critical analysis of group selection accounts with an objection which will bring us back to the general level of assessment on which I began. What I have in mind is the uncritical dragging over of functionalist thinking. It is surprising to how inaccurate and naïve analogies D. S. Wilson can resort to when he works with religion. As an illustration I use this example which shows the signature of functionalist fallacy (2002: 31–2): Confront many human groups with the same novel problem and they will come up with different solutions, some much better than others. If the groups are isolated from each other, they may never converge on the best solution; evolution is not such a deterministic process. If the groups are in contact, they might compare solutions and the worst might quickly imitate the best. If convergence by imitation does not occur, then the worst might simply succumb to the best in between-group interactions. Either way, the final outcome is a degree of adaptation to the problem, without any genetic evolution taking place at all. Evolution took place, but not at the genetic level.

In addition to D. S. Wilson’s enigmatic circling around the phrase cultural evolution, troubles of which I have pointed out earlier, he treats cultural variation as if it were a kind of technological solution in which it is at least hypothetically possible to determine the degree to which it is good or bad.

64

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

However, if we want to relate a similar principle of Wilson’s assessment to religious beliefs or ritual practices, we soon discover how illusory the previously seemingly solid grounding of the evaluative terms like worst or best is. On what basis will we judge the functionality of two religious ideas? Who and on what grounds will evaluate which of the two rituals is better? All that is left is to wait for the outcome of real rivalry but it will always be dependent on so many other factors that common cause-and-effect explanations of this process will not be aided by bringing in the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection. It adds nothing illuminating to them. My conclusion from the whole of the foregoing analysis is that group selection accounts, in an attempt to explain sociocultural phenomenon such as religion, fail to meet the fundamental principles of the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection and thus do not reach the criteria of its legitimate extensions. Except as a misleading analogy and poor metaphor it adds nothing to existing historical accounts of cultural change which operate at the level of ordinary causal explanations.

4

Dual Inheritance Accounts

The Dual Inheritance Theory of P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd is another reviewed theory that employs the genuine process of cultural evolution and is strongly represented in the current CSR. In my typology, Dual Inheritance Theory is a prime example of the combination of the concepts of evolution through culture and the evolution of culture. The conceptual division between evolution through culture and the evolution of culture is introduced to capture the difference between the two types of evolutionary accounts we currently run into, and for which, with no other distinction, we have used the same term of cultural evolution. The essential difference between the two accounts is whether or not they really employ the genuine autonomous process of evolution of culture or not. If it does not, the account is evolutionary because its basic paradigm takes into account the feedback effects of culture on the gene. However, this evolution through culture account does not claim that the process of cultural change should be subject to Darwinian principles. It therefore allows for the influence of culture on the biological evolution of our species, and furthermore, it makes it central to its interest. However, this account does not claim that in the explication of cultural development itself we should be able to successfully apply evolutionary principles (such as natural selection). In the case of evolution through culture, Dual Inheritance Theory models how cultural pressures are capable of selecting some genetic mutations (e.g. lactose digestion beyond infancy), thus focusing on the issue of how strongly culture can influence our gene pool. How does the reasoning of this part of the theory look like in a nutshell? Some cultural ‘gains’, especially those technological in nature, may be so pronounced and their ‘contribution’ sufficiently stable within a given population for a sufficiently long period of time (measured by the number of generations), to be able to contribute to the transformation of the human genome. Only few

66

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

cases were so far developed in bigger detail. The most frequently mentioned is the ability to digest milk and dairy products in adulthood which was in some populations made possible by the long cultural tradition of domestication and subsequent incorporation of milk in the diet (dairying).1 The ability to acquire nutrients in this way may have increased the probability of survival in specific environmental conditions and thus led to the spread of a given genetic mutation in a population. This idea was originally called in the 1970s the ‘Simoons Hypothesis’,2 and at the time was considered controversial. Later, however, thanks to genetic research, it was demonstrated that adult lactose digestion is controlled by a single dominant gene. Moreover, population statistics subsequently supported the view that a history of dairying is the best predictor of this gene’s spread in given populations (see Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi & Piazza, 1994; Holden & Mace, 1997). This example effectively illustrates what kind of arguments evolution through culture uses. For dairying to make its impact at the level of genetically transmitted information (the spread of the dominant gene allowing adult lactose digestion in a given population) required only 300 generations (an exceptionally short period of time in evolutionary terms). The ability to create complex cultural adaptations emerges in human evolution, according to P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (see 2005: 193–4), approximately twenty thousand generations ago, thus creating a period long enough for this kind of interesting selective pressures to operate on human gene pools.3 A similar kind of argument was presented by evolutionary anthropologist R. Wrangham in the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. Wrangham’s theory (2009) claims that the ability to cook food (through any kind of heat processing) led to a reduction in the time and energy demands in digestion of such food. That in turn led to a substantial reduction in the size of human guts and, in combination with other factors such as the possibility to utilize a larger amount of protein, also led to an increase in brain size. Similar examples of physiological impacts can be associated with long-term use of certain objects, such as throwing weapons which led to the realignment of muscle stratification in the upper torso or to changes in the morphology of the palm and shoulder. Some authors go further and say that it need not be only technologies that have an impact on the genome but, in principle, any cultural forms. I have

Dual Inheritance Accounts

67

already introduced the Guarded Egalitarianism Hypothesis by C. Boehm (for more information see chapter ‘Group Selection Accounts’). Similarly, H. Gintis in his Moral Sense Hypothesis claims that conformity to cultural/ social norms was also likely to increase biological fitness. Non-compliance/ violation/exceedance of cultural/social norms was met with banishment/ ostracism. This, in turn, was related (at least in hunter-gatherer societies) with increased difficulty in access to resources (food as well as reproduction), and, in extreme cases, exile, therefore threatening survival. If there is a genetic predisposition for conformity, something like an altruism gene, it would be selected for by sexual selection (or other kinds of social selection), and the free-rider gene (the genetic predisposition to violate social norms) should be gradually eradicated. C. Boehm’s, S. Bowles’, H. Gintis’, and R. Boyd and P. J. Richerson’s theories are in the end all instances of gene-culture coevolution. But their scenarios differ in details and care must be taken to ensure we do not blur these differences. One of the main differences is the extent to which they work with the concept of evolution of culture. Another difference lies in what kind of selection they see as fundamental for their models – whether kin selection, direct reciprocity or indirect reciprocity (selection by reputation). Yet another difference is whether their model requires group selection or not, which connects to the differences in how they argue for increase in group selection effectiveness. I also have to mention that although this text about various representatives of gene-culture coevolution finds itself in a chapter ‘Dual Inheritance Accounts’, Dual Inheritance Theory is just one of the representatives of theories of geneculture coevolution. It is a narrower concept and trademark of the authors R. Boyd and P. J. Richerson. To increase the contrast of the difference between: (A) the EWCE approach (elaborated on in a separate chapter) which is not against the concept of evolution through culture in principle, but which refuses to recognize that there is an autonomous process of cultural evolution (in the sense of the concept of the evolution of culture), and (B) approaches which utilize cultural evolution (in the sense of the concept of the evolution of culture), one might focus on what each tradition of research puts a greater emphasis on. While the EWCE approach emphasizes the limitations/constrains of any cultural ‘superstructure’ by the genetic ‘base’ (to use Marx’s terminology), the evolution of culture

68

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

approach stresses the autonomy and power of cultural ‘superstructure’. This dual emphasis can be nicely illustrated by the metaphor used by P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (2005: 194), when they paraphrased C. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson’s statement, that ‘genes have culture on a leash’ (1981: 303)4 and expand it to: ‘Culture is on a leash, all right, but the dog on the end is big, smart, and independent. On any given walk, it is hard to tell who is leading who.’ The name of the theory (Dual Inheritance) refers to another of the fundamental principles that this theory develops. As I have mentioned, its authors work with the concept of the interconnectedness of processes of biological as well as cultural evolution. Although the two processes are inextricably intertwined and influence each other, the method of replication is different for each. Genes need a special kind of information to be able to create their own exact copies in the next generation and genetic evolution functions thanks to this information being stored in/written to DNA. Cultural evolution operates with another type of inheritance and cultural information is transmitted to the next generation by learning. The information is then encoded in language, cultural artefacts, etc.5 Dual Inheritance Theory is not a theory which would work with cultural evolution in the same way as the concept of evolution through culture. On the contrary, it is a model stepping far beyond these boundaries, which also uses the genuine evolution of culture that, as we have seen, combines with biological/ genetic evolution.6 What do the main features of cultural evolution look like in this theory? First of all, Dual Inheritance Theory openly works with a nonrandom origin and inheritance of variants. Cultural variants (mutations) need not arise blindly with respect to fitness. On the contrary, they can arise due to entirely intentional effort that leads to the creation of a new invention or to an achievement of a new kind of solution to some kind of problem. Subsequently, this new invention or achievement can then be just as intentionally handed over/transferred to someone else in a process of generational social learning. According to the authors of Dual Inheritance Theory, this non-randomness does not obstruct the natural selection, as that, in their opinion, works with any pattern of heritable variation. But as they argue further, intentionally produced variants are, overall, rare and cannot replace the prevalent, learned, inherited variants. This conviction is in P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd’s works reflected in their understanding of how the process of religious innovation works (2005:

Dual Inheritance Accounts

69

53–4): ‘Religious innovations are a lot like mutations, and successful religions are adapted in sophisticated ways beyond the ken of individual innovators. The small frequency of successful innovations suggests that most innovations degrade the adaptation of a religious tradition, and only a lucky few improve it.’ This last point is essential for the theory and it also shows the inconsistency of the original claim, which I feel needs to be emphasized, and which I will try to explain with the help of the following quotation. P. J. Richerson says (2012): ‘In human culture, non-random variation and natural selection can both play roles in the evolution of cultural variation so long as the effects of non-random variation are not so strong as to overwhelm the transmitted aspect of culture.’ Here, the author suddenly puts the non-random variation and natural selection in counteraction, as if they were antagonistic in the same way as I understand them by my definition. My criticism concerns the fact that the Dual Inheritance Theory first defines natural selection more broadly and openly proclaims that the non-randomness in the principle of inheritance does not obstruct it in any way. However, as the quote shows, the theory does not uphold this rule and non-random variation is incorporated only feignedly. In order to apply the natural selection of cultural forms it needs to push the influence of nonrandom variation to an insignificant position. This, however, just shows that non-random variation is not an integral part of natural selection, nor a part of the theory of evolution based on natural selection, on the contrary, it is an impassable obstacle for such a theory. Advocates of Dual Inheritance Theory must, therefore, constantly strive for mutually relating the two different types of selection: intentional selection (nonrandom variation/deliberate inventions) and natural selection. Simply put, the model of complementarity of non-random innovation and natural selection could be understood, in this theory of cultural evolution, as a symbiosis, in which the first process helps to speed up the latter, rather slow, process. Human cultural creations are, in a short time, laid on the table by innovative spirits and then seized by natural selection moving at glacial speed. Thus, the human species is gifted with a special ability to build on its inheritance, adding to it ‘something else’, and through the non-random creations, selective innovations, cultural diffusion and intentional selection of popular cultural variants,7 accelerate the process of its cultural evolutionary adaptations which would be reached by natural selection only very slowly.

70

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

In a more detailed analysis, we learn that the duality in Dual Inheritance Theory can refer to not one, but two things. The first, and more fundamental of these dualities affects the level of human evolution in general, where it refers to a distinction between two basic types of evolutionary processes: genetic and cultural, which differ in their method of the transmission of information (inheritance). The second duality is reflected on a more specific level of cultural evolution itself, where it refers to a separation of two kinds of selection interacting in the process of cultural change. These selections are the non-random invention and the natural selection of cultural variations.8 It is precisely this combination in which lies the specific contribution of Dual Inheritance Theory that formally sees itself as a theory of cultural evolution and understands itself as a Darwinian (i.e. built on Darwinian principles) theory of history. And what exactly are the basic features of the process of cultural evolution in Dual Inheritance Theory? Its cumulative evolutionary process is very rapid in comparison to genetic evolution,9 and culture usually evolves by the accumulation of small variations. This element might seem like an axiomatic standard, but it need not be always the case. In biology, there is a significant line of argument claiming that new adaptations occur mostly in big jumps. Among proponents of this idea we could find for example ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ T. H. Huxley or more recently S. J. Gould, who were both in favour of the view that evolution by and large works in the way that once in a while there arises a distinctive mutation10 which is either accepted or rejected by natural selection. The stress that proponents of the Dual Inheritance Theory put on the accumulation of small variations as being fundamental to the process of cultural change is understandable. For if cultural evolution moved in large jumps which would be, in addition, non-random mutations/intentional inventions created by ‘cultural inventors’ (wilful monsters), the only contribution of Dual Inheritance Theory would be to shunt the domain of explaining why some cultural inventions got accepted and spread, while others were rejected and were doomed to failure and extinction. That would again fall within the normal type of cause-and-effect explanations used in traditional historical explanatory frameworks which can do without the add-on value of the theory of natural selection, and that is something its authors do not want to settle for. The theory of P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd along with J. Henrich’s model uses a similar concept of group selection as D. S. Wilson. However, Richerson, Boyd

Dual Inheritance Accounts

71

and Henrich commendably supplement their theory with a clarifying cultural component, and use the term cultural group selection in their writings. Thus the authors make explicit an important distinction between cultural group selection and genetic/biological group selection, which remains only implicitly present in the works of many others. They argue that humans are in fact equipped by innate selflessly/self-sacrificing altruistic psychological traits (selfless altruism) as opposed to just innate selfishly altruistic psychological traits (selfish altruism), as evidenced by the uniqueness of psychopathy. However, as I stated earlier, this example would be a sufficient objection if and only if the standard individualgene selection would predict that the majority of the population ought to be psychopath-like or could not explain why it is not. Yet neither of these problems affect the standard individual-gene selection theory. This is because this theory predicts that to be genuinely altruistic is the best possible evolutionary strategy – not only based on selfless sacrifice for the group, but also based on individual selfish interests (see chapter ‘Group Selection Accounts’). Standard evolutionary theories of human cooperation (i.e. those that do not, and do not need to, incorporate group selection) work through what I call selfish altruism. That is, either through direct or indirect fitness benefits brought to cooperating individuals as per Axelrod and Hamilton (1981); or through reciprocal altruism (direct fitness benefits in Hamilton’s terminology) as per Trivers (1971). It has been argued in the last two decades – mainly by developers of one of the most comprehensive and influential cultural group selection approaches to human cooperation, which is now called the Beliefs, Preferences, and Constraints model (Fehr & Henrich, 2003; Gintis, Bowles, Boyd, & Fehr, 2003; Boyd & Richerson, 2006; also C. Boehm should be mentioned among the developers of the model) – that these standard approaches face several problems. Among these are mainly: (1) why humans cooperate in anonymous contexts when their reputation is not at stake, (2) why humans engage in the costly punishment of others or (3) why humans help others spontaneously – even when they have not been helped previously. Yet some have shown that these standard approaches can comfortably accommodate all of these apparent issues (for the extended argument with special respect to the importance of the Partner choice mechanism see Baumard et al., 2013). Let me elaborate on the distinction between selfless and selfish altruism a little further to make clearer what I am stating and to show that it is a real problem

72

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

and not just a ‘minor quibble’. The difference of whether we are endowed by innate selflessly/self-sacrificing altruistic psychological traits rather than by innate selfishly altruistic psychological traits refers to the biological dimension of altruism not altruism as per its psychological definition (for more, see chapter ‘Group Selection Accounts’). These are biologically inheritable traits, and this is not altered by the fact that they are at the same time psychological in their nature. Selfless and selfish altruism are not references indicating authenticity or falsity of unselfish psychological motivations, because these are similarly true for both types of traits. This is the case even though these traits can later be connected to additional specific differences in behavioural responses. They are references to propensities to act which, in my definition, either: (a) benefits the recipient but is costly to the actor (+/-), or (b) benefits the recipient as well as the actor (+/+). Costs and benefits are here defined on the basis of the inclusive fitness consequences of a behaviour; inclusive fitness being the sum of direct and indirect fitness, measured as an impact of a behaviour on the production of offspring and on the production of offspring of related individuals respectively (for inclusive fitness and direct and indirect fitness, see West et al., 2007). The reason why it might seem at first glance that it is but a ‘minor quibble’, is due to the fact that we are trying to explain the same end result (the state of the world), that is, altruistic behaviour. At the very same time, it might also seem that both ways explain it with the same conclusion, and just as well. However, a closer look shows that this is not the case. If we think both explanations through, we will find that the predicted end results begin to differ in details (although both will continue to share true selfless psychological motivations). It will also show that one of the ways actually predicts an end result that we would struggle to find in reality. In a nutshell, the aim is to explain ‘something out there’ – a certain type of behaviour that we designate as altruistic. At the same time, we have two ways of accessing it: individual-gene selection and group selection, and we are trying to evaluate their usefulness. The difference between both types of traits is only a theoretical auxiliary intermediate step (a scientific hypothetical tool) of how to successfully reach that evaluation. The reason is that, when we imagine the differences between these selective pressures, we find out that it should necessarily lead to the development of different proclivities which shape the

Dual Inheritance Accounts

73

subsequent behaviour in question. Different proclivities then predict different resulting behaviours (different patterns of altruistic behaviour). The question is, which one of them better reflects the image of ‘that which is out there’ that we originally tried to explain. Does our altruism look more like an effort to maximize the total welfare of our group at any cost (selfless/self-sacrificing – indiscriminately valuing the good of even non-related ingroups); or rather, as an effort to maximize the fair outcome of all involved, because no one can accept an outcome in which they gain less than what they could gain with other partners (selfish – reciprocal, reputational or kin-discriminating)? (For further arguments, see chapter ‘The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution’.) To label the differences between these traits, one could choose other terms expressing the same idea, for example, one-way beneficial altruism vs. mutually beneficial altruism, or altruistic cooperation vs. mutually beneficial cooperation. Yet the latter would introduce, as a broader category, another important term: cooperation. Even though it would be in accord with some usage in the literature (see West et al., 2007: 418), it would move altruism to occupy a much narrower meaning. It would therefore create contradictio in adjecto in some highly influential widely used terms like reciprocal altruism (Trivers, 1971) or weak altruism (E. O. Wilson, 1975; used widely in the group selection literature), where it is commonly seen as being part of mutually beneficial ways of cooperation working through direct benefits. In this way, altruism would be moved in its meaning to work through indirect benefits only. Simpler distinctions like altruism vs. cooperation, altruism vs. selfishness or altruism vs. mutualism suffer from the same problems. Moreover, in the first case, cooperation might imply more than a single behaviour, and in the last case mutualism in biological and ecological literature denotes a more specific instance of cooperation between species (see Wilson, 1975 or West et al., 2007: 416) which some authors do not respect (e.g. Baumard et al., 2013). Therefore, I avoid these simpler distinctions and only add the adjectives selfless or selfish to altruism in order to increase specificity, thus keeping my definition of altruism in agreement with most of the approaches from both the empirical (see Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003) and the theoretical (see Boyd, Gintis, Bowles & Richerson 2003) sides of the literature on altruism in humans that allow the

74

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

inclusion of both recipient/actor (+/-) payoff and recipient/actor (+/+) payoff types of behaviours. Promoters of Dual Inheritance Accounts, similarly to D. S. Wilson’s position, argue that group selection is possible when we deal with higher-level adaptations (where there must exist competition between a greater number of comparable cases) that at the same time do not create greater conflict among the interests of lower levels (genes or individuals). Unlike D. S. Wilson, they use the word cultural to emphasize that it is a suitable framework for explaining behaviour unique for human species whereas for the vast majority of social behaviours of other mammals it is sufficient to use the standard inclusive fitness framework. However, in human between-group competition, culture plays an essential role. In groups where there exists the coevolution of genes carrying prosocial psychological traits and of prosocial cultural innovations that multiply their effects (e.g. highly arousing rituals with ingroup-prosociality/ outgroup-hostility boosting effects), these groups will most likely outcompete groups that lack such amplifying cultural technologies. A summary of the hypothesis that P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd developed within the framework of the Dual Inheritance Theory is nicely captured in its title – the Tribal Social Instincts Hypothesis (also referred to as the Within-Tribe Instincts Hypothesis). At its core lies the idea that we have predispositions towards: (a) the enforcement of rules of fairness, (b) guarded altruism to non-relatives, (c) conformity to social institutions, (d) enough trust to permit division of labour and (e) limited tolerance for leadership. Its further development and actual impact on Religious Studies are both addressed in the next section.

Dual inheritance accounts in Religious Studies The main feature (more of a trademark) of Dual Inheritance Theory in Religious Studies is that genuine cultural evolution means shifting the solution of the issue of whether religion is an adaptation or not to another level, that is, to the level of rapid cultural evolution, where this issue becomes especially difficult to decide. Its authors are then able to take as a starting point the view that many religious elements are based on the use of genetic psychological

Dual Inheritance Accounts

75

adaptations evolved in non-religious contexts, but conclude that cultural evolution (specifically cultural group selection) subsequently managed to transform/turn these by-products into an adaptation for collective action11 (see Richerson & Boyd, 1999; Boyd & Richerson, 2002; Richerson & Boyd, 2005;12 Henrich & Henrich, 2007). Thus the answer to the (at first glance simple) question about whether the basis of religious behaviour originated as an evolutionary adaptation or as a by-product of adaptations, which is already difficult enough for ‘insiders’,13 becomes considerably more complicated by adding an extra dimension of another evolutionary process. The fact that it is difficult (and how difficult) to find the answer on this level for the authors of the theory themselves is well illustrated by the title of the paper delivered by P. J. Richerson and L. Newson on the International Conference on the Evolution of Religion: ‘Is Religion Adaptive? Yes, No, Neutral, but Mostly, We Don’t Know’ (2008: 73).14 One of the characteristics of representatives of gene-culture coevolution, who work with multi-level selection, and whose influence on Religious Studies is strongest, includes essentially also the elaboration of mathematical models of cultural evolution. In addition to the above-mentioned P. J. Richerson, R. Boyd, J. Heinrich and S. Bowles this is also true in the case of P. Turchin. J. Henrich is closely associated (and often also co-publishes) with both P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd, the latter also being his doctoral advisor (see Henrich & Boyd, 1998; Henrich & Boyd, 2002; Henrich, Boyd & Richerson, 2008; Richerson, Boyd & Henrich, 2010; Boyd, Richerson & Henrich, 2011. He advocates the benefits of formal mathematical models of cultural evolution primarily on the basis of their ability to help us create otherwise counterintuitive predictions, more precise verbal theorizing and to generate new insights. And with them to bring along also new empirical research programmes in many fields ranging from genetics, evolutionary biology, anthropology and palaeoanthropology, through primatology and psychology, to archaeology and Religious Studies (see Henrich, 2001; Henrich & Boyd, 2002; Henrich et al., 2006; Henrich & Henrich, 2007; Henrich et al., 2010; Henrich, 2012).15 Incorporation of group selection into formal mathematical models of geneculture coevolution is also one of the topics of S. Bowles, who specializes in simulating conditions under which social norms may lead, during a contest between groups, to the expansion of altruism (see Bowles, 2006). P. Turchin

76

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

focuses his interest on the development of a general theory of cultural evolution in which he enriches the modelling of historical processes with the tools of ecology. His most well-known writings are related to explanations (and also predictions) of the rise and fall of empires (see Turchin, 2003; 2005; 2009; 2010). An example of the criticism of a mathematical model, that does not asses how mathematically sound the model is, but if the set of conditions are sufficiently plausible to help us solve the real-life problem, might be a following of Pinker’s evaluation of the model of evolution of altruism by S. Bowles. Bowles’ model in a nutshell states: In human evolutionary history there was a substantial time when competition (warfare) between groups had a high impact on the majority of members of the group (or even all members) with respect both to winners (access to new resources) and to losers (genocide). Victory or defeat depended on the amount/level of self-sacrifice of individuals of a given group. Even for self-sacrificing individuals, although reducing at the moment their fitness in comparison to selfish individuals of the same group, the benefits of the group’s victory outweighed the costs of the defeat if the period of conflict between the groups is sufficiently long enough and if the conflicts are substantial enough. For this reason, traits of sacrifice for the group evolved in humans, and thus it is a transparent model of the evolution of altruism, including empathy and generosity. Groups with many altruists will expand at the expense of groups with few or no altruists (see Bowles, 2006). S. Pinker criticizes this model as it is, according to him, based on a nonplausible assumption which does not reflect the real state of affairs, specifically, the assumption that altruism, in all its forms, leads to success in the inter-group military conflicts, or that it could be its primary cause. However, according to Pinker, the innate psychological altruistic trait includes not only rushing headlong into a battle, defending comrades with one’s own body or deliberately giving up of one’s food rations, but also elements significantly counterproductive from the perspective of military effectiveness such as compassion for the weak and needy. According to his opinion, in the real world the results of similar conflicts are decided primarily by other causes such as the differences in technology, ideology, military strategy and organization coerced by brutal discipline, none of which needs to be costly to the individuals who

Dual Inheritance Accounts

77

implement them. His sarcastic remarks about the model are right on target (Pinker, 2012): ‘Thus we have an explanation of why the world is divided into the empires of the Amish and the !Kung, whose barn-raising and food-sharing allowed them to overpower rival groups weakened by internal selfishness. By the same token the model explains why those selfish groups, with their haremholding despots, ruthless warlords, conscript armies, and exploited slaves and serfs have been so rare and short-lived in human history. It readily explains why warrior societies are distinguished by their charity, compassion toward the weak, and equality of women.’

The similar point that political history might supply us with much more parsimonious explanations of what might at times lead to large-scale non-kin cooperation is also accentuated by L. H. Martin (2008: 350): ‘one small-scale society may find it expedient to cooperate with another in competition with a third for, for example, resources insufficient to support all parties. Typically, these negotiations were concluded by strategies, such as an intermarriage, that allowed all members of the new alliance to be represented as trusted kin’. Dual Inheritance Theory comes to current Religious Studies mainly as a part of so-called the Big Gods Hypothesis, which connects the by-product position (standard CSR model) with cultural group selection (cultural evolution perspective).16 This hybrid position stands in opposition to individual selectionist-adaptationist accounts17 and considers religion a result of by-products. Nonetheless, it continues with the view that over the course of history some variants that arose via these normal cognitive processes became more successful than others through cultural group selection, thus treating religion as a secondary cultural adaptation. The Big Gods Hypothesis tries specifically to access a critical role that the belief in morally concerned gods may have played in the development of large-scale societies of cooperators (see Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007; Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008; Shariff, Norenzayan & Henrich, 2009; Shariff & Norenzayan, 2011; or Norenzayan, 2013; for related yet distinct argument see also Whitehouse, 2004 and 200818). Its authors suggest that social monitoring, which is necessary for punishing free-riding, uncooperative behaviours and cheating (without which societies collapse; see Henrich, 2006), was at a certain point in history outsourced to the widespread belief in morally concerned omniscient supernatural agents.

78

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

This point in history occurred gradually as societies expanded in size and anonymity made social monitoring more difficult (reputational and reciprocity incentives become insufficient). Subsequent experimental research (Shariff & Norenzayan, 2011) further elaborated on this hypothesis and supported the idea that it is not belief in just any morally concerned omniscient supernatural agents but rather the belief in morally concerned omniscient supernatural agents which are fearful and punishing (in contrast to benevolent), that may have been especially effective for this end.19 Social groups with punishing big gods outcompeted groups with other supernatural systems because they did not promote cooperation as effectively.20

Critical analysis of dual inheritance accounts Much of the critical analysis in this section has already been distributed to its relevant parts, first when presenting the general points of the theory (e.g. the distinction of selfish vs. selfless altruism; the non-random variation in relation to natural selection etc.), later also when introducing specific applications of the theory in the Study of Religions (e.g. mathematical modelling). Moreover, a large part of my objections against the cultural group selection (as the Dual Inheritance Theory is sometimes called) are also consistent with the objections I have raised against the concept of group selection in general as already presented in the previous section. Thus by mentioning them here again I would unnecessarily repeat myself. What follows, therefore, are only a few additional critical remarks. The term gene-culture coevolution21 (originally used by H. Gintis), which as I noted before is sometimes used synonymously with current theories of cultural evolution, is often used very vaguely and suffers from the same shortcomings as the term cultural evolution (when not accompanied by further specifications). The term captures well the close connection of theories of biological evolution with theories of evolution leaving its borders, which is a typical feature of this framework. Yet without further specification it is so broad that it can include, in the extremes, competing positions of solutions to the same problem. The ‘gene’ part, for example, does not mean that all its representatives necessarily advocate the standard neo-Darwinian individual-gene selection,

Dual Inheritance Accounts

79

though it might seem so at first glance, and create, thereby, an opposition to group selection accounts. And again, the ‘culture’ part in conjunction with the ‘coevolution’, does not in the same unpredictable spirit conclude that it would necessarily always have to include genuine cultural evolution (in the sense of a genuine evolution of culture). Thus the framework can include, on the one hand, evolutionary psychologists, who do not step beyond standard individual-gene selection and are interested in how our biological nature influences (parenthesizes/predetermines), through various traits of our inherited psychology, our cultural nature, or also those evolutionary anthropologists, who examine how culture can retroactively influence our genetic evolution (in the sense of evolution through culture). On the other hand, there is also room to fit certain sociobiological accounts (C. J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson), superorganism group selection accounts (D. S. Wilson), dual inheritance accounts (cultural group selectionists; see above) or memetic accounts (see next section). Overall, it is a spectrum containing a rather wide range of positions between those distinguishable (and already somewhat typified) positions.22 To repeat myself for the sake of greater clarity – one of the biggest problems I find with Dual Inheritance Theory is how to distinguish the degree/extent of influence of non-random variation in the system of cultural evolution, and the related issue of distinguishing the influence of intentional selection from that of natural selection. From my perspective, in which the definition of evolution is based on natural selection, and where non-random variation/selection undermines, by definition, natural selection, it is not possible to call processes involving non-random variation/selection an evolution. But even if I would draw back from this definition of evolution for the sake of the argument, and allow for the moment its widening and acknowledged that there may exist also a view of evolution that combines both processes and that both processes are somehow (to me mysteriously) successfully kept distinct (unlike P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd), I am convinced that in the cultural domain, the influence of the non-random variation/selection is the dominant one. In this view I agree with C. R. Darwin (1871), who saw the role of natural selection in ‘civilized times’ as marginal, and therefore as a poor model of cultural change. The Dual Inheritance Theory argues the opposite. In this view, the influence of non-random variations (deliberate inventions) within the cultural

80

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

change is marginal and it is natural selection which holds the helm of cultural change firmly in hand. Such emphasis allows the authors to proverbially eat their cake (to squeeze ‘evolution’ in to explaining sociocultural phenomena) and have it too (to lull those who point to the existence and influence of the non-random variation/selection at the level of the process of cultural change). However, in my view it weakens (compromises) their broader definition of evolution, because it shows that in the end it is again just and only natural selection, which they need to retain for ‘enriching’ explanations of cultural change by employing evolutionary theory. When explaining the specific parameters that non-random variation/ selection brings to the process, the authors, albeit acknowledging that it is a process ultimately different from the standard model of natural selection, do not show what ‘evolutionary theory’ applies to its unravelling. On the contrary, they continue to use only traditional explanatory practices working with ordinary causal explanations (although complex, still just cause and effects), and that is why I am still seeking the added ‘evolutionary’ value that the theory provides to the traditional concept of history. This objection is closely related to another problem which does not affect just the Dual Inheritance Theory, but any theory applying evolutionary principles to complex systems. On the contrary, Dual Inheritance Theory is one of those models that are, in the business of cultural evolution, most aware of the problem, and that tries to cope with it.23 The problem lies in the simultaneous operation of opposing evolutionary forces. Many of the cultural evolution theories count only on a single governing evolutionary force. Although such theories suffer from a great deal of naiveté, they do not suffer from this particular problem. Theories that avoid the naïve flattening allow for a parallel operation of larger number of evolutionary forces. The moment any part of the culture we focus our attention on is simultaneously shaped by a number of mutually intersecting, complementary or competing, or in other directions operating processes, it is necessary to decipher these processes and determine their relative power (influence). Even if we recognize that these processes are ‘evolutionary’, because there are also evolutionary forces involved in their formation, I argued in previous paragraphs that the dominant influence of those forces are not evolutionary in any defined sense. These forces and hence also the processes should be therefore addressed through normal causal explanations.

Dual Inheritance Accounts

81

Furthermore, even if we would see subsequent cultural evolutionary explanations as concerning only those evolutionary forces (and not others), I have not yet encountered a way to decipher (and thus to determine the relativity of) their influences. On the contrary, the fact that each of the examples used to illustrate the various processes and their effects stops at an illustration of where only one evolutionary force dominates, leads me to conclude that the degree of complexity and tangledness of these forces pushes the limits of possibility of any attempt to disentangle and determine the relative influences of these forces in the process of cultural change.24 I will conclude my critical analysis in this section with a remark which concerns all theories of gene-culture coevolution in its generality, but links mainly to the cultural evolutionary accounts in the next section (memetic accounts). I consider it to be an important point in the criticism of geneculture coevolution models, to which D. Sperber’s observation (1996: 114) that: ‘Gene-culture co-evolution is, however, too slow a process to explain cultural changes in historical time’ also draws our attention. In other words, even if we acknowledge the validity of these models, we must be forever aware that we would have committed a methodological error if we were to apply them to explanations of cultural changes that take place on the background of ‘short’ (and in this sense any ‘historical’) periods of time, as the proponents of memetics frequently do.

5

Memetic Accounts

Probably the most radical (and in general awareness also the best known) form of contemporary theory of cultural evolution, in the meaning of genuine evolution of culture I deal with in my analysis, is the Meme Theory. In the Meme Theory, it is praiseworthy that its authors (and also supporters), in their effort for the theory to be more than just analogy or metaphor, systematically try to fulfil all Darwinian components and thus seek to be thoroughly able to maintain all of its main fundamental elements and rules during its transfer to the sociocultural domain. As it will become clear from my analysis, there are remaining problems. The first one is the fact that they use broader definitional parameters of evolution (being inspired by Universal Darwinism) than the one I have chosen according to the criteria of neo-Darwinian evolution by natural selection (the present standard). For example, they define that any type of heritability is sufficient, and they do not hesitate to use the Lamarckian type for the cultural transfer. The second one, and in case of memetics much more pressing issue, is that even the components that match the definitional criteria of contemporary neo-Darwinian theory by natural selection, despite the effort cannot comply to its strict requirements. For example, their replicator (meme) does not produce its own true copies. Memetic accounts see individual cultural forms (different cultural norms, different technologies, different societies) as phenotypic variations which have a different impact on the fitness of their bearers, whether the whole cultures or individuals in given cultures. However, the success rate of their potential replications in following generations is not bound only with this effect. As they are true replicators, because the ‘offspring’ is a true copy of its ‘parent’, we can say it is maintaining the principle of heredity. What does the Meme Theory look like? Its core comprises of several fundamental assertions. (A) In order for the evolution to exist in any system,

84

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

in order to talk about any process of change as of evolutionary process, it is necessary for this process to fulfil the fundamental Darwinistic principles (the differentiation of the Darwinian evolution from progressivism). (B) These principles are not defined by modern neo-Darwinian restricting conditions which are only one of the possible ways how to fulfil the general Darwinistic principles, such that it is valid for one specific type of process, that of the biological change on Earth. Original Darwinistic principles are much broader/ more general, their form is invariable, but the content can differ depending on the substrate (the differentiation of Darwinism/Generalized Darwinism/ Universal Darwinism and neo-Darwinism/biological neo-Darwinism).1 (C) These principles (defining the process for one thing as evolutionary and for another as genuinely Darwinian) must encompass the possibility of determining, in a given process: the replicators, the method of selection and retention/heritability (gen view revolution2 brings a pressure for the determination of replicators rather than for the fitness of the species). (D) Even the process of cultural change is an actual evolutionary process; the role of replicators is played by memes, which are being selected for, because some of them replicate better and more than others and the method of heritability is Lamarckian (genuine second evolutionary process). Already from this summary, primarily from the replicator in point (C), it is evident how influential an inspirational source for the Meme Theory is the Dawkins’ revolutionary ‘selfish gene’ concept of the evolution which, as we have already seen, transferred the focal point of evolutionary thinking from what is beneficial for the individual or the species to what is beneficial for the gene as the true replicator and, in fact, the true beneficiary of all adaptations.3 Even the renowned metaphor of the selfish gene is in fact only an expression of this principle, which is based on taking the ‘gene’s eye view’ which always and primarily tends to struggle for only one objective, the maximization of its replication. This inspiration is not coincidental and has its consequences. Even though the Meme Theory has been elaborated by others, R. Dawkins laid its foundations when he admitted the possibility of existence of other forms of replicators than genes, and he suggested the term meme specifically for replicators of cultural evolutionary process (Dawkins, 1976: 192–4).4 The pressure on the determination, description and elaboration of the replicator,5 as on the

Memetic Accounts

85

most important part in the whole evolutionary thinking, is consequently emphasized with the same vigour also in the Meme Theory. Such a concept of the evolutionary process has its advantages, especially from the point of view of the ‘output discipline’ which the theory originates from and from which it is being transferred into another field of study, that is, from the point of view of the evolutionary biology. It is fully in accordance with the broadly accepted model of standard individual-gene selection and there is not, in this regard, any controversy related to the group selection stance. It also carries with it the rigour of thought that brought the ‘gene-view revolution’ into evolutionary biology and that accompanies many of its recent developments and achievements. It does not suffer from the vagueness and confusion of some other cultural evolutionary models that are often not specific enough about what process they speak of (biological vs. cultural evolution) and what is their mutual relationship and connection. Of course the bigger the advantages for the ‘output discipline’ the bigger the problem in the ‘input discipline’, in the field which the theory is being transferred to – that is, the social sciences, where it is very difficult to meet the requirements of these elements. What elements I have in mind will be specifically shown and addressed in my critical analysis, but let us continue now with the positive layout of the theory. According to memetics there exists a genuine second replicator (meme), a genuine cultural evolutionary process with its own unit of selection/ transmission and with its own way of transmission. The term meme was created as an analogy to the term gene, including the deliberate shortening of the original form of the concept into one-syllable version that would better refer to gene. As a unit of imitation, using the Greek root, the unit would bear the name mimeme (‘that which is being imitated’). The analogy with genes is that while the genes are instructions for making proteins carried in the cells of organisms, the memes are instructions for carrying out behaviour that are carried either in the brains or in various cultural artefacts (see Blackmore, 1999: 17). Being elements of culture, they encompass everything ranging from song refrains, recipes, computer viruses,6 fashion eccentricities, architectonic trends, through ideas and discoveries, to religious beliefs and customs, languages and writings. As it is apparent from the name of the unit, a specific replicator in the Meme Theory entails also a specific way of transmission – imitation (copying/

86

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

learning by example). Not all thoughts are memes, only those that jump from brain to brain. The imitation was and is one of the key concepts of the Meme Theory that stood at the birth of the whole idea and which is being gradually specified and elaborated on, as increasing aspirations of memetics to be a true scientific theory brings forward directly related increasing demands for the terminology to be more accurate. For the authors of the Meme Theory, the imitation is what makes our species different from the others.7 However, its definition in memetics still remains uncertain and without broader consensus, especially when we compare views of a larger amount of authors. For example, S. Blackmore deserves credit for her efforts to define it more accurately, but even in her case it is apparent from the definition itself how ambiguously broad it stays. According to this definition (Blackmore, 1999: 43) it comprises: ‘[. . .] passing on information by using language, reading, and instruction, as well as other complex skills and behaviours. Imitation includes any kind of copying of ideas and behaviours from one person to another’. The transmission of imitations is a non-genetic transmission, but as with the genetic transmission, also can occur in two modes. Either vertically, from one generation to another on a long-term basis, or horizontally, similarly to how virus gets spread in the population during an epidemic.8 The imitation is also absolutely essential for the argument that the meme is the true replicator, because in other forms of social learning, the true replication does not occur, as, in fact, the copying of behaviour does not take place, even though it may look like it at first sight. In most cases, it is more about the second individual being directed/led to the situation in which he invents the very same/very similar behaviour that has been already invented by the first individual. In such cases it is not a behaviour which would be transmitted/replicated (that would be built upon, variations of which would be selected etc.). Without the true replication there is no true heredity and without the true heredity there is no true evolution. Some memes are more successful in their replication than others. On what basis does the selection of memes occur? Both the role of selector and the role of selective environment are played by the human mind. S. Blackmore differentiates two types of reasons. The first is related to the physiological set-up of the human mind, with how our senses, memory, attention and other similar processes operate, and belongs more within

Memetic Accounts

87

the scope of psychology. The second is related to the nature of the memes themselves, to how they can interact and cluster with each other, what kind of tricks they can use, alternatively, it relates to the specific cultural evolutionary processes, and it is this second type that is the ‘true’ domain of memetics (see Blackmore, 1999: 16). Now I will briefly introduce some of the most influential authors and a short history of memetics. Among its three most important thinkers, each of them with specific contribution, rank R. Dawkins, D. C. Dennett and S. Blackmore. If I am to use metaphors, R. Dawkins conceived of the idea in 1976 in the conclusion of his book The Selfish Gene, afterwards, D. C. Dennett explored the bedrock, staked out the plot and levelled the parcel,9 and in 1999, S. Blackmore erected the building when she developed the fundamentals into the complete Meme Theory in the book The Meme Machine.10 As we have seen, R. Dawkins is the main founding figure not only in the sense that he coined the term meme and that he, in this or that form, played around with many ideas that now constitute the pillars of memetics. But he is also an expert and authority in the field of biological neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, a pioneer and an uncompromising defender of standard individualgene selection, and furthermore a proponent of scientistic biologizing philosophical position of the Universal Darwinism (leaving his committed atheism aside as ideally it should not be reflected in his scientific endeavours). All these elements influence memetics either by being indivisible components of assumptions of the theory, as with the Universal Darwinism, or by placing demands on the products that want to increase their prestige/credibility by being able to show connection to an aureole of the name of R. Dawkins, for example, reluctance towards group selection. Marketing dimension of this point is clearly visible on the cover of the book of S. Blackmore’s The Meme Machine (1999) where the name R. Dawkins who authored the foreword, has the same font type and nearly the same font size as the name of the author of the book itself. The position of R. Dawkins to growing and developing Meme Theory is in fact positive but at the same time moderate and reserved. The reason behind is that his original intention behind the introduction of possible existence of another replicator was much more modest than some memeticists might have wished for and was more related to the emphasis of the position of Universal Darwinism (i.e. different replicators that genes might exist) than to

88

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

the certainty about the existence of replicator in the domain of cultural change (see Blackmore, 1999: xvi). In the aforementioned foreword to S. Blackmore’s The Meme Machine (1999: xvi) we can find expressions like: ‘I do not know whether she will be judged too ambitious in this enterprise, and I would even fear for her if I did not know her redoubtable qualities as a fighter.’ The basic comparison with other contemporary theories, that relate to the cultural evolution and which I am dealing with in my book, is the following. Compared to the EWCE approach (and its main inspirational source, that is, approach of evolutionary psychology11), Meme Theory is a theory of a genuine cultural evolution (evolution of culture) where there is a specific replicator with a special way of transmission, both specific for culture (usually even specifically human culture, making in this sense the human evolution special). In addition, this process of cultural evolution is being understood as independent/autonomous on the genetic evolution to the extent that cultural replicators are driven only by their own interests (being copied) regardless of what kind of impact this interest will have on the gene’s fitness. The impact on the gene can be neutral (if the interest of memes is different from the interest of genes), but it can also be useful (if the interest of memes is in agreement with the interest of genes) or harmful (if the interest of memes is opposite to the interest of genes). The important thing is that for the memetic cultural evolution itself it does not need to bother us, because memetics conceptually disconnects the processes of cultural and biological evolution. It explicitly opposes the autonomous process of the cultural evolution to be questioned by anything and it stands the ground especially against the notion it should be obliged to serve biological evolution (e.g. to be always compelled to show biological advantages memes carry for their bearers). S. Blackmore expresses this attitude in the following way (1999: 31): ‘If memes are replicators, as I am convinced they are, then they will not act for the benefit of the species, for the benefit of the individual, for the benefit of the genes, or indeed for the benefit of anything but themselves. That is what it means to be a replicator.’ Of all the theories of cultural evolution, memetics most openly swears allegiance to the concept of Universal Darwinism (although it is an implicit part of all Darwinian cultural evolution approaches). Similarly as the comparison with EWCE approach turns out also the comparison with the gene–culture co-evolution theory, I have referred to couple of times, that has

Memetic Accounts

89

arisen from the sociobiological background and was created by C. J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson. Although authors in this theory create a discrete category of the ‘culturgene’ as the ‘basic unit of inheritance in cultural evolution’ (Lumsden & Wilson, 1981: x), it stands always in the end in a subordinate position to the gene as the ultimate arbiter. Maladaptive culturgene can have its own way only temporarily, because it gets gradually eliminated by the dominant biological evolution. In their cultural evolution theory, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza and M. W. Feldman adhere to the same principle. Even though they focus in more detail also on the modelling of the transmission of maladaptive cultural traits (as they label the unit of selection), maladaptiveness is in the end determined by the impact of the cultural trait on the gene (see Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman, 1981). Therefore, even this theory differs from the Meme Theory in this fundamental aspect. On the other hand, the theory elaborates on numerous elements that are now necessary equipment of the contemporary cultural evolutionary thinking (with memetics being in the lead). It differentiates the vertical and the horizontal transmission, uses the concept of cultural fitness denoting fitness for the survival of cultural traits themselves and creates mathematical models of the cultural transmission. The essential difference between memetics and this theory lies again in the broader way of the transmission of cultural traits in contrast with the one with which the meme transmission works. The memetic transmission is restricted by definition to imitation only (as a specific type of learning distinct from other types), while L. L. Cavalli-Sforza and M. W. Feldman include also imprinting or conditioning.12 When dealing with the issue of autonomy of cultural evolution on biological evolution, memetics is closest to the Dual Inheritance Theory, as P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd treat their cultural unit as an autonomous replicator that can co-evolve with the biological replicator (gene) either mutualistically or antagonistically. Yet Dual Inheritance Theory works with the concept of social learning when dealing with the cultural form of inheritance (similarly as L. L. Cavalli-Sforza and M. W. Feldman) and thus has, in this point, broader scope than memetics, which deliberately restricts the ‘inheritance’ only to imitation as one of the forms of social learning. One of the important differences of memetics from D. S. Wilson’s theory of cultural evolution as well as from Dual Inheritance Theory lies in much

90

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

higher vigilance towards group selection (at least in the classical version of memetics13 of R. Dawkins, D. C. Dennett and S. Blackmore). A partial reason is the influential status of R. Dawkins in this version of memetics.14 Nevertheless, when dealing with the influence of religion on gene, S. Blackmore plays with the concept carefully. Though she begins by showing how many special conditions have to be met so that the group selection can play its part, she continues by stating that religion as the memeplex can fulfil these conditions. Specifically, it can create the pressure on decreasing of differences in biological fitness within the groups and increasing the differences between the groups while simultaneously increasing the group extinction rate.15 In simple terms, religion decreases within-group differences by dictating dietary habits, sexual practices, promoting cooperation and regulating aggression within groups while it increases between-group differences by excluding out-groups from the same rules and on top of that it helps to motivate warfare towards out-groups thus increasing rates of group extinction. Thus she is able to explain the problem posed to her by her world-view, that is, why people, even in the ‘enlightened scientific age’, still incline to ‘fake’ religious beliefs and behaviours. The answer is that people are ‘forced’ by their religious genes which in the long-term co-evolution became a part of human nature. But unfortunately, the characteristic trait of Blackmore’s handling of religion is that it does not complete the same idea in each and every way, primarily there where it should lead by the same token to the conclusions putting ‘world’ religions into a positive light. As thanks to the similar process, we should all be bearers of innate psychological tendencies for, for example, self-sacrificial/selfless altruism to our coreligionists with no control mechanisms or compensations in place needed (see arguments in parts devoted to altruism). However, we will not find such ‘conclusions’ in S. Blackmore’s work.

Memetic accounts in Religious Studies How does the application of memetics actually look in Religious Studies? For the representatives of the classical form of memetics it is necessary to first separate their metaphysical opinions from the value-neutral parts of the theory, which could be useful for the Study of Religions. Authors such as R. Dawkins,

Memetic Accounts

91

D. C. Dennett or S. Blackmore do not do this separation themselves. Although they try to act as objective/independent scientists in their treatment of religions, their atheistic agenda eventually prevails. So what usefulness remains for the Study of Religions after we get past images of a ‘virus’, an ‘infection’, an ‘extreme bizarreness’ or just a ‘plain falsehood of religious beliefs’?16 First and foremost, it is a theorizing about the emergence and spreading/ transmitting of religious beliefs and practices. R. Dawkins came up with the idea that individual memes are able to clump together and create self-sustaining complexes. He called these ‘co-adapted meme complexes’. This term was later shortened by H. C. Speel to ‘memeplex’ (1995), and further developed by S. Blackmore (1999) who established its use. In the foundation of the memeplex lies again the analogy with genes that also form complexes that replicate more efficiently than they would individually. They are groups of mutually compatible and supportive memes that cohabitate the environments of individual minds. Because each of these co-memes creates the whole of the group, they tend to be favoured when the environment gets dominated by the others. On some level, thanks to these benefits, memes are fighting for their survival and reproduction, as a part of the memeplexes, and competing with other memeplexes. Apart from reanimating and the recombination of naïve, and in the past endlessly repeated anti-religious ideas about the origins and functions of religion (e.g. religions as irrefutable cognitive illusions; false explanations of origins of things or comfort providers), it brings also some inspiring and mainly empirically testable hypotheses about the possible mechanisms of the transmission of religious ideas through combination and mutual support with other processes (e.g. using ritualistic altering of emotional states, beauty or ecstatic experience to help promote or modulate desired outcomes; boosting confidence towards charismatic individuals; imitating the behaviour of successful etc.). When we ask, if there exists anything, except for these hypotheses (which are not particularly associated with memetics or with what specific memetics brings in, because these questions were frequently asked by social psychology in the past, and the innovation lies more in an indicated use/transfer of its findings or methods into the study of religious behaviour), what makes memetics different from all other versions of co-evolutionary theorizing about religion, the answer is yes. The difference is in how strongly memetics, in its

92

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

conception of genuine evolution of culture (meme as a true second replicator), rejects tying the evolution of cultural variants back to a biological/genetic advantage. Religions, as exceptionally powerful memeplexes, can be, from the memetic point of view, a driving evolutionary force even for biological/genetic evolution. Evolutionary force that is powerful enough to ‘stand alone’ (regardless of its impact on a gene). For example, if there are genes that incline you to be more religious in the first place, that promote your religious behaviour and this religious behaviour brings better status and with it better reproduction, they would spread in the population gene pool at the expense of other genes. Therefore the memetic environment can influence whether genes for religious behaviour are positively selected for or not. And at the same time, the difference between memetics and other co-evolutionary approaches does not lie in their disagreement about if there are hypothetical cases, in which we can argue, that culture (e.g. religion) has resources to influence genetic evolution, but in how strong they consider the influence of this evolutionary force. To summarize, memetics manifests in Religious Studies mainly in the socalled Cultural Maladaptionist Hypothesis (for the name see Bulbulia, 2008b: 68) or sometimes the Cultural Parasite Hypothesis. Simply put, it is a combination of co-evolution using autonomous cultural evolution, and the adaptationist programme, but with the important ‘final plot twist’, in which it sees religion as a cultural maladaptive parasite or virus. Maladaptive in the sense, that it harms genetic fitness of its bearers be those human individuals (R. Dawkins, 1976; 2006) or human groups (S. Blackmore, 1999; D. C. Dennett, 2006).

Critical analysis of memetic accounts How does memetics turn up in the main points of my critical analysis? As all previously considered theories of cultural evolution, which are used in the current study of religion, it does not fare particularly well. First, let me reiterate once again the main points that constitute my critical analysis. Its main objective is to find out if the theory of the evolution of culture in question meets all the necessary requirements of neo-Darwinian evolution. In other words, is the given theory of cultural evolution a legitimate evolutionary theory of culture, or is it only a poor metaphor and misleading analogy giving

Memetic Accounts

93

rise to false beliefs/hopes. ‘The necessary requirements’ and the ‘defining criteria’ of the neo-Darwinian evolution are such: there are replicators in the system (units that are able to create true copies of themselves/high-fidelity replicators), they are fighting among themselves for limited resources and with ideal conditions, their numbers will increase exponentially. Random errors (mutations) occur during the copying process, which can lead to involuntary (blind) increases in replications, and consequently over many generations to the gradual accumulation of this error within a given population. This process is mechanistic and the success of replicators is determined solely by the number of their copies within the considered population. Even if the Theory of Memes in this critical analysis also fares poorly (as with dual inheritance or group selection accounts), the reasons, that lead to its failure, are somewhat different than they are for the previously considered theories. This difference lies in how it fails to meet the requirements, rather than which ones. This is because memetics in its classical form, from all compared approaches, shares and applies most rigidly, and to the greatest extent, all the defining criteria of evolution I have chosen. Its failure in my critical analysis is not based on the fact that it defines evolution in a manner inconsistent with my definition, rather it is due to its attempts to meet the criteria with a substrate which proves resistant to this effort (unless you are not afraid to seriously distort some relevant facts). Put differently, the problem is, that even though memetic authors try to consistently maintain all basic elements and rules of the theory of natural selection, this effort fails, because the cultural changes are not subject to these elements and rules, and subsequently cultural variants do not meet the definition of replicators. First, most parts of ‘culture’ do not consist of small, independent (discrete) pieces of information, so that the gene/meme metaphor might represent more than just a vague analogy. Second, even if it did, these entities (‘independent/discrete pieces’) almost never create exact copies of themselves (high-fidelity replications) in cultural transmission, which makes cumulative cultural evolution impossible, because it effectively removes the effects of natural selection from the game. I elaborate in greater detail on both these statements in two independent arguments. To be able to identify anything as a replicator, first we need to be able to distinguish it from anything else. The surest way to do this is to find out the

94

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

physical constitution of replicators. The fact that we are unable to present such a thing in the case of memes, is not that surprising.17 Much more surprising is the fact that we still lack to the present day a theoretical definition that would tell us what it is that constitutes the unit of meme. How big of a unit deserves the term meme? Is Buddhism a meme? Or is a meme only the doctrine that makes it possible to reach enlightenment? Or is it just the meditation technique leading to this enlightenment?18 If we are not able to define ‘the smallest indivisible functional unit’, and it is possible at the same time to enlarge this unit as needed to contain nearly anything, it becomes useless – everything and nothing at the same time.19 The second problematic aspect lies in the mode of transmission of cultural variants; that is, in the inability to meet the required condition of high-fidelity replication. The emergence and transmission of cultural variants may be caused by the imitation of behaviour, but if we look at the process more closely, we find out that it is a transformation rather than true replication. This is because while one cultural variant induces in one mind one kind of behaviour, the spectator of this behaviour, who tries to imitate the same kind of action, is able to do so by creating in his mind a cultural variant that is completely different from the original.20 The new product is a mixture of something ‘preserved’ and of something ‘newly constructed’,21 which is shaped to fit the capacities, needs and interests of the transmitter.22 Most factors that guide inferences that take place in the minds of imitators (those who learn), are highly idiosyncratic and they ‘have to do with the individual’s unique location in time and space’ (Sperber, 1996: 114; see also Sperber, 2000). The fact that even when this is the case, there exists a far greater resemblance among cultural items than one would expect by observing the actual degrees of transformation in cultural transmission, requires an explanation. However, explanation focused on other systematic mechanisms than the mechanism of replication. The way the systematic factors of transformation in cultural transmission function was elaborated on by D. Sperber in his concept of cultural attractors.23 In short, Sperber explains how it is possible, despite the previously mentioned objection, that there exists a significant stability in cultural variations across space and time. He suggests that it is not true copying, but that every new form of cultural variant tends to gravitate towards powerful cultural attractors that ensure that deviations cancel each other out. These attractors are caused by

Memetic Accounts

95

biasing factors which, if commonly shared within a culture of one population, create cultural attractors rooted in the local cultural context (see Sperber, 1996: 108).24 It may be happy endings, certain lucky numbers which are preferred, and are thus easier to remember due to the cultural context, a set core values, used technological practices etc., that make all members of the same population at any one time to be attracted in the same directions. This idea was modified and developed into a new form, which is even more interesting for Religious Studies, because it is more specific to religion, by P. Boyer in his concept of minimal counter-intuitiveness of successful religious ideas. Boyer elaborates mainly on the idea of universal attractors,25 that is, attractors rooted in universal (or at least genetically determined aspects of) human psychology (see 2001).26 The concept elaborates upon what makes religious ideas more attractive, more attention grabbing and more memorable compared to other ideas, as well as what makes some religious ideas more successful than others. Boyer concludes that this advantage has a lot to do with specific types of violations of our intuitive ontology (folk biology, folk physics, folk psychology, etc.). In other words, there are tacit principles that guide people’s inferences in many domains, and these tacit principles are identical in all normal minds. These are responsible for the existence of commonalities of cultural information cross-culturally (its stability and rough similarity of its versions in different minds) despite exposure to non-identical input, as all humans at any one time are attracted in the same direction (see Boyer, 2001; Sperber & Hirschfeld, 2004; Boyer & Bergstrom, 2008). The preceding paragraphs state that cultural transmission does not work on the principle of accurate imitation of behaviours, transmission processes that would be compatible with natural selection. That is to say, it does not work in such a way that the behaviours would replicate themselves accurately (with some degree of mutation), so that it could be meaningfully subjected to processes of natural selection.27 But even if we admit, for the sake of argument, that dominant replication by imitation does in fact occur, we would still be unable to get rid of the problem of low fidelity: natural selection cannot work unless the mutation rate is low (see Williams, 1966: 22–3),28 and in the case of culture the mutation rate can be, in some cases, exceedingly high.29 As we can see, for example in the children’s game of Chinese whisper (whether with an imitation of sounds or images). For this reason some authors argue that

96

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

evolution can occur only with digital systems and that memes, unlike genes, are not digital (see Maynard Smith, 1996). In the analogous type of transmission, there is simply too great a loss of information, and thus it is incompatible with the evolutionary processes that require extremely high-fidelity replications and low mutation rate. Furthermore, the replicator analogy fails also because, unlike the gene, it might not have a lifespan long enough to be able to create any real impact on the life of an organism. Another essential point of my analysis brings us to the condition which determines the process as evolutionary only if it is random, mechanical and unintentional. And this is the weak point of every theory of cultural evolution that is dependent upon Lamarckian inheritance.30 Memetic evolution works with the inheritance of acquired characteristics from the definition, because a meme is defined widely as ‘that, which is imitated’ and the majority of imitated things in cultural transmission involve copying the end products (phenotypes), not only instructions to end products. If the memeticists are not willing to distinguish between these two types of imitation (imitation of instruction and imitation of resulting product), memetics will not avoid the pitfalls of Lamarckian heritability. Yet nobody wants to take this step, because an application of this distinction on cultural traits would be coerced, and more often than not, impossible. To conclude the critical analysis of memetic accounts, for the aforementioned reasons I fully understand and sympathize with the writings of authors, such as S. J. Gould or M. Midgley, who refer to memes as to a ‘meaningless metaphor’ (see S. J. Gould, 1996a), an ‘empty and misleading metaphor’, ‘mythical entities’ or a ‘useless and essentially superstitious notion’ (see M. Midgley, 1994). Transitive properties require equivalence, that is, an identity of the properties of the units of selection. Without this equivalence, the law-like processes cannot be simply carried over to other kinds of units. In the upcoming part of this book I will proceed to highlighting the benefits and limitations of those cautious evolutionary accounts of culture (religion) that avoid these logical and conceptual pitfalls in applying evolutionary theory to this domain.

Part Three

Evolution Without Cultural Evolution

In previous analyses I have often referred to the EWCE approach to the study of culture (religion) which programmatically does not work with an autonomous process of cumulative cultural evolution. I have also suggested that it is in my opinion a possible, and at the same time, meaningful alternative of an evolutionary study of culture/religion (coherent as well as promising and viable). This part is dedicated to a more detailed presentation of an EWCE approach to the study of culture in general, of the fundamental points of its theory, of its main inspirational sources (especially evolutionary psychology) and finally presents some examples of specific applications of EWCE approach to the study of religion, evident in current CSR scholarship.

6

The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution

Inspirational sources of EWCE approach to the study of culture are numerous. First and foremost is evolutionary psychology, but it employs theories and methods from other cognitive, behavioural and evolutionary sciences as well, especially from cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, experimental psychology, social psychology, behavioural economics, behavioural ecology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary anthropology, Evolutionary Game Theory or ethology. From my point of view, as it is clear from its definition, a characteristic of the EWCE approach to the study of culture is that it does not work with cultural evolution in the sense of autonomous cumulative process of evolution of culture. Because of the strong position that evolutionary psychology holds within it, I class there primarily those accounts which deal with evolutionarily developed architecture of the human mind and with how this architecture influences (predetermines) the form and the success of different cultural variants. Accounts defined in such a way also form the centre of the CSR mainstream. A standard CSR model (for more information, see Jensen, 2009) maintains that cross-cultural recurrences of religious phenomena might be explained through constraints of cognitive mechanisms of the human mind acquired in the process of natural selection. If we tried to search for ideological predecessors of the EWCE account in Religious Studies, we would find that certain indications have already existed in the early history of our field of study, even though in a rather rudimentary form. For example, E. Westermarck may be considered as being their bearer. However, at that time, his approach to the study of cultural phenomena was crushed both by the contemporary opposition (E. Durkheim) and by the popularity of classical theories of cultural evolution.

100

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

From the perspective of theories analysed in the preceding chapters, it might seem that this is the least radical, the most restrained way of employing evolutionary theory for the explanation of sociocultural phenomena, and in comparison with them it truly is. It causes the least amount of controversies, because, in its explanations, it does not need to cross the borders of standard neo-Darwinistic individual-gene natural selection theory, neither in the sense of the transfer of natural selection into the field of cultural change explanation, nor in the sense of the propagation of group selection theory. The supporters of EWCE approach to the study of culture, who overlap with the overall majority of evolutionary psychologists, with their founders J. Tooby, L. Cosmides, D. Simons and others leading the list, see the ‘genic selection revolution’ as one of the milestones in the history of evolutionary biology, without which the discipline would still be drowned in preceding pervasive and unanchored teleology (fitness teleology), which was accompanying it up to the 1960s when dealing with these issues. Getting rid of ‘Darwinism’s benign collectivism’, which was brought, among other things, by the revolution, was according to J. Tooby (2012): ‘[t]he most important advance in evolutionary biology since Darwin’. Genic selection revolution (meaning the same as gene view revolution) actually brought not only the pressure on more precise specification of units of selection (differentiation of replicators and vehicles), but also more rigid demands on what has to form part of the argumentation designating something as adaptation. Presently, one of them is the obligation to show the sequence of causal steps, how the specific setting/combination/ grouping of genes cause/relate to phenotypic effects/adaptation (in the body or external to it – extended phenotype) and which interactions with the world of those phenotypic effects/adaptations cause the increase of the replication frequency of certain genes in following generations. On the other hand, radicality is a relative category, that is, it depends on which theories we compare the EWCE approach with; if we compare it with classical approaches of Religious Studies, an array of substantial differences become apparent. I classify, among the most important differences, the fact that it fundamentally changes the perspective of traditional approaches. It actually transfers the centre of attention to what precedes the culture and what enables it, and starts its study with the ‘cultural setting’ of the human mind. If I, temporarily and for the purpose of illustrating what I have in my mind,

EWCE in the Study of Culture

101

exaggeratedly simplified both positions and transferred them into black-andwhite perspective, one would see that EWCE approach studies the culture in the way it emerges from human mind while it is affected by appropriate stimuli from the external surroundings. In contrast, ‘traditional Religious Studies approaches’ (as I, temporarily, typify them in a simplified way) start the study of culture from what is external to the human mind, from what is transferred. Neither of the approaches is, of course, that simplifying, and even the EWCE approach pays a great deal of attention to models of dissemination of cultural elements and does not leave this ‘disseminative’ part of culture without reflexion. Nevertheless, for stressing my point, it is important to note that the EWCE approach insists on not underestimating the ‘induced/generated’ part of the culture in the study of culture, and in its own eyes it thus balances the existing one-sided focus of the social sciences.1 EWCE approach to the study of culture is usually accompanied by two elements which arise from expanding on those fundamental suppositions. The first one deals with the effort to explain in such a framework the cultural diversity which we encounter in the world. If we suppose that culture is mainly generated/induced by innate psychological mechanisms which are the products of the evolutionary history of our species, and if we suppose that all these mechanisms are basically the same across all human populations, why are not all the cultures the same? The answer is that on a certain level of generalization they are actually the same and that the cultural variants which we are able to perceive from closer up, are generated by the difference in external stimuli, which affect different innate psychological mechanisms or create their different combinations. A comparison to be brought up here is the proverbial nine tenths of an iceberg under the surface. When this approach deals with the issue of cultural differences, it addresses not only the difference caused by socially transmitted information, but also the way that different settings interact with different modules.2 The second one relates to a thorough extension of natural selection when applied on the development of the human mind. If we suppose that, in our evolutionary history, sufficiently long-term and stable pressures on dealing with various types of problems existed, it is possible to count on the fact that similar conditions induce the need for precise specialization of adaptational mechanisms, which would be able to deal with the specific types of problems

102

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

with sufficient effectiveness. The answer is that the human mind is not a general-purpose machine, but it is composed of a series of specialized cognitive modules. The best example of this type of evolutionary psychological solution proposed by J. Tooby and L. Cosmides is the Theory of Massive Modularity.3 For an even better understanding of this research framework, it is possible to reverse the question. Subsequently, we do not ask into which components it is possible to divide the human mind, but from which components (psychological adaptations) it is possible to put together/assemble the human mind. To explain human nature, we need to map the natural human psychological adaptations. To be able to explain religiosity as a constituent of the human nature, we need to map the natural human psychological adaptation that constitutes the religiosity. The process is actually very simple and one has to only bear in mind the famous criticism of S. J. Gould and R. Lewontin (1979) not to become the victim of the exaggerated adaptationistic programme. First, to (A) try to show, in every examined behaviour, whether it is not a genetically developed adaptation to some of the conditions of our ancestral environment. If yes, then to (B) subsequently identify which psychological mechanisms it is based on. It is crucial and extremely useful, for every research strategy in any behavioural evolutionary science, not to conflate these two distinct steps into one. They were famously clarified as two different complementary methodologies (and not competing alternatives) by the Nobel Prize winner Niko Tinbergen (1963), who divided evolutionary inquiry into four questions which he termed ‘survival value’, ‘causation’, ‘ontogeny’ and ‘evolution’ (phylogeny of a given trait). In those he showed that we need to make distinction between: (1) ultimate explanations which are concerned with fitness consequences or survival value (why questions) and (2) proximate explanations which examine the mechanisms underlying behaviour (how questions). This principle is true for studying animal behaviour and it is especially true for studying human behaviour with its additional complicating factors with causal powers such as mental representations, public representations etc., that make even more room for possible confusion. Blurring ultimate and proximate explanations can obscure the evolutionary forces at work. Some authors (West et al., 2008) point out that when some aspects of social evolutionary theory started to be applied to new taxa (especially humans), some literature (in our case some literature on human cooperation and altruism) mixed them

EWCE in the Study of Culture

103

inexcusably again. West et al. (2007: 426) use as an example a strong reciprocity which is defined proximately as a combination of ‘a predisposition to reward others for cooperative, norm-abiding behaviours’ and ‘a propensity to impose sanctions on others for norm violations’ (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003) and then given as a solution to an ultimate problem: ‘strong reciprocity thus constitutes a powerful incentive for cooperation even in non-repeated interactions when reputation gains are absent’ (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003). Problematic in this respect seem to be especially those accounts which propose that humans have traits that were selected for in the process of human gene-culture coevolution without them apparently increasing inclusive fitness (I have referred to those previously as to selfless altruistic traits). But while they suggest that these need to be explained through alternatives like cultural group selection as they are out of reach of standard evolutionary theory (Bowles, Choi & Hopfensitz, 2003) (as ‘an alternative to selfish or kin selected explanations of cooperation’ (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2003); because they ‘cannot be justified in terms of self-interest’ (Gintis, 2000)), models that they refer to (Henrich & Boyd, 2001; Bowles et al., 2003; Boyd et al., 2003) still seem to rely on standard social evolution principles (cooperation providing direct or indirect fitness benefits to cooperating individuals through increase of group survival (West et al., 2007: 426)). The resulting confusion here lies in failing to argue for human uniqueness4 at the ultimate level through the uniqueness of proximate mechanisms (sophisticated punishment and reward systems that can be facultatively finetuned in response to variation in local conditions thanks to human cognitive abilities). In the discussion of whether cooperation in humans is special, for example, Bowles and Gintis (2004) suggest a positive answer when they tackle the question ‘why similar behaviours are seldom observed in other animals’. Conversely, West et al. (2007: 427) suggest that punishment has been shown to stabilize cooperation in many cases and ‘not just between animals, but also plants and bacteria’. In its elemental form, the EWCE approach does not have the ambition to explain why our current environment is so different from our ancestral environment and how it happened. It is rather one of the input conditions not exposed to questioning. Similarly to, for example, the fact that our ancestral environment must have been sufficiently stable for a sufficiently long period

104

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

of time to be able to create the pressure needed for the development of innate psychological traits. In its conservative form, the approach works with a form of slow genetic evolution and innate psychological traits of contemporary humans sees as formed in our ancestral environment. Therefore, it understands the human cognitive abilities and skills (e.g. readiness for co-operation in small not-anonymous groups) as having been – in the primary form – unchanged since the Stone Age (Stone Age mind parallel).5 The basis of EWCE approach is formed by the setting of an individual (individual organism) that determines them to both an easy production and absorption of the culture and a group life. A commonly used term in this regard is the cognitive architecture of the human mind, but it is important to point out that in a broader sense ‘cognitive’ encompasses also (and sometimes even predominantly) emotional and intuitive constituents.6 This architecture is an outcome of selective pressures that formed it during the evolutionary history of our species. And here arises the question: which selective pressures? As I already pointed out in the chapter dealing with group selection accounts, there exist even purely biological accounts working with the group selection without leaving the boundaries of genetic evolution.7 Therefore, also in this part I have to provide space for two competing views on what formed these traits, either a widely accepted individual-gene selection or, in biology marginal, yet in the field of CSR more and more prominent, group selection. But is group selection indispensable for the clarification of these groupfavouring traits of individuals? For the improvement of objections against the concept of group selection which are relevant for EWCE account, it is necessary to reiterate some points of my criticism. Still, I will try to keep the repetition to a minimum. The fact that the individual is inclined to work for the good of the group while enriching himself at the same time is the trait explainable even on the basis of standard individual-gene selection. Some authors also point out that many models that depict themselves as group selection are in fact individual selection in the context of groups.8 In those cases the difference of both theories is artificial/fictional and the postulation of the necessity of group selection in them can be rejected as it will vanish with the removal of terminological/semantic misunderstanding (see West et al., 2007; West et al., 2008; S. Pinker, 2012). However, in the remaining cases (and they form the overall majority) the solution is not that simple and to reach it we need to get to the problematic core.

EWCE in the Study of Culture

105

No matter how many pro-social psychological traits we manage to find in humans, no matter how ultra-social they are, and there are many (ranging from social learning via readiness for complex cooperation, detection of freeriding, aversion to unjust division, to group loyalty and moral intuitions/ emotions), it is not enough to show that it was the group selection that was responsible for their formation, because whenever the trait, in the end, benefits the individual or his relatives, it could have been developed just as well on the basis of standard individual-gene selection (Inclusive Fitness Theory). The only thing that would be in need of extra explanation would be if a trait of self-sacrificing/selfless altruism developed, that is, the tendency to such a behaviour that would increases the fitness of the group while reducing the fitness (inclusive fitness; fitness of his genes) of the one taking the action. In other words, a pro-social trait with very specific characteristics would have to be shown, a trait that would benefit the group as a whole regardless of what detriment it causes to the actor. Only in that way would we get to the factual difference of both theories, which is, as in the comparison of any other theories, best apparent on the level of the difference of their predictions. To prove the existence of such a trait, it is not enough to create a theoretical possibility (however I consider it important too), it is also necessary to supply empirical evidence showing how frequent, common, spontaneous this adaptive trait is, and that there is no need to compensate it anyhow, as with any other adaptive traits. Then the question is not posed in a way whether the group selection is possible (in the sense of logical possibility),9 but in a way whether such psychological adaptations truly exist (in the form of innate psychological mechanisms), for which explanation we would need group selection (which could develop only thanks to group selection). As I have already mentioned in the chapter dealing with group selection accounts, biologists find such traits in social insects which, as it appears, are endowed with such ‘spontaneous’ inclination towards self-sacrifice. To give up the ability of its own reproduction or to suicidally fall while defending the colony seems to come to its members as easily and readily as any other ‘instinct’, be those finding the shortest way back home with nourishment, mating or passing on the news about where the best quality nectar is. These findings lead some authors (E. O. Wilson, D. S. Wilson, J. Haidt (2012)) to compare these traits to the forms of self-sacrifice we find in human groups.

106

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

But the fact that something looks similar at first sight does not mean that it is necessarily the same thing. To make this analogy valid and not just a misleading metaphor, we would need to demonstrate that even in humans these deeds are the result of inherited psychological trait and thus equally spontaneous. However, as I have already mentioned, between social insects and our species there is a fundamental difference on the level of reproduction. The self-sacrificial altruism of social insects is, from the gene point of view, illusory, because the individual, thanks to close relationship to the chosen individuals securing the reproduction, in effect increases fitness of its genes by its deed. In case of our species, it would be a selfless altruism even from the gene’s point of view (reducing the fitness of genes in one’s own body and in the body of others while simultaneously increasing the fitness of the group) that would not be explainable by standard individual-gene selection. Similar empirical evidence which would show that people irresistibly tend to give preference to the needs of others prior to their own, that people must try to hold back not to automatically throw themselves onto the spears of an enemy, as well as their willingness to hold back to avoid highly caloric food, however, has yet to be provided. The majority of experimental efforts how to achieve it focuses on various behavioural economic games, in which the supporters of group selection try to demonstrate that people tend to be generous to others even though they play a one-round game, the games are anonymous and they never meet their counterparts, or that they tend to punish at their own expenses bad behaviour even when they themselves cannot profit from the rectification of the wrongdoers. Promoters of group selection consider these results as examples of such selflessly altruistic trait. Nevertheless, other studies, originating mainly in the ‘laboratories’ of the opponents of group selection, show that in the first case, the generosity occurs only depending on the parallel situational inducement of assumptions/feelings of being monitored by others (see Hoffman, McCabe, Schachat & Smith, 1994; Haley & Fessler, 2005), of the possibility of continuous cooperation (see Delton, Krasnow, Cosmides & Tooby, 2011) or of the assessment of higher profitableness of the chosen behaviour (see Yamagishi & Kiyonari, 2000). Similarly, in the case of altruistic punishment, it always depends on the assumptions of improvement of one’s reputation in the eyes of others (see Kurzban, DeSciolli & O’Brien, 2007), or of the advantages that the ‘rectification’

EWCE in the Study of Culture

107

of the opponent brings about (see Carpenter & Matthews, 2012). Eventually, it has been shown that the motivation of punishers rarely relates to the efforts of protecting the group in the future, but does to the efforts to restore fairness and compensate victims (see Baumard, 2011). These results indicate that in the case of anonymous one-round games the conditions are too artificial/special/extraordinary for the participant to be ‘truly processed’ and his decision making is dragged by innate psychological traits that pick up on cues, which are for this type of decision-making processes fundamental/essential/determining, traits which were formed by standard individual-gene selection. For this reason this view is sometimes referred to as the Mismatch Hypothesis, as it explains altruistic behaviour in these specific situations as a mistake/by-product of our heuristic mechanisms, which assess them incorrectly.10 Thus, the majority of evolutionary biologists (and also of evolutionary psychologists together with a significant number of authors, who could be subsumed under EWCE approach) are still sceptical when it comes to group selection and they see it as superfluous,11 as something that, so far, has been unable to produce verifiable predictions which would not be at the same time generated by the standard individual-gene selection.12 One of the important objections provided by standard individual-gene selection such as kin selection or reciprocal altruism against group selection is, among others, that when dealing with the issue of altruism it is not able to predict that the altruism of the person should be driven by moral emotions and, at the same time, closely correlated with reputational monitoring and management. Concurrently, it is a vital prediction of individual-gene selection, which seems to be confirmed time and again by empirical data obtained by observation as well as behavioural experiments. These data suggest that human altruism is ‘instinctive’ only in relation to one’s own relatives. Let us leave aside, for the time being, the fact that the majority of material interesting for Religious Studies belongs to the field of manipulative dissemination of false kinship on individuals, with whom we are not bloodrelated. As it seems, the majority of religions are able to successfully take advantage of this exact mechanism. It creates fictitious families of ‘fathers’, ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, uses metaphors such as ‘of one body and blood’, pretends a common origin as well as family experience and such manipulations13 are successful, because humans have not used ‘hard instincts’ for distinguishing

108

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

the relatives for a long time, but instead they use environmental cues, which we are able to simulate/fake (see S. Pinker, 2012). On the other hand, altruism to not blood-related individuals develops in humans only under the conditions of mutual reciprocity, which is from both sides accompanied with never ceasing monitoring of exploiting tendencies (it is also important to mention – always present), mostly in the form of continuous (even exaggerated/oversensitive) controlling of whether we are sufficiently rewarded for our investments. The theory based on individual-gene selection suppositions thus states that reciprocal altruism is an integral part of our nature, but it is connected not only to the drivers, but also to the control mechanisms, both in the form of ‘instinctive’ reactions. In drivers we should expect moral emotions such as gratitude, compassion or pity and a driver for maximization (even exaggerated boosting) of the group preferred/favoured reputation. In control mechanisms we should see moral emotions related to violations of reciprocity rules such as anger, or automated detection systems of free-riding (opportunism) and revealing of misleadingly magnified/exaggerated reputations. Both are again and again supported by an increasing amount of data from the last fifty years of empirical research. In contrast, group selection does not create a sufficient amount of pressure on the development of such control mechanisms. Respectively, it does not itself explain why these mechanisms should be present and not some others. Especially, when they contain, what is from its point of view, counterproductive (self-destructive) effects, like, for example, benefits for individuals, who manage to profit from false reputation to the detriment of the good of the group. When taking group selection to its extreme position, the group should trigger automatic tendencies in people to sacrifice their own good for the group’s benefit, to work on its enrichment whatever the sacrifices and the mechanism responsible for strong emotional responses of people in moments they find out that they have been exploited should not have a reason to arise. After the general analysis of EWCE approach to the study of culture and after analysing the objections against those of its forms that work with the concept of group selection, I will more specifically introduce how this approach looks like while being applied to the study of religion.

7

An Evolution-Without-Cultural-Evolution Approach in Religious Studies

EWCE approach to the study of religion, still mostly dominated by evolutionary psychology of religion, manifests itself in the field of Religious Studies (through today’s CSR) mostly in theories which combine the coevolution without autonomous cultural evolution (evolution through culture) and the reservation in regards to group selection efficiency.1 They also oppose strong adaptationist programme, thus treating religion as a by-product of evolution.2 Before I focus in more detail on what it actually means to consider religion as a by-product of evolution, I will try to present most precisely and concisely (quoting one source at maximum) some of the leading authors and some of the most profound hypotheses which the EWCE approach to study of religion consists of. When looking at the classics, we have to start in the early 1990s where E. T. Lawson and R. N. McCauley (1990) brought cognitive revolution into Religious Studies when they asserted that ritual features prey on our universal action representation systems. Also J. Tooby and L. Cosmides (1992) start with the promotion of evolutionary psychology’s all-inspiring concept of module, now commonly used to describe a pattern of heritable behaviour aimed at solving a particular problem of survival in the evolutionary past. Pioneering work of S. E. Guthrie (1993) appears and with it the idea that beliefs in supernatural entities sprout out of our tendency to overly anthropomorphize surroundings (which is a result of naturally selected hyperactive vigilance). Correspondingly, L. Hirchfeld and S. Gelman (1994) served back then as an inspiration for the transfer of domain-specificity into the domain of cognition and culture. If we stop at the beginnings, we must mention D. Sperber (1996) developing the concept of mental representations and cultural epidemiology (cultural transmission

110

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

causes, in the actual domain of any cognitive module, a proliferation of parasitic information that mimics the module’s proper domain). Seminal work of D. Sperber (1996) may be considered as one of the milestones in bringing forward a naturalistic programme to the social sciences in general. Naturalism is meant to bridge gaps between sciences, allowing enrichment of both ends (not to neglect lower-level mechanisms as well as not to pay attention to lower-level mechanisms only) and not to aim at a universal reduction. The ideal shared by CSR research programmes includes developing mechanistic and naturalistic explanations of cultural phenomena. Mechanistic in this sense meaning analysing ‘a complex causal relationship as an articulation of more elementary causal relationships’ (1996: 98). Naturalistic meaning ‘that there is good ground to assume that these more elementary relationships could themselves be further analysed mechanistically down to some level of description at which their natural character would be wholly unproblematic’ (1996: 98). Another advancement comes at the turn of the millennium when P. Boyer (2001) developed the idea that cognitive salience of concepts violating intuitive ontological categories, makes beings with special powers more attention grabbing, memorable and transmittable. Ontological categories rise up from psychological mechanisms otherwise evolved for understanding natural world like folk physics or folk biology. This idea was then taken over by remarkable systematizers: I. Pyysiäinen (2003), S. Atran (2002) and A. Norenzayan (Atran & Norenzayan, 2004).3 J. Barrett (1998)4 and D. J. Slone (2004) elaborate another hypothesis that realtime people employ ‘theologically incorrect’ beliefs imposing anthropomorphic limits on deities which is again a consequence of our hyperactive agency detection device (HADD). S. Pinker (1997 and 2004) sees religious emotions as possible extensions of our emotional adaptations such as desire for health, love and success. In addition, L. A. Kirkpatrick (2005) states that one part of (a multiple by-product) religion consists of by-product of evolved socialcognitive mechanisms for negotiating specific, functionally distinct types of relationships such as attachment (gods being substitute attachment figures), kinship, social exchange, coalitions, and dominance hierarchies.5 D. Kelemen (2004) concludes that predisposition towards teleological reasoning increases attractiveness of creationism and P. Bloom (2004) claims that children are natural-born mind-body dualists and creationists. In his

EWCE in Religious Studies

111

theory, even H. Whitehouse (2004) supports this by-productivistic approach by stating there are aspects of religion constituting cognitively optimal beliefs, which is the most basic way of acquiring and transmitting religion out of which imagistic and doctrinal modes emerged. Nevertheless, the EWCE approach to the study of religion includes even purely adaptationist individualistic theories arguing that at least some parts of religion evolved by natural selection and that they contribute to inclusive fitness.6 These theories often work with the concept (and its analogies) presented by R. D. Alexander (1987), in which indirect reciprocal altruism between helper and third parties works through improved reputation. Yet adaptationist theories make their appearance little later on than the by-productivistic ones. Among the pioneers, we should not forget W. Irons (2001) who developed the hypothesis that religious behaviour is in its core both a hard-to-fake sign of commitment (also sometimes referred to as ‘Commitment Theory’)7 and a commitment device; one of the leading representatives of this approach, R. Sosis (2003), sees religious rituals as costly signals of commitment advantageous to individual fitness (also known as ‘Costly Signalling Theory’).8 Another representative, J. Bulbulia (2004), presents hypothesis that hard-tofake religious behaviour functions adaptively as a reliable signal of solidarity (also known as ‘Commitment-Signalling Theory’).9 Among other leading thinkers, I must mention J. Bering (2011) who claims that beliefs in afterlife are grounded in people’s basic inability to mentally represent a permanent state of non-consciousness (extension of Theory of Mind10 which might be also interpreted as by-productivist argument even though J. Bering argues that tendency to infer agentic intent in natural events might have served an ancestrally adaptive function). It is because the idea of a supernatural agent who punishes selfish behaviours makes people inhibit such behaviours thus promoting their prosocial reputations among actual people (which is gene-enhancing-reputational-management adaptationist argument). A similar argument (sometimes referred to as ‘Supernatural Punishment Hypothesis’) was developed by D. Johnson (2005). J. Dow (2008) employs simulations of such social selection process11 that can select a desire to communicate beliefs in a non-verifiable reality alongside of communication with obvious survival functions, for which he needs to postulate a condition that non-believers would be attracted to religious people.

112

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

On the scale of these two imagined extremes (by-product vs. adaptation), there exists also a vast group of theories which follow the golden mean. For example, a by-product can be adaptive or maladaptive given the situation and context, or an adaptation which becomes maladaptive in modern environment and so on. But what exactly does the statement that religion is a by-product of evolution mean? It means that scientists do not consider it to be an adaptation which was during a certain period of our evolutionary history selected for as it provided its bearers with a selective advantage compared to those without it. On the contrary, they see it as a by-product of other adaptations (usually a couple of them and in different combinations) which evolved to solve other problems we were confronted with in our ancestral environment. Within the EWCE approach, both by-productivists and adaptationists acknowledge the same type of argumentation. That is to say, if we want to explain any trait,12 even a trait of Homo sapiens being so prone to religious belief and behaviour, we have, in principle, three possibilities: (1) a product of neo-Darwinian natural selection, that is, an adaptation, (2) a by-product of adaptations (which can be further divided according to the criterion if it enhances biological fitness or not; if it does, it is called exaptation, subcategories of which are preadaptation or spandrel13) or lastly (3) a genetic drift. As S. Pinker (2004) states: ‘Random stuff happens in evolution. Certain traits can become fixed through sheer luck of the draw.’ By-productivists are just not convinced that it would be possible to fulfil all the necessary conditions to convincingly proclaim religion as an adaptation. For a trait to be an adaptation it must be innate and must develop reliably across a range of environments and be universal across the species. Causal effects of a trait must also, on average, improve the survival or reproduction of the bearer in evolutionarily relevant environment. Finally and crucially, the advantage must be demonstrable by some independently motivated causal consequences of the adaptation in question. As S. Pinker puts it (2004): ‘That is, the laws of physics or chemistry or engineering have to be sufficient to establish that the trait would be useful. The usefulness of the trait can’t be invented ad hoc.’ G. C. Williams in his classic work (1966) argued that adaptation can be recognized as such only when there is a clear evidence of a ‘special design’ to solve the adaptive task with a reasonable level of efficiency, reliability, economy and precision. His point however is of course hard to quantify.

EWCE in Religious Studies

113

To say that religion is an adaptation holds yet another dimension of the problem. If we decompose religion to its constituent core elements, we can pose the question ‘Is religion an adaptation?’ not in one, but in two ways. (1) We can state that one element is crucial and other, less significant elements just ‘bundle up’ on it. The question is then – is this crucial element a direct adaptation, and we can put the ‘rest’ of the elements aside for the time being as they are not important in answering the question ‘is religion an adaptation?’ In this case, we consider each element as a separate trait. Religion is an adaptation because its core trait is an adaptation (e.g. a belief in supernatural agents). (2) We can assume that religion’s constituent core elements when put together form a proper trait in its own right. This coalescence of cognitive, emotional and behavioural elements is what selection has operated on, resulting in religion being an adaptation (or more precisely – a religious system being an adaptive system). In this case we can overlook to what purpose and how these elements served (if ever) when they functioned separately. In short, there are three possibilities: either it is an adaptation consisting of adaptations, an adaptation consisting of by-products or an adaptation consisting both of adaptations and of by-products. Overall however, it has to be noted that in both cases we assume that core elements did not evolve together. Some of them (e.g. ritual) have much deeper evolutionary history than others, but at some point in our evolutionary history they started to regularly coalesce. Neither approach also claims that it would be worthless to study religion’s constituent core elements individually (and when possible in separation) which is the way used mostly by by-productivists. Adaptationists mostly make use of a different approach saying that this procedure lacks space for a complex ‘secondary adaptation’. My generalization that by-productivists are not convinced that religion could be classified as an adaptation which I use in the text, would mean the same thing as if I reformulated it by saying that by-productivists are not convinced that religion could be treated as an autonomous trait. Similar classification relating to the primary isolated functions of core elements of religion exists in theory even in the by-productivistic accounts. It can either be a by-product consisting of adaptations, a by-product consisting of by-products or a by-product consisting of adaptations and of by-products. Nevertheless, in their case the usefulness of the classification is weakened by the fact that by-productivists, as opposed to the adaptationists, all denounce analysing religion on this level as a

114

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

functional unit/complete behavioural complex. Thus, they frequently refuse to make statements based on uniformity of some aggregate. As a result we much more often see proclamations/titles such as ‘Religion as an adaptation/Religion is an adaptation’ or ‘Religion is not an adaptation’, rather than proclamations/ titles saying ‘Religion as a by-product/Religion is a by-product’, unless they want to make the point on a bit different level – that of religion not being ‘a natural kind’ and notoriously hard to define as such. However, because in reality it’s very difficult to talk about something without being able to refer to it in singular, this model will serve also as an abstract meta-analytical tool for classification of by-productivist theories. Also, to proclaim something to be a by-product of evolution says nothing about it not being in some cases and moments adaptive.14 According to those that uphold this view, religion is a by-product of our emotional and cognitive predispositions evolved for other purposes (e.g. Theory of Mind module etc.), similar to the red colour of blood being a by-product of the chemistry of haemoglobin carrying oxygen. The capacity of haemoglobin to carry oxygen is an adaptation. The colour of haemoglobin when carrying oxygen is not and was not per se selected for. Similarly to this case, there is no need for other adaptive explanations of religion either. Other analogous cases where the adaptive function is not clear are for example humour, music, the ability to read etc. By-productivistic concepts typically make an effort to begin the study of religion by examining evolved architectural features of the human mind discovered independently from religion and subsequently inquiring how these could have contributed to the evolution of religious behaviour. The reverse way of approaching it is more characteristic of adaptationist theories. Adaptationist theories typically start from cross-culturally recurrent features of religions, subsequently infer on their fitness consequences and then reconstruct situations and environments in which they could have evolved from.15 All this in an effort to find the one (most important, underlying, evolutionary) reason for its existence (e.g. the promotion of in-group pro-sociality and cooperation). This difference in the approach can also cause pressure on the dichotomy of origins vs. origin of religion,16 because even if we go around the fact that every educated evolutionary account of origins and evolution of religion (be it adaptationist or by-productivist) considers religion a complex composed

EWCE in Religious Studies

115

heterogeneous category (an origin in natural language use; consisting of many building blocks/constituent parts etc.) and abandons it in favour of researching some of its elements (religious behaviour; ritualized behaviour; religious beliefs) which evolved by degrees and in different periods, there still is a difference between the various theories. They either stress the ‘randomness’ of the link between these elements (meaning they assembled together at certain point just because they could, with no specific reason behind it) or they endeavour to discover the main reason behind this link (which would reveal the core feature of religion, to which all other features are mostly subordinate, whatever their role is for the aggregate). In the first scenario, the interest is focused more on parts in their individuality whereas in the second it is more focused on the linkage and the functionality of the whole.17 By presenting the leading authors and the most influential hypotheses of EWCE approach to the study of religion, by creating their typology when dividing them into two main groups according to whether they see religion as an evolutionary adaptation or as a by-product of evolutionary adaptations and by subsequently analysing basic differences in suppositions of these two groups, I have reached not only the end of the section presenting this alternative of evolutionary study of culture (and more precisely religion), but also the end of my entire undertaking. Thus follows a detailed summary of my main conclusions.

Conclusion The fact that the evolutionary theory is again taken seriously in the scientific study of religion is a major benefit for Religious Studies. However, it is not riskless, as there are a large number of evolutionary approaches and some of them have their dark side, with which Religious Studies has a vast historic experience. The principles of evolutionary theory formed the basis for the first major scientific theories of religion including of those authors whom we are willing to see as founding fathers of our discipline. However, the force with which the evolutionary theory spilled over into their worldviews and codetermined their value-systems backfired and devalued the purity of their scientific efforts. In many cases, in the view of later critics, these authors discredited their theories by not being able to discern between the factual side and ideological overlaps of evolutionary theory. They saw them as being one, which, in return, compromised their potential factual contribution. Therefore, it is understandable that many scholars of religion experience a natural defence reaction in contact with the approach propagating the evolutionary study of religion. Nevertheless, it would be a pity if this reaction was allergic in its extent, that is, in the sense of the malfunction of the autoimmune system, exaggerated. In such moments, under the best of conditions, it blindly condemns the whole approach for its wrong parts, and under the worst of conditions, condemns the whole for the wrong parts which it actually does not even contain; and all without attending to a thorough analysis, which could help in avoiding similar simplifying rash conclusions. This type of analysis is the main theme of the present work. One of the preliminary conclusions may be the fact that only a few of the new applications of Darwinistic evolutionary theories on religion repeat ideological mistakes of the past. It is caused not only by prior elimination of those applications which would repeat them and that I would have to a priori discard many candidates. It is, more likely, caused by the fact that modern analogues of such biased

118

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

theories are scarce in the scientific field. It is, in a certain respect, encouraging, because many of the authors working with evolutionary theories of religion are not primarily recruited from social sciences, which one would expect to be sufficiently instructed by the history of their respective fields. Among the fundamental mistakes of classical cultural evolutionism, I classify primarily the linking of evolutionary processes with value-based concepts of progress. I also include the merging of evolution with teleology, the ‘just-so stories’, prescribing evolution as rigid unilinearity or linking evolutionary processes with the development of individual personality. Yet there is one point which is common for both classical and modern Darwinian cultural evolutionism, and as I showed in my work, even this point can be regarded as ideological. I mean the philosophical position of Universal Darwinism (from Generalized Darwinism to Darwinian monism), which the theories use for legitimation of the fact that their treatises are in fact evolutionary. The legitimization technique consists in claiming that what is Darwinian, is pure scientific evolutionism (contrary to only undetermined evolutionism, that is, also progressivism) and that this pure scientific character is transferred to any other treatise transferring Darwinian principles to nonbiological domains. Because that is what Darwin himself did, the width and uncertainty of his original principles enable it. In this case, it is already a metaphysical position working with Darwinism in its original form, as if it were a meta-framework, which could be used (while respecting certain conditions) for explanations at all other levels of reality.1 It is a conviction which is legitimate to the extent in which it stays within its proper limits, that is, in the field of metaphysical reflections of the authors, and it does not act as their motivation for their efforts to show at whatever cost what it is possible to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to in the realms of science.2 However, if someone does not share this philosophical position, the legitimizing technique which sprouts from it is rendered useless. The only thing out of the ‘pure scientific character’ of Darwinian evolution that we are left with for assessment of the ‘pure scientific character’ of accounts which transfer Darwinian principles into non-biological domains, is the functional, that is, current biological neo-Darwinian form which clarifies or abandons many of Darwin’s original principles. Therefore, I have chosen this functional form as a coin of the realm for my critical analysis.

Conclusion

119

Even though the value-based ideological content is the biggest problem, it is not the only problematic aspect of applying evolutionary theory to the explanation of religion. Even after we make sure that our efforts to transfer this theory from its original domain (organic speciation) do not bear marks of value-based distortion of science, we still have to determine whether this transition was done appropriately (i.e. whether it honoured all the rules for transferring theory from one domain to another, from between levels of complexity and from between disciplines). Were all the principles of neoDarwinian theory of evolution by natural selection adhered to so that it still is the same theory? Is the concept of evolution in the transfer useful or rather confusing and misleading? For the critical assessment of the strong and weak points of the different ways of using evolutionary theory for explaining religious phenomena, the need gradually emerged to mutually relate one to another. Thus, another result of my book is their tentative typology. First-level classification is based on whether they are or are not ideologically biased. These classes, roughly speaking, overlap with the distinction of classical cultural evolutionism and contemporary cultural evolutionism (the latter together with the EWCE approach to the study of culture). Second-level classification is determined by the criterion of using cultural evolution in the sense of the evolution of culture (i.e. the genuine autonomous cumulative process of the evolution of culture). This excludes as special those accounts I label as the EWCE approach as a distinct way of applying evolutionary theory to explanations of culture. EWCE accounts emphasize the biological/genetic neo-Darwinian evolution of our species which affects how people function in all domains of their endeavour. Thus it is worth asking, when and in what conditions religion started to form and to try to discover the innate psychological mechanisms of our current stone-age minds that shaped our religious beliefs and behaviour in the past, as they do so even today.3 This line of thought is, from a certain perspective, the safest and most conservative because in itself it does not demand that the principles of neo-Darwinian evolution should be applicable even outside the biological (genetic) domain. Although sociocultural phenomena are, as products of evolutionarily evolved minds, dependent on the results of biological evolution, it does not claim that their ‘life’ should be subjected to the same principles. In my opinion, it is this line of thought which

120

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

holds the biggest ‘newly discovered’ contribution of evolutionary theory for the scientific study of religion. This contribution is not burdened with any formerly mentioned ideological problems, nor is it exposed to the previously discussed mistakes stemming from the imperfect transmission of principles from the biological domain to a cultural one. In the case of evolution of culture accounts, it is expected that there is a real cultural evolution, where ideas, institutions and parts of cultures or even whole cultures are undertaking processes that are genuinely evolutionary. This is why their variation, selection and retention are going to be better explained when using neo-Darwinian natural selection. I see this division as useful not only because it holds separate two essentially different things, but also because it helps in detecting them in scenarios, when they remain mixed. One of the cases when this sheddinglight ability shows its usefulness, is when this difference is intentionally diminished. Some authors state openly that the traits they talk about are cultural. Some authors claim that they are agnostic about whether these traits are genetic or cultural. Yet some try to blur the difference in an effort to legitimize and to put in better light traditionally unacknowledged cultural evolution by bonding it with a highly successful and credible model of genetic evolution.4 In the second case, it helps with the identification of another misinterpretation which currently appears: namely calling as ‘cultural evolution’ evolution through culture. However, evolution through culture in principle is just genetic evolution which takes seriously the feedback loop between biology and culture.5 In other words, it does not claim, that there should be a process of genuine evolution of culture, but that evolution (i.e. genetic evolution) is largely influenced by culture (evolution through culture), because culture and cultural change (even though in itself not subjected to Darwinian principles) has sufficiently powerful means to have an impact on our genetic evolution. However, recognizing that the gene can act on culture and that culture can act retroactively on the gene does not mean recognizing that cultural phenomena should be necessarily subject to the same evolutionary processes as biological phenomena. It only requires recognition of the complexity and interconnectedness of both processes, each of which remains autonomous and governed by its own principles and laws.

Conclusion

121

The EWCE approach to the study of culture (including the concept of evolution through culture) I see as the most promising and it is because of this approach I claim that taking evolutionary theory seriously again within the scientific study of religion is a huge benefit for Religious Studies. However, when the contribution of theories of evolution of culture is concerned, my conclusion about the benefits of these efforts is much more sceptical. I do not claim that any application of biological principles (methods) is not a priori possible or useful in the domain of sociocultural phenomena; that is, that there exist previously known facts that could prevent a similar application or condemn it to failure before it even started. On the contrary, I see as clearly beneficial the fact, that similar prejudices are being gradually removed and that thanks to this effort it is again possible to open up in all seriousness the debate on the forms, the possibilities and the boundaries of such applications on a factual level. However, some applications are better than others and some suffer from serious deficiencies, as do for example applications of neoDarwinian natural selection on the study of cultural change (or whatever we decide to call this process – cultural change/development/history). If I were to express my conclusions in another way, I would choose the following words. Using evolution to explain religion (more precisely religious behaviour) takes three basic forms, two of which I consider to be discredited or scientifically unsatisfactory/unsustainable, and one, on the other hand, to be very rewarding and inspiring. The first is the form of progressivist models, whether classical or modern, which combine evolution with valueclogged normative criteria of progress (often complemented by teleology or another, nowadays indefensible, concepts). In current CSR they are virtually non-existent. The second is the form that does not suffer from the ideological shortcomings of the first, but carries, in its reliance on the concept of Darwinian evolution, problems stemming from the legitimizing technique associated with the philosophical position of Universal Darwinism,6 and that fails to meet the criteria of the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection. When transferred to the sociocultural domain, it is, despite all its wishes, just a poor metaphor or a vague and misleading analogy which adds nothing to the traditional historical causal explanations. It enters CSR in the form of theories of evolution of religious groups, such as D. S. Wilson’s group selection account (2002) or even

122

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

in the form of the evolution of religion itself, such as memetics (Dawkins, 1976; Blackmore, 1999; Dennett, 2006) or Dual Inheritance Theory/cultural group selection (Richerson & Boyd, 2005; Henrich, 2009; Norenzayan, 2013). Both the progressivist, and the second form, in which it comes to theory of genuine cultural evolution in the sense of evolution of culture, I see, due to previously mentioned reasons, as misleading, and I cannot but agree with S. J. Gould’s pleading (1996b: 219–20): ‘I do wish that the term “cultural evolution” would drop from use.’ The third form, the EWCE approach (including back loop cultural pressures/ evolution through culture), utilizes standard neo-Darwinian individual-gene selection to generate testable hypotheses about the architecture of the human mind acquired during the evolutionary history of our species. Based on the innate psychological traits (mostly adaptive in nature) it can in turn generate hypotheses about forms/patterns/regularities of human behaviour (religious behaviour is just one of the natural kinds of human behaviour) and thus to create, within the scientific study of religion, new promising progressive research programmes7 complementing and enriching the traditional approaches in Religious Studies. This form is suitable for balancing out traditional historical approaches in that it focuses our attention on an otherwise poorly available (and I hope historians will not get offended when I say that perhaps also because of this unavailability it is also often underappreciated/overlooked/marginalized) part of human cultural history which is, however, so significant that it shapes subsequent history and even our present times. I mean tens of thousands8 (up to hundreds of thousands)9 of years of our ‘cultural development’ where we lack written records. In the current CSR we encounter this form especially (but not exclusively) in the form of evolutionary psychology accounts dealing with the evolution of mental capacities for religious ideas and practices (the suit of psychological dispositions typical of modern sapiens produced by genetic evolution). In addition to this classification, there are other useful ways of dividing the different evolutionary concepts of religion. One of them, to which I have dedicated space in my book, uses a criterion of adaptation, which is originally from evolutionary biology, regardless of whether it is an adaptation determined by genetic or cultural fitness. Even here, the typology results in two types

Conclusion

123

of hypotheses, and religion is consequently seen either as an evolutionary adaptation or as a by-product of adaptations.10 One of the anticipated objections to my conclusions may be the criticism that they are based on excessive essentialization of the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection: I take one definition of the theory (or concept) as it is currently used as a standard, and I make it the only correct (as well as the only possible) way to define/treat the theory (the concept). This in turn leads to the position that it is the only way how to effectively work with that theory. While I recognize that there may be specific cases where such essentialization becomes an obstacle for innovative scientific work, it is necessary to see that such an objection is built on a much more general level of the philosophy of science. It works on the level that deals with the assessment of revolutionary changes and paradigm shifts in research on the background of the whole stages or even entire epochs (however they may shorten with the use of modern technology and increasing amounts of involved scientists). Above all, it is an assessment which has at its disposal the results, on the basis of which it evaluates the revolutionary contributions and shifts. However, to apply this objection on the level of everyday scientific work is in my opinion to misuse it. This is because it allows us to cheaply criticize the efforts of anyone, who is trying to make the terminology more accurate. Even in my view, nobody owns the theory of natural selection, it is not patented nor can anyone sue another person for their ‘illegal’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ usage. However, my stance is that on the level, which I described as everyday scientific work, the largest progress is facilitated thanks to clear definitions which help us, together with more accurate terminology, to express ourselves and to think more clearly. The subsequent question of whether the transfer was made by using formally adequate means, is actually a specific type of evaluative effort to assess the legitimacy of the content of each model of cultural evolution, the progress it achieves within the field, how useful it is and in what way it expands our current account of cultural change or history.11 However, none of the analysed models of cultural evolution succeed in convincing me that cultural evolution is anything more than just a poor metaphor and an inaccurate/misleading analogy. Cultural change is substantially different from biological change and even though biological evolution influences cultural change, as it does with everything that is based and anchored in the forms of living organisms, it does

124

Contemporary Evolutionary Theories of Culture

not guide cultural change nor can it explain it. And it is important to realize that the fact that culture changes in an ‘adaptive’ way does not prove that the analogy to natural selection should be a good way to explain these changes. It can only explain those aforementioned influences which constitute only a small part of the whole phenomenon. The rest is much more appropriate (i.e. useful) to access through other theoretical frameworks. For if we use the term or the concept of evolution when considering cultural change, we either (1) drag over all kinds of law-like processes, assumptions and normative statements that are simply not applicable, (2) make them applicable which distorts the phenomena in question or (3) leave these processes, assumptions and normative statements altogether and instead we fill the term evolution with new meanings that are so close to the existing terms of cultural change/ history that it is a useless and redundant duplication. However, this conclusion does not affect the EWCE approach to the study of culture/religion, which is, in general, a huge contribution for the study of culture/religion even though its explanatory power is limited. The contribution I am drawing our attention to, has its price as well as its risks. The need to overcome the scope and methodological limitations of single disciplines by multidisciplinary research is associated both with the pressure to increase its expertise in adjacent fields, and with the pressure for higher and broader systematization/synthesis of the results of research in various fields. Unless the multidisciplinary research is well managed, preferably by creating a team with experts representing individual disciplines (the best option is of course the most expensive one), the single researcher is forced to cover the full expertise of multiple disciplines. Such pressure leads not only to unreasonable demands, but also to various types of blunders. What I have in mind, for example, is how difficult it is for a researcher, with no matter how deep and profound a training in one specialization, to tell if a hypothesis from another field (judged only on the basis of itself) is being scientifically parsimonious or too simplistic. This issue highlights, for example, evolutionary anthropologist J. H. Langdon in his critique of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.12 Aesthetically pleasing hypotheses that attract us because of their apparent parsimony, are easy to convey and spread rapidly among non-specialists – what Langdon calls ‘umbrella hypotheses’. According to Langdon, with certain types of evolutionary hypotheses, the problem is even amplified (Langdon, 1997: 479), because: ‘as internally

Conclusion

125

consistent hypotheses about the past, they are very difficult to prove incorrect in an absolute sense’. At the very end I would like to explicitly state that I hope that my critical analysis is not going to be understood in a way that I stand in an opposition to the new evolutionary study of religion, and that is because it is quite the contrary. I am its serious advocate and I would like to see its great future, not only because of the theoretical framework, but also because it brings a real effort in following up the difficult ideal of multidisciplinary research. My biggest motivation was to strengthen this new evolutionary study of religion through my critique, refine it and make it stronger by removing mistakes and missteps that damage it in my eyes. Thus, let us use tools from sciences that were originally developed to explain other phenomena, including tools from sciences at first sight as remote as evolutionary biology. Some of them may be/ are very beneficial to our field (see cultural epidemiology). But we should not use them recklessly. Some of the tools, no matter how tempting at first glance they may seem, may be/are completely useless or may even lead to inflicting major damage (such as neo-Darwinian natural selection).

Notes Introduction 1 I use the adjective ‘contemporary’ instead of ‘modern’ here deliberately. There are a vast number of authors who are commonly classified as modern cultural evolutionists. Unfortunately, due to the objectives and scope of this work (i.e. focus on the theories with a significant influence in current Religious Studies), I have to omit well-known figures like V. Gordon Childe, Leslie A. White, Julian H. Steward, Elman R. Service, early Marshall D. Sahlins and Marvin Harris entirely from my analysis. 2 My goal is not to define CSR, to address its internal subdivisions nor to analyse its short but nonetheless rich history. Even though there are many specializations within CSR, and only a few of them are explicitly dedicated to evolutionary theorizing, evolution is such a fundamental theme within its framework, that we would have to search hard to find a single CSR work that does not mention it in one way or the other. I am well aware of how much of a simplication it is to use CSR in this monolithic fashion, yet I see it as unavoidable on this level of generalization, which is necessary for accomplishing the goals of this book. 3 References in this respect can be found in the work of representatives of all three chosen main cases of contemporary theories of cultural evolution. In group selection accounts, see for example D. S. Wilson (2002: 5, 9–11, 18, 125), in dual inheritance accounts P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (2005: 239, 253–5), in memetics S. Blackmore (1999: 10–11, 56). 4 The concept of Generalized Darwinism was developed by G. M. Hodgson (2005). Among the most famous advocates and proponents of Universal Darwinism/ Darwinian monism are: evolutionary biologist R. Dawkins (1983), philosopher D. C. Dennett (1995) or psychologist S. Blackmore (1999). For more details on Generalized Darwinism or the Universal Darwinism/Darwinian monism see the next chapter. 5 Lamarckism is a good example as it illustrates the differences between the two definitional frameworks. Neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection in biology gradually arrived at rejection of Lamarckian principle of heritability; the possibility of the direct transmission of ‘characteristics of an individual gained during their lifetime to an offspring’. In contrast, theories of cultural evolution use Lamarckism as one of the possible mechanisms of transmission. What is a mistake for one side – a mistake that needed to be eliminated to emancipate the theory from its speculative captivity – is employed by the other side as a legitimate solution, enabling in some cases quotations from Darwin. Which begs the question: how appropriate is it to brand these theories of cultural evolution with the adjective ‘neo-Darwinian’.

128

Notes

6 They would always openly present those differences. 7 For in-text citations and format of bibliography, I use APA Style (established by the American Psychological Association). 8 One of the important features of the standard neo-Darwinian definition of natural selection, compared to previous versions of the definition, is the pressure to diminish the concept of ‘fitness’ in favour of such concepts as ‘replicators’ and ‘vehicles’ that help (helped) to refine the definition of natural selection by clarifying the units of selection. In standard neo-Darwinian biological evolution the ‘replicators’ are genes (DNA information). Genes create high-fidelity copies of themselves (they duplicate themselves). In the end, it is the genes which harvest the advantages of adaptations. Genes are the ultimate goal/beneficiaries of selective pressure. Thanks to their duplication, replicators outlive their vehicles, which grow in complexity from physical DNA molecules to individual organisms – in case of genes over millions of years. Theoretically, for Darwinian natural selection to occur, only replicators are essential; vehicles, unlike replicators, are not a necessary requirement. As I will show in the relevant chapters, most theories of cultural evolution (evolution of culture, that is, from my perspective a metaphorical usage of natural selection in the domain of cultural phenomena, even for, and especially for, group selection accounts – whether genetic/biological or cultural) are in this regard typical in that they concentrate on (return to) the elaboration of the concept of ‘fitness’. Instead of accentuating the survival and reproduction of replicators, they emphasize the fitness of various vehicles. 9 In the words of R. Dawkins (2012): ‘[. . .] replicators qualifying as successful will – on average, over many instantiations and many generations – tend to find themselves associated with good phenotypes, while replicators defined as unsuccessful will find themselves statistically associated with bad phenotypes. “Good” and “bad” phenotypes are defined as good and bad at passing on the replicators responsible for them’. 10 Even though I am using the term ‘to anticipate’ which might imply intentionality, I by no means suggest that. On the contrary, it is a figure of speech I use to stress how unintentional, involuntary and mechanistic the process is. S. Pinker (2012) uses for example ‘to be blind to the effects’. Genes take some action (in the end result, phenotypic) to ensure/maximize their survival but it does not mean intentional, planned, foreseen, conscious decision-making that comes to mind. These connotations come from everyday conversations where the word connects to agents. I use it only due to the lack of more suitable terms, which forces me to resort to this misleading metaphor and the only solution is to explicitly draw attention to it. 11 This is one of the fundamental ideological errors that may be found in an evolutionary study of anything. I will highlight this problem later on as an error of connecting evolution with teleology in the list of fundamental ideological errors of classical cultural evolutionists.

Notes

129

12 Revealing its illusoriness (i.e. of purposefulness/design) is often seen as the biggest contribution of Darwin’s theory of evolution in general (i.e. it provides an elegant answer to the age-old question of why nature seems so full of design without it having to postulate the scientifically troublesome intelligent designer). 13 ‘Non-random’ in the sense that there are non-random variations that are a priori blind to their effects on environments, as in the case of genetic mutations. 14 A good example is the popular ‘ethnical periods’ of L. H. Morgan (1974 [1877]) which combine evolutionary sequences of savagery, barbarism and civilization with levels of technological development. Stages of social organization, from bands, through tribes and chiefdoms to State, are here explained by the increasing need for more complex political systems that arise from the increasing number and density of the population, often supplemented by other causal environmental and economic contexts. 15 For example, cultural replicators with high-fidelity replication in the case of memetic accounts (for an extended argument, see chapter ‘Memetic Accounts’). 16 For example, the Lamarckian type of heritability of acquired characteristics that forms an essential component of both group selection accounts in question and dual inheritance accounts (for an extended argument, see chapters ‘Group Selection Accounts’ and ‘Dual Inheritance Accounts’).

Chapter 1 1 Some authors, such as E. J. Sharpe (1986 [1975]: 47–71), are aware of the necessary extension/refinement, similar to the one I am pointing out, and they use the slogan-like expressions of ‘Darwinism makes it possible’ only as a rhetorical element in their chapter titles, trying to draw attention to, for some perhaps, an unpopular opinion. 2 Similar works (e.g. J. E. Carpenter (1913), A. S. Geden (1922), E. O. James (1934 and 1954)), show how far the dominance of darwinizing cultural evolutionism extended in Britain. Still in the 1940s in the work summarizing the current state of the phenomenology of religion by E. Hirschmann (1940), there is not a single author of Anglo-American origin. 3 Other terms used as synonyms for replication are retention or inheritance. 4 Darwinian principles have been applied to the development of computer viruses, the immune systems or neural connections (Edelman, 1987; Plotkin, 1994; Aunger, 2002). 5 Processes additional to those operating at the genetic level (see Hodgson, 2005). And it is because of these additional processes specific to each scientific domain (allowing auxiliary explanations), that authors like G. M. Hodgson argue that

130

6

7

8 9

10 11

12

Notes Universal Darwinism is neither a version of ‘biological reductionism’ – where everything can be explained by biological accounts, nor a version of ‘biological imperialism’ – where everything should be explained in biological terms (see 2005). For them specific processes of retention can vary enormously in different domains. For example Darwin himself believed that inheritance of acquired characteristics in a ‘Lamarckian’ sense works in the biological domain and that idea was not widely rejected in biology until the 1890s. Therefore, for advocates of Generalized Darwinism, there is no reason why the ‘Lamarckian’ mechanism could not be very well functional in other domains. The term Social Darwinism was rarely used up to the 1940s and neither H. Spencer nor W. G. Sumner (both prominent sociocultural evolutionists) were associated with it. The first citations appear within the context of disapproving imperialist or racist ideologies and its current meaning was gradually built up by mainly two authors, T. Parsons (1932; 1934; 1937) and R. Hofstadter (1944). This meaning extends blame for abusive use of ideas from biology in social sciences, sexism, eugenics and later on fascism, to Nazism and in this way to both world wars. The term is often used so loosely that it can encompass even authors preceding C. R. Darwin’s work. As R. C. Bannister nicely puts it (1979: 3): ‘Social Darwinism, as almost everyone knows, is a Bad Thing.’ An even better illustration, quite literally, uses G. M. Hodgson, when he describes the position of Social Darwinism prominent in much of Western social science in the second half of the twentieth century by the symbolism of a 1934 massive fresco by Diego Rivera in Mexico City entitled ‘Man at the Crossroads’. G. M. Hodgson writes (2004: 428): ‘To the colorful right of the picture are Diego’s chosen symbols of liberation, including Karl Marx, Vladimir Illych Lenin, Leon Trotsky, several young female athletes and the massed proletariat. To the darker left of the mural are sinister battalions of marching gas-masked soldiers, the ancient statue of a fearsome god, and the seated figure of a bearded Charles Darwin.’ A famous critique of naturalistically oriented ethical theories was introduced by G. E. Moore (1968 [1903]: 10, 13–16, 40), also known as the open question argument. Probably the most famous confrontation took place at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford in June 1860. The zoologist, T. H. Huxley, who is remembered as ‘Darwin’s bulldog’, faced the Bishop of Oxford, S. Wilberforce, known as ‘Soapy Sam’, who asked T. H. Huxley ‘whether he was descended from an ape on his grandfather or grandmother’s side’ (Overy, 1997: 56). T. H. Huxley retaliated and was later on supported on podium by Sir J. Lubbock and J. Hooker, who also spoke in support of C. R. Darwin. As P. Dickens points out (2000: 19): ‘Herbert Spencer coined the term “survival of the fittest” some ten years before Darwin’s Origin of Species.’

Notes

131

13 My argument is in accord with views of both W. Capps (1995: 71–87) and J. Cartwright (2000: 320–5) who try to show that Darwin’s influence on early anthropological theorizing appears to be more ideological than actual and that it was H. Spencer who seems to have had a more concrete impact on the thoughts of Marett and his colleagues (see Marett, 1971 [1920]: 104–5). 14 For good introductions to how this situation has changed, making examinations of human behaviour scientifically meaningful from evolutionary perspectives see Cartwright (2001) or Laland & Brown (2002).

Chapter 2 1 L. Wieseltier (2006) in his The New York Times review The God Genome in this relation calls Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006) one big exercise in ‘unexamined originalism’. 2 Earlier I have already mentioned the two most powerful sources of inspiration for the concept of progress, one coming from the German and the other from the French philosophy of history. For classical theories of evolution in the study of religions it was the French branch that had the bigger influence, particularly the work of such authors as M. J. A. Condorcet, H. de Saint-Simon, and especially A. Comte. 3 K. R. Popper (1957) draws attention to this aspect of evolutionism of the nineteenth century, though he does so in a broader context and with a slightly shifted meaning, defining it as one of the essential characteristics of his concept of historicism. The same problem is also analysed by L. Goldstein (1967), who already in this context contrasts developmental and causal laws, and R. Nisbet (1969), who mainly deals with the conceptualization of the idea of immanent change of classical and contemporary evolutionists. That criticism is widened by M. Mandelbaum (1971), who uses the term directional laws to identify the problem and A. Giddens (1981; 1984), who pays more attention to the dimension of development of internal potency. On this occasion, it is worth mentioning the etymology of the word evolution. Originating from Latin, the term evolutio was originally used to refer to the unfolding of a scroll or the ‘unrolling of parchments’ (Service, 1971). 4 Speculations about the first/primal form of religion, popular among classical cultural evolutionists (and not just them), can serve as a famous example. It was successively found in manism (H. Spencer), animism (E. B. Tylor), animatism (R. R. Marett), magic (J. G. Frazer), supreme being (A. Lang), urmonoteism (W. Schmidt) or totemism (E. Durkheim and S. Freud), without the possibility to make any final call which would determine which one is it. In addition

132

Notes

to anthropologists using cultural evolution, I have to also mention, due to relatedness of the subject, the classical representatives of the psychology and sociology of religion. Sociology of religion and psychology of religion are both specific in their own right which makes them different from anthropology of religion. However, it would be wrong to imagine them growing up in a vacuum outside of the most discussed topics of the era. The first works of psychology of religion started to appear in the United States already in the 1890s, inspired by the German experimental psychology of W. M. Wundt. Among the most significant representatives were J. H. Leuba, E. D. Starbuck and W. James. Its trademark was Protestantism (open interest in other traditions, and therefore greater connection to Comparative Religion appeared only in the 1920s with J. B. Pratt) and extreme individualism, and thanks to the dominant anchoring in the philosophy of pragmatism it also treated evolutionary theory differently. Autonomous sociology of religion begins to emerge in many ways as a critical response to the psychological as well as individualistic tendencies of the anthropological school with the work of E. Durkheim. 5 Some authors, who are uncritically hostile towards any evolutionary approaches, inflate this kind of objection to gargantuan proportions, sometimes claiming that all evolutionary explanations are unfalsifiable. While I agree that in some cases this can happen, especially if they are naïvely, ideologically or non-professionally constructed, I want to, at the same time, distance myself from those who do abuse the objection in this way. For an extended argument on how current evolutionary modelling avoids unfalsifiable usage see Ketelaar & Ellis (2000). 6 The term is a deliberate reminiscence of the famous children’s book of the same name by J. R. Kipling (1902), Nobel Prize winner for literature, in which the author describes the origin of different things. For instance, the elephant’s trunk originated when Elephant’s Child, who was full of satiable curiosity, came one day to a river to ask a crocodile what he has for dinner. The crocodile, instead of an answer, responds by demonstration and gnaws the originally small nose of Elephant’s child. In the subsequent fight, the elephant’s nose is pulled to its current size. 7 A similar type of shortcoming is also often characteristic for scientistic philosophical treatises that try to shield themselves by science although we would be searching for science there in vain. Even though here it is not strictly speaking misconduct in scientific work as by definition it is not scientific but philosophical. Nevertheless, these essays try to profile themselves as such. In particular, I have in mind political agitations mostly of atheistic character in the style of D. C. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006), which cast bad light on the Cognitive Science of Religion as they are using its impartial conclusions selectively and for their own purposes to build tendentious arguments far beyond

Notes

133

science. For a more comprehensive critique of Dennett’s efforts misusing Cognitive Science of Religion, from the point of view of a cognitive scientist of religion, see Geertz (2008). 8 However, in case of this objection, it needs to be noted, that it is rather a hypothetical possibility as trying to find a supporter of such a ‘strong’ unilinearity even among the ‘hardcore’ classics as H. Spencer and L. H. Morgan would prove close to impossible. Although this is a separate issue, the power of unilinearity is closely related to the power of previously mentioned teleological anchoring of a given theory. The stronger the internal tendency for a given result common to all cultures, the stronger will have to be the extra causes moving the development away from it.

Chapter 3 1 For a concise introduction to the recent discussion which treats the concept of cultural evolution as a general model for the interdisciplinary science of culture, see A. Mesoudi (2011) and M. Blute (2010). Both authors pursue the ideal of an evolutionary synthesis of the social sciences and pay special attention to the cultural microevolution vs. macroevolution dichotomy. 2 Darwin can be argued to be the first proponent of such theories, provided we do not want to go even deeper into the various functionalist concepts, metaphors and analogies which would be easily found in works of philosophers of society of different periods and different focus. However, at that point we would have to assign some space also to many forms of non-evolutionary functionalist thinking, which of course would divert us from this book’s objectives. Functional thinking, though at times highly effective when applied on things that have a purpose, can in other contexts lead us very quickly astray. The simplest example can be offered in teleological ways of thinking in children who see inanimate natural objects as deliberately created artefacts. In this view, the sun is in the sky for specific reasons, such as providing light for people to see on the road or the heat so the animals were not cold. 3 Classical references used to document this step are G. C. Williams (1966) and R. Dawkins (1976). 4 Most biologists agree that selection at the level of the group can sometimes occur (when migration rates are implausibly low and group extinction rates are implausibly high) but is only a weak force in nature. Mainly because individuals can move between groups and compared to individuals, groups have slow lifecycles which results in individual adaptations almost always predominating over adaptations for the group (see Ridley, 1996a).

134

Notes

5 In the words of D. S. Wilson (2002: 6): ‘A middle ground is becoming established in which groups are acknowledged to evolve into adaptive units, but only if special conditions are met.’ 6 D. S. Wilson is the programme director of Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton University (EVOS) as well as of Evolutionary Religious Studies (ERS), an initiative that seeks to create ERS as a new field of scientific inquiry (for the project’s website see: http://evolution.binghamton.edu/religion/). His book Darwin’s cathedral: Evolution, religion, and the nature of society (2002) was chosen by the Times Literary Supplement as the Book of the Year in 2002. In 2010 he was also invited to deliver a keynote lecture on the XXth World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR), Religion: A Human Phenomenon, titled ‘Religion as a product of evolution’ (for the lecture see: http://mediacast. ic.utoronto.ca/20100816-IAHR-1/index.htm; for proceedings of the congress see: http://individual.utoronto.ca/yeungsydney/IAHR-2010-Congress-ProceedingsWEB.pdf ). Also worth mentioning is the Binghamton Religion and Spirituality Project (BRSP), focusing on the diversity and everyday practise of religion and spirituality in the Binghamton area. Supported by a John Templeton Foundation grant, it is a collaboration between D. S. Wilson and H. Whitehouse, where we can see a strong connection of D. S. Wilson to one of the biggest names in the Cognitive Science of Religion in general (for the project’s website see: http:// evolution.binghamton.edu/religion/research/brsp/). 7 What this point means is elaborated on in great detail in the following parts of this book devoted to analyses of the nature of human altruistic traits. 8 In most cases in mathematical models, this occurs at a time when the withingroup selection does not produce any effect (‘stable equilibrium’) and everything that happens can be attributed to the relative contribution of among-group selective pressures. This element has become an integral part of the theory of group selection since it became developed in more detail at the level of formal mathematical models that have tried to overcome previous criticism (see Price, 1972). However, the main objection of critics from the 1960s was not that amonggroup selection did not exist, but rather that individual within-group selection is always a stronger pressure. Because of this a priori defensive attitude, the new group selectionists rarely concentrate on cases that would be expected to occur most frequently, as such cases would be the most appropriate to develop group adaptations, that is, cases where the individual and group selection operated in parallel in the same direction. Yet such cases do not help them to prove the validity of their claim that we need specific group selection theory. On the contrary, and against all expectations, we often meet with the effort, so far always doomed to marginal results (as indicated by the aforementioned mathematical models), to show where the group selection pressures prevailed over individual selection pressures in the moments when both kinds counteracted each other.

Notes

135

9 For which I later suggest the term selfless altruism as opposed to selfish altruism. 10 I adopt the identification of this problem as fundamental from D. S. Wilson (2002: 7–8), who referred to it as the ‘fundamental problem of social life’. In the literature it is also referred to as ‘collective action problems/dilemmas’ or ‘tragedies of the commons’. In behavioural economics literature, we would find the same problem addressed mainly in applied Game Theory in Public Goods Games. 11 Information was retrieved on 16 February 2014 from C. Boehm’s faculty profile at the University of Southern California website. For more detail see: http:// dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff /faculty.cfm?pid=1003114. 12 Although even here it is not seeing all arguments through, because as aptly observed by M. Ridley (1996b: 193): ‘preferring the morality of group selection to the ruthlessness of individual struggle is to prefer genocide to murder’. Similarly concise is also L. Keeley, when he says (1996: 158): ‘warfare is ultimately not a denial of the human capacity for social cooperation, but merely the most destructive expression of it’. 13 The question remains – fitness of what (gene, individual, group)? Furthermore, group selection accounts introduced to the definition also the relative fitness (in addition to the absolute fitness) which I devote more attention to in the part where I deal with the problem of fitness averaging. 14 The shifted meaning in the use of terms altruistic and selfish in evolutionary biology causes a number of complications. Given that it is already a common and extended practice, the only thing left to do is to always clearly and explicitly define what we conceive of these terms at any given moment and how different this meaning is from the original normative meaning (see Wilson, 1992). This problem is illustrated by an accurate example by J. Tooby, who called similar terms ‘meaning-chameleons’ (2012): ‘For example, using the definition of selfishness and altruism that biologists use, a loving and self-sacrificing mother is acting selfishly, while a drug addicted mother who starves her children to give all her money to her dealer is and altruist (i.e. she is lowering her own fitness in a way that increases a nonrelative’s).’ 15 Therefore they vaguely confuse the kin selection/reciprocal altruism with the doctrine of psychological egoism. 16 Nevertheless, the purposeful use of neutral scientific results for subsequent construction of arguments exceeding science cannot be ruled out. Although I am no supporter of critics that would like to disqualify any scientific theory in advance only on the basis of alleged motivations, it is a matter of interest to see what types of moral and political overlaps group selection tends to be sometimes used. Normative statements include mainly pushing for hidden wisdom behind values that underline loyalty to the group, communitarianism, promotion of the group’s welfare, prosocial religiosity etc. 17 To make someone to perform a public good is itself a public good. Economists label this issue as a ‘second-order public goods problem’.

136

Notes

18 See ‘amplification of altruism’ in Sober & Wilson (1998: chapter 4). 19 In the public goods game, each player receives the same amount of money and has the option to decide how much of this amount ‘to invest’ into a common ‘pool’ of the group. Joint property is subsequently multiplied and divided back equally among all players. If all invest maximum, all receive the largest sum of money. However, if you give more than others, the others begin to profit at your expense. Being a free-rider is beneficial for an individual since he retains whatever he/she did not invest and also shares a proportion of the joint property. In the classical form of the game, which is played for a few rounds, the free-riding attitude eventually prevails completely and the invested amount is successively reduced to zero. 20 Players do not meet before or after the game meaning that maximal anonymity is guaranteed. 21 For an example of arguments of competing hypotheses seeking to show parsimonious ways to interpret these experimental results used by proponents of group selection see Delton, Krasnow, Cosmides & Tooby (2010). Similarly, Baumard, André & Sperber (2013: 77) when re-evaluating/rethinking results of experimental games so often seen as the hallmark of selfless altruism, assert: ‘in all these situations, participants act as if they had agreed on a contract or, as we claim, as if morality had evolved in a cooperative yet very competitive environment’. 22 In the works of writers such as D. S. Wilson, it is often hard to determine where to put a dividing line between genetic and sociocultural evolution. And it is not because this division would be hard to clearly define. It is rather that these authors are blurring the boundary and it costs a considerable effort to distinguish whether they are already earnestly talking about a new kind of process with special rules that requires our close attention, or whether they are just trying to bring figurative language in to illustrate what they mean, using the support of linguistic devices such as metaphor and analogy and transfer the terms from biological processes in this fashion. Often in these cases, it is not inconsistency, but a product of their metaphysical position in which they are convinced that evolutionary theory is a meta-framework, revealing the immanent principle cutting across many levels of the universe. Let us take as an illustration D. S. Wilson’s citation (2002: 35): ‘Religions appeal to many people in part because they promise transformative change – a path to salvation. The word evolution means change, so it would seem that evolution and religion share much in common. It is unfortunate that evolution is so often associated with genetic evolution, a slow process that gives the impression of an incapacity for change over the time scales that matter most to living people struggling with their problems.’

Notes

137

23 In addition, D. S. Wilson in several places, although not quite as clearly as we would expect him to, speaks about the need to expand too narrow a range of genetic evolution with cultural evolution when covering human evolution (see 2002). 24 Such arguments see as a necessity the preservation of the diversity of behaviours reflecting the diversity of genes causing these behaviours, because without it, there is no way how to connect phenotypic effect to biological natural selection. Without it, we would not have a way of keeping the conception in which we see something (in this case a given behaviour) as a phenotypic effect of genes (as something dependent on genes/genetically influenced behaviour) in general. In a sense, of course, every behaviour is dependent on genes, and therein lies the danger for informational payoffs of all theories that attempt to explain various forms of behaviour on the genetic basis. Unless all of these forms are anchored in the genetic base, it does not tell us much. Similarly, the fact that people have lungs does not inform us much about whether their political views are conservative or liberal. For a comprehensive development of a theory of phenotypic effects that expand/are located outside of bodies of individual organisms, see R. Dawkins (1982). 25 In fact, ‘time’ is here, as in other evolutionary treatises, of course, only a proxy for the number of required generations. 26 Deepening of our understanding of social insects is one of the great inspirations of renewed interest in group selection. This is most visible in the figure of E. O. Wilson, a Harvard biology professor, the holder of two Pulitzer Prizes (1979 and 1991) for his works On Human Nature and The Ants, and who is considered to be a founding father of sociobiology. 27 If groups really were the basic units in human evolution, should not we have shifted more towards this kind of social-insect-like reproduction strategy by now? 28 It should be noted that these experimental biologists are mostly proponents of the opposing individual-gene selection hypothesis. Their dismissive opinion is probably most accurately summarized by J. Coyne (2012): ‘In the end, group selection, while innately appealing, has not helped us understand very much about nature. We could reply to advocates of group selection as Laplace replied to Napoleon when queried about why God was absent from Laplace’s great book on celestial mechanics: “I have no need of that hypothesis.”’ 29 As D. S. Wilson wittily notes (2002: 40): ‘like laws and sausages, the manufacture of adaptation is not a pretty sight!’ 30 That is, whether and how are qualities of successful religious groups passed (with modifications) to the succeeding religious groups. 31 For extended argument why this should be so see Sober & Wilson (1998) and also Wilson (2002).

138

Notes

32 Such organisms/groups/adaptive units are defined by their behavioural patterns/ practices which are seen as products of their moral systems and concomitant social norms. The whole concept relies on the assumption of high behavioural uniformity of such moral communities (uniformity within groups that creates at the same time bigger differences among groups) that would not be there based just on their genetic structure. 33 Also called ‘among-group selection’ (Wilson, 2002: 22). 34 For the distinction and its definition see following text. For a similar argument focusing on the evolution of morals see also C. Boehm (1999a and 2012) and his Guarded Egalitarianism Hypothesis. I devote a special place to its detailed introduction below. 35 According to H. Whitehouse (2008: 39), the imagistic mode of religiosity ‘generates extremely cohesive coalitions’ and a likely trigger for its emergence was an increasing competition for scarce resources, thus being a group-level adaptation (Whitehouse, 2002: 309) to such conditions (providing cohesion necessary for hunting of larger game animals and territorially driven predation and warfare). At this point, it is also necessary to mention that the theory of H. Whitehouse has to be assigned to a number of categories, as he is one of those authors who work with wide range of concepts, mix various theoretical frameworks and evade a clean-cut categorization to a single group. According to what part of his theory we pay attention to, we are going to encounter him again in ‘by-productivist accounts’ (basic elements of religion in his approach are comprised of by-products), and his theory also can be classified as a ‘dual inheritance account’ (there is a genuine evolutionary process of religion). 36 His interest in this respect is to explain how supernatural retribution helps to enforce local moral codes, concluding (Boehm, 2008: 148) that: ‘supernatural sanctioning appears rather unpredictably, as a “backup” for the everyday social sanctioning by real people which includes social pressure, ostracism, group shaming, ejection, and capital punishment’. However, he notes that larger samples using ‘Pleistoceneappropriate’ hunter-gatherer ethnographies are needed for further testing. 37 A conservative date most of archaeologists would agree upon, for conscience being in place, coincides with human cultural modernity, about 45,000 years ago (Boehm, 2012). 38 Moral sense is basically a sophisticated defence mechanism that helps us to survive and thrive in groups, while handicapping psychopaths it enhances altruists’ survival. 39 The advent of which came about 250,000 years ago. 40 C. Boehm’s estimate is somewhere between 25,000 and 75,000 years (i.e. between 1,000 and 3,000 human generations). For comparison E. O. Wilson suggests 25,000 years (i.e. 1,000 generations in humans for any new evolutionary feature to evolve).

Notes

139

41 D. Sperber similarly criticizes societal-level fitness. In his open communication to the Evolution and Human Behavior Society, Sperber asks (1996): ‘Is fitness a matter of having descendants with a recognizable ideology? Of population size? Of variations in size (expansion)? Of duration? Of some weighted combination of size and duration? What of social systems that expand rapidly at the expense of heritability (empires)?’ 42 The fundamental difficulty in specifying and defending any group trait is to show that it really cannot be reduced to individual members’ traits that just happened to be shared by individual members of the group. As G. C. Williams famously noted ‘a fleet herd of deer’ might really be just a herd of fleet deer. 43 As with the famous saying: ‘to survive, you don’t need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun your friend’.

Chapter 4 1 No other mammal is able to digest milk in adulthood of its own kind, let alone the milk of another species. 2 Named after geographer F. Simoons who developed it. 3 This approach allows us to produce all kinds of predictions. An illustrative example may be a speculation about a ‘dyslectic gene’, which should be, according to D. L. Everett (2012), gradually eliminated in literate societies. If dyslexia harms an individual’s ability to read or write, and if these abilities are essential for a livelihood in a given society (employment/status), it should also damage the individual’s ability to successfully reproduce. However, without the connection to a specific gene track, such speculations suffer from a number of problems. The most significant ones stem from the complexity of reproductive success in such populations. Individuals have opportunities to compensate for their handicap in many other areas which all need to be accounted for when we want to build up a comprehensive formula of what influences the degree of reproductive success in human literate societies. 4 C. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson (1981) should in this context in no way be considered characteristic representatives of the EWCE approach. I use their phrase for the quotation purposes only as it is a convenient example of the first emphasis. However, their book is one of the pioneering works of gene-culture coevolution models. 5 The cultural diversity of groups (phenotypic variation) is not compromised genetically because it has its own reasons and mechanisms why and how to maintain the differences in spite of migration and mixed marriages. 6 This is visible even in the freshest writings of R. Boyd and P. J. Richerson – the founders and leading proponents of this theory – called The Origin and Evolution of Cultures.

140

Notes

7 If the intentional selection of popular cultural variants is determined by cultural embeddedness and this embeddedness evolved by natural selection, it will operate in the same direction as natural selection. 8 To illustrate the second duality I will use quotes from the text of P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (2005: 51), who specifically say: ‘[. . .] the decisions, choices, and preferences of individuals act at the population level as forces that shape cultural evolution, along with other processes like natural selection’. Or: ‘[. . .] several distinct processes rooted in human decision making lead to the accumulation of beneficial cultural variations, each with a distinctive twist of its own and none exactly like natural selection’. 9 This is so despite the fact that P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd are, within the hypothetical spectrum of advocates of ‘how slow’ or ‘how rapid’ the genetic evolution is, among those who try to search for examples of its possible rapidness (see 2005: 42–3). 10 These significant mutations were coined ‘hopeful monsters’ (see Gould, 1977). 11 This view makes it in Gould’s terminology a ‘secondary adaptation’, which is defined as exapted (co-opted) trait(s) that is(are) modified when taking on its(their) new role (see Gould & Vrba, 1982). In our case this means that while the cognitive and emotional mechanisms that produce religious beliefs and behaviours did not evolve for this purpose and they might have been, on their own, by-products of adaptations evolved for other purposes, these cognitive, emotional and behavioural elements were exapted for use in a complex system of communication, cooperation and coordination we call religious system. And furthermore these cognitive and emotional mechanisms have been, in this exaptation process, adaptively modified (their structural design has been changed) by the new socioecological niche created by religion. 12 P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd (2005) explicitly argue that the co-opting of preexistent structures for novel solutions to ecological challenges is a hallmark of evolutionary adaptation. 13 If it is an adaptation is it an individual adaptation or a group adaptation, is it primary or secondary? If it is in fact a by-product, is it a by-product with functional effects (and if it is an exaptation, is it a preadaptation or a spandrel?) or without functional effects (in which case is it neutral or detrimental for biological fitness?)? To make things clearer: By-products that have functional effects, that is, they have enhancing fitness effects in their new role, are called exaptations (earlier also cooptations). Exaptations must not be modified when taking on their new role otherwise they become secondary adaptations. Exaptations are either preadaptations (adaptations coopted for another functional effect, like birds’ feathers having evolved for insulation and which were only later coopted for flight) or spandrels (nonadaptations coopted for functional effect).

Notes

141

14 The article seeks to draw our attention to how complex a problem such a question poses and tries to solve and that before it will be possible (if ever) to reach any kind of conclusion in the form of a simple generalization in either direction, it will be necessary to still go through an enormous amount of work, that has only just started. On this account and for this purpose only it does not make the distinction between the terms adaptive and adaptation. 15 When considering mathematical models, it should be kept in mind that no matter how noble and scientifically they sound as an auxiliary method, they will always be only as good as their assumptions are plausible and as useful they turn out to be in solving real-life problems. 16 The hypothesis plays the leading part in the UBC project Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC), which aims to answer the question whether and how are religious beliefs and behaviours evolutionarily linked to within-group solidarity and cooperation. The project is funded by the grant ‘The Evolution of Religion and Morality’ granted to the Centre for the Study of Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC). On management and research committee we would find authors like E. Slingerland, J. Henrich, A. Norenzayan or M. Collard (for more details see project’s website: http://www.hecc.ubc.ca/cerc/). 17 For example A. Norenzayan (2013), when accounting for costliness of religious behaviour (why people do not fake beliefs for free-riding purposes) as well as for how are the beliefs and behaviours able to spread through population (why Mickey Mouse is not worshipped), dismisses costly signalling approaches as insufficient. Instead he uses Henrich’s (2009) concept of Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDs). CREDs are publicly displayed religious behaviours that function as reliable indicators of beliefs, as inferences of sincerity of stated beliefs, as energizers of others and can be transmitted purely by cultural evolutionary processes (cultural learning biases). Absence of CREDs in relation to some entities results in prohibition of commitment to those entities. In other words, people adopt only those beliefs that are supported by cultural models. 18 H. Whitehouse holds an almost identical viewpoint (2008: 38): ‘According to the modes theory, there are really just three ways of acquiring and transmitting religion.’ Both ‘modes of religiosity’ (the imagistic as well as the doctrinal) are two ‘additional’ ways that evolved consecutively out of the first way which is ‘speciestypical and more or less invariable, consisting of naturally ‘catchy’ concepts’ (Whitehouse, 2008: 38). The first way corresponds with P. Boyer’s idea of MCI concepts as by-products of evolution, sometimes (Whitehouse, 2004) referred to as ‘cognitively optimal beliefs’ (for more, see chapter ‘The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution’). The imagistic mode evolved as a grouplevel adaptation increasing the cohesiveness of coalitions (see chapter ‘Group Selection Accounts’). And the doctrinal mode steps into the view of a cultural evolution of religion itself as it ‘emerged when large-scale patterns of cooperation

142

19

20

21

22

23 24

Notes became routinized’ (Whitehouse, 2008: 39) and provided the means for a standardization of imagistic revelations into doctrines. In this part, the Big Gods Hypothesis comes close to the related but distinct argument of the Supernatural Punishment Hypothesis (more in chapter ‘The Evolutionary Study of Culture Without Cultural Evolution’). Connection of by-productivism with cultural evolution allows the proponents of Big Gods Hypothesis to take the argument even further. A. Norenzayan, for example, tries to explain the rise of atheists in recent human history and proposes that gods and governments (or secular moral authorities in general) ultimately occupy the same slot and he provocatively suggests that strong secular governments with reliable policing institutions render the big gods dispensable (2013: 172): ‘some societies with strong institutions and material well-being may have passed a threshold, no longer needing religion to sustain large-scale cooperation. In short: secular societies have climbed that ladder of religion, and then kicked it away’. The term coevolution is a terminus technicus introduced by biologists P. R. Ehrlich and P. H. Raven (see 1964), who used it to refer to a system in which two species share the environment to such an extent that evolutionary change in one species induces evolutionary change also in the other species. Other major gene-culture coevolution theories, fighting for their place in the spotlight of Religious Studies falling within this spectrum, each having its own characteristics (and to which I cannot pay closer attention due to the scope of the book), include those by M. Donald (1991) and T. Deacon (1997). Because it allows me to draw attention to this fact, I include this critique into this section. Additionally, examples that are used to show how cultural traits are subject to natural selection are also always suspiciously of a technological character with which we can, at least to some extent, determine the success or failure of an impact they might have had on biological fitness (environmental deterioration, social collapse, conquest etc.). I have already pointed to a similar problem related to the functionalist fallacy, in the section Group Selection Accounts, by one quotation from the work of D. S. Wilson (2002: 31–2).

Chapter 5 1 We have already encountered the philosophical stance of Darwinian monism under the term Universal Darwinism (R. Dawkins, D. C. Dennett). Among its conditions belongs only that replicators have to create their own true copies with infrequent mistakes and that they have certain power over the probability of their own replication. There also needs to be a blind variation of the replicating units and selective retention of some variants at the expense of others.

Notes

143

2 Its main architects were, among others, G. C. Williams and R. Dawkins. 3 As a connection of points (B) and (C) shows, it is in fact mainly about the special kind of combination of the Universal Darwinism with neo-Darwinian elements (more accuracy in the question of replicators vs. vehicles). Neo-Darwinism is not (and cannot be from the definition) complete in this combination (as it needs to leave the room for other kinds of selection and heritability). 4 With the idea of an independent evolutionary cultural unit, R. Dawkins does not start to build up from the scratch. A year before F. T. Cloak started to work with the similar concept (see 1975) and R. Dawkins openly refer to him. According to Cloak, culture is being transmitted in tiny, unrelated snippets which he calls ‘cultural instructions’ or ‘corpuscles of culture’ and he strictly differentiates between instructions people have in their brains and end products of these instructions (technologies, behaviours, institutions, types of social organization etc.). R. Dawkins adopts the distinction only later on, when he elaborates on it and transforms it into the biological language of genotypes and extended phenotypes (see 1982), similarly as he did in his previous step when transforming independent cultural unit into an autonomous replicator. In Extended phenotype he already specifies the meme as ‘a unit of information residing in a brain’. Cloaks’ ‘cultural instructions’ also, beside other things, work only for themselves and the good of their products and of their bearers is subservient to this function. 5 And with it also the pressure to determine, elaborate and describe the ‘vehicle’ (see Dawkins, 1976)/‘interactor’ (Hull, 1988a). The distinction between the replicator and the vehicle/interactor is the next important step which the gene view revolution brought into the evolutionary biology. The vehicle/interactor is the bearer of the replicator which interacts with its surroundings (e.g. DNA or more frequently the individual organism). 6 The example of computer virus is very popular in memetics due to its analogy with the entity of biological virus which is extraordinarily simple (even when compared to bacteria) and seldom makes more than replicating itself by exploiting other organism’s replicating capacities. However, the usefulness of the analogy is clouded by the negative connotations of the word. Whether we label something as a virus is arbitrary and to a certain extent dependent only if the thing we speak about in any way harms the system. When a similar entity benefits the system, we usually choose a different name. The counterproductive value loadedness that reflects author’s atheism is clear, for example, in the term ‘viruses of the mind’ which R. Dawkins uses for the memeplex religion (see R. Dawkins, 1993). 7 For example S. Blackmore is willing to see only birdsongs as a real imitation in animal realm (non-humans) which according to her constitute an exception (1999: 48–50) and most other forms of learning that usually is being considered

144

Notes

an imitation among animals (as, for example, chimpanzees fishing for termites by poking sticks into the mounds), she sees as a different type of social learning (e.g. stimulus enhancement or local enhancement) combined with individual learning. Similar conclusions reach comparative studies of children’s behaviour and behaviour of chimpanzees held in captivity which show that when confronted with same problems only children readily use imitation in their solving. It seems that apes rarely ape (for extended discussion see Tomassello, 1996; and White, Horner, Litchfield & Marshall-Pescini, 2004) Outcomes of these studies led at first to the characterizations of children as imitators and chimpanzees as emulators (learning only about the results of others’ actions), and consequently to the hypothesis of specifically human tendency to ‘over-imitate’ (to imitate a complex course of action despite the revealed truth that there is an easier way to achieve the same results/copying adult’s wasteful strategy, even when doing so leads to bad outcomes). Over-imitation receives a lot of attention in contemporary evolutionary psychology/evolutionary anthropology and there are many individuals (and whole teams) devoted to the testing of this hypothesis (see Whiten, McGuigan, Marshall-Pescini & Hopper, 2009). The level of attention reflects also the magnitude of interest dedicated to human tendency to ‘overimitate’ by the theorists of cultural evolution. For some of them this tendency constitutes fundaments of psychological mechanism on which the cultural transmission is built and it also stands in the centre of the debate about if and how is the culture specific to human species. 8 In the transmission of imitations S. Blackmore further differentiates whether the process is Lamarckian (copying-the-product), where every phenotype is also a genotype that gets passed on to the next generation, or Weismannian (copyingthe-instructions), where the differences of individual phenotypes do not get passed on (see 1999: xi). 9 American philosopher D. C. Dennett (1991) made the meme the cornerstone of his philosophy of mind (see his book Consciousness Explained) and incorporated it (1995) to his other evolutionary scientistic epistemological and ontological conceptions defending the strong adaptationist position (see his Darwin’s Dangerous Idea). S. J. Gould chose for his position the term ‘Darwinian fundamentalism’ (see Gould, 1997a). 10 Despite the increasing recent production (see Distin, 2005 and 2011), her book stays until the present day the best introduction into memetics. Nevertheless, her book was not the first try in this matter. At least two different books dedicated to the subject preceded Blackmore’s, R. Brodie’s Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme (1996) and A. Lynch’s Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads through Society (1996). The title of her book refers to the previous attempts to see the brain as the ‘Darwin machine’ (see Calvin, 1987; 1996; or Plotkin, 1994).

Notes

145

11 Some see evolutionary psychology as the ‘modern successor to sociobiology’ (S. Blackmore, 1999: 35–6), however, this understanding is simplifying and can be in many ways misleading and inaccurate. They often share strong adaptationist programme, yet, evolutionary psychology does not limit itself to social behaviour and contrary to some sociobiologists (with E. O. Wilson as the first and foremost), evolutionary psychologists almost never cross into the domain of cumulative cultural evolution (in the sense of genuine evolution of culture). 12 It is important to mention here that the stress on narrowing down the way of the meme’s transmission to imitation which is related to the goal of also narrowing down the definition of meme itself (in order to make it more accurate) is characteristic for the classical version of memetics. Some memetic approaches use broader definitions. For example, R. Brodie works with conditioning as with memetic (see 1996) and J. Delius includes in memetic transmission all forms of social learning (see 1989). 13 In my whole layout of the Theory of Memes, due to limited space I take into account only the most representative, that is, ‘classical’ version. The memetic literature is dynamically developing and today exist many versions of memetics differing on many points that must be left unnoticed. Some important authors, for example, use the meme as a label for their cultural unit and at the same time they do not uphold it as an independent replicator which is otherwise one of the main characteristics of the classical version. In this fashion, for example, W. H. Durham does not agree that the human evolution should by this way fundamentally differ from evolution of other organisms and in his concept of memetics claims that the biological and cultural evolution work as complementary, on the principle of increasing the inclusive fitness. He describes the approach that works with the autonomy of another replicator that at a certain point singles human evolution out as fundamentally different from the evolution of other species, as an exaggerated expansion of the genetic analogy that is ‘strongly anti-Darwinian’ (Durham, 1991: 183). 14 This element is well apparent from the words of R. Dawkins who in the foreword to S. Blackmore’s The Meme Machine speaks about those who are in opposition against the standard individual-gene selection and results to which it leads. According to him (see in Blackmore, 1999: xv): ‘Biologists are sharply divided into those for whom this logic is as clear as daylight, and those (even some very distinguished ones) who just do not understand it – who naïvely trot out the obvious cooperativeness of genes and unitariness of organisms as though they somehow counted against the ‘selfish gene’ view of evolution.’ 15 We find the same argument also in D. S. Wilson (2002) or in cultural group selection. 16 S. Blackmore specifically says (1999: 187) that: ‘to anyone uninfected with any Christian memes these ideas must seem bizarre in the extreme’. She also

146

17

18

19

20 21 22

23 24

25

Notes continues with regard to religions (1999: 188): ‘Dawkins (1993) explains how religious memes, even if they are not true, can be successful.’ Or similarly (1999: 189): ‘The religious answers may be false but at least they are answers.’ Nobody knows what memes are made of and where exactly should we look for them. They are supposed to exist in the brain, but the only thing we can work with are the resultant ‘phenotypes’ in populations, and unlike most genes’ phenotypes they are rarely part of the organisms’ bodies. But are the memes really only in the brain? Or could it be an information/instruction physically stored in many different ways (e.g. written down on a paper or imprinted in the arch of a bridge by a builder’s technique)? What is a meme, a meme-vehicle and what is already a meme-phenotype? In memetics there is no consensus on these fundamentals and similarly unsatisfying is the fact that even if we would define a meme solely as information in the brain, the brain structure of one meme will never be the same in two different brains. Some classic examples used in memetic accounts are: poem, dance, fashion, political ideology, scientific theory, melody, sentence, equation, belief, thought, word, religious ritual, agricultural practice, philosophical puzzle, recipe for a meal, instructions how to build cellphones, cars, buildings, computers, or instructions for origami, court etiquette or table manners (see Dawkins, 1976; Dennett, 1995; Blackmore, 1999). Between the years 1997 and 2005 the online Journal of Memetics was published. But the fact that even after eight years there was no considerable progress in the ‘discipline’ due to problems of definitions led to discontinuation of the journal and, according to some, today memetics is generally considered a failed endeavour (see Edmonds, 2005). The multiplicity and varying number of ‘parents’, or sources, for the same item, is a typical aspect of cultural transmission. This is the result of extensive constructive cognitive processes. For example, S. Atran (2001) states that in cultural propagation, imitation is the exception, not the rule. Similarly, D. Sperber claims that (1996: 101): ‘representations don’t in general replicate in the process of transmission, they transform’. The bottomline evident in the writings of both authors suggests that it is wrong to assume that processes of cultural transmission are determined wholly by inputs accepted or chosen by the receiving organism. For an extended argument of epidemiological models of cultural transmission see Sperber (1996). D. Sperber also suggests that a central role in stabilizing and directing the transmission of beliefs towards cultural attractors, or points of convergence, is played by modular mental structures (Sperber, 1996). Not necessarily using the same terminology.

Notes

147

26 I chose the word ‘elaborates’ purposefully because D. Sperber sees cultural attractors as a specific type of attractors, but also speaks about universal types of attractors. Moreover, I use the word ‘mainly’ as it was this emphasis that proved to be a major contribution of the contemporary classical CSR work Explaining Religion (2001). However this does not mean that the author intended to question or marginalize the importance of cultural attractors. 27 The same attitude holds, for example, in the works of A. Norenzayan and S. Atran, whose opinion could be used as a concise summary of a standard CSR model to this question (2004: 757): ‘With some exceptions, ideas do not reproduce or replicate in minds in the same way that genes replicate in DNA. They do not generally spread from mind to mind by imitation. It is biologically prepared, culturally enhanced, richly structured minds that generate and transform recurrent convergent ideas from often fragmentary and highly variable input.’ 28 For example in the case of genes, a typical rate of mutation might be ‘one mutation per million replications’ (Sperber, 1996: 103), making even small selective bias with time cumulatively strongly effective. 29 Even R. Dawkins admits that in cultural replication (1982: 112): ‘there may be a certain ‘mutational’ element in every copying event’ which might be one of the differences that ‘may prove sufficient to render the analogy with genetic natural selection worthless or even positively misleading’. 30 In this particular context the term means: passing things that you learned and acquired during your lifetime on to your offspring.

Chapter 6 1 Compare the differentiation of epidemiological and evoked culture and the concept of Standard Social Science Model by J. Tooby and L. Cosmides (1992: 115–16). Probably the most famous version of the argument presents N. Chomsky in his conception of universal grammar. For the extended argument, see also S. Atran (1990), J. Sørensen (2005), or P. Boyer (1994), who states that the major part of every religious concept is generated ‘spontaneously’ by the setting of our innate psychology, which – if triggered by the right stimulus in the form of a specific type of information – forms automatically a huge amount of inferences and intuitions, which were not part of the stimulus itself. 2 Nevertheless, it is an issue which stays in the centre of critical objections against evolutionary psychological approaches to the study of culture. 3 Against this concept of ‘founding generation’ of evolutionary psychology, a number of critical voices have arisen, which represent an alternative view on the

148

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Notes functioning of human cognition in the evolutionary perspective. For extended arguments, see K. Sterelny (2003) or D. J. Buller (2005). Again, questions might be raised, in connection to this tendency, about hidden agenda, when we see funding granted by John Templeton’s Culture, Biology, and Human Uniqueness Initiative. This conservative form is being challenged by various accounts that incorporate effects of culture on genetic evolution. For a clear mapping of concepts which work with culture as with a significant factor in genetic evolution, that also introduces its own theory of how selective pressures caused by the transition to life in big states have amended our psychological setting, and which also raises a large number of provocative questions, see Cochran & Harpending (2009). This element of broader definition of the ‘cognition/cognitive’ term is characteristic for the entire CSR and partly even for the entire conglomerate of Cognitive Sciences, thus it differs from a more specific traditional narrowed meaning of the definition from cognitive psychology. Or in some cases accounts that do not uphold a clear-cut distinction between genetic and cultural evolution (or between group selection and cultural group selection), as for example D. S. Wilson’s (2002). That is, the selective advantage arises at the level of the group, but the unit of inheritance at which fitness is costed out remains the individual or the gene. Yet as R. I. M. Dunbar points out (2013: 61–2) the concept of group selection: ‘should properly be used to refer to an evolutionary process in which the unit of inheritance (and hence the level at which fitness is costed out) is the group, and not the individual’. Some elaborate on such a concept specifically, for example, S. Okasha with the term group heritability (see 2003), but many discussions of group selection muddy the water or fail to make this distinction clear. Models convincingly show that its existence is certainly possible, but they remain incapable of demonstrating how it would manage to achieve any real results in a world where all competitive evolutionary forces are so much more powerful. Its opponents claim that it does not sufficiently explain why human cooperation expanded to its present extent and intensity in the last 10,000 years, why human cooperation is so different from the cooperation of other primates who also live in relational groups and repeatedly interact, why the degree of cooperation is different in diverse domains of modern society even though costs and expenses stay the same, why its degree is so substantially different across modern societies or also why there is the same error rate (triggering of mechanisms of the management of the reputation and the need/compulsion to punish) related even to the uncooperative behaviour such as ritual rules and taboos (see Chudek & Henrich, 2010). Alternatively, they point out that the predictions of the Mismatch Hypothesis are not confirmed when testing in small-scale societies where, despite

Notes

149

the expectations, the degree of willingness to punish low offers in Ultimatum Games is very low (see Henrich et al., 2005). 11 For an illustration of the trend, see collective polemic answer of record-breaking 137 authors (Abbott et al., 2010) to the article of three authors presenting arguments for the importance of the role of group selection in the evolution of pro-sociality (Nowak, Tarnita & Wilson, 2010). Both above-mentioned articles were published in a prestigious journal Nature. 12 This type of argumentation is elaborated for example by M. E. Price (2012a). For extended evaluation, see also West et al. (2008: 380), who criticize also the formal side and remark: ‘A huge problem in settling the kin selection vs. group selection debate is that group selection is not properly defined as a concept. A consequence of this is that there is no formal theory of group selection. Instead, group selection theory comprises a number of illustrative models, each of limited generality, with obscure or non-existent links between approaches and formalisms, and some models of group selection contradicting others.’ Or in the same spirit (2008: 380): ‘If there is an idea of group selection, it does not seem possible to capture it mathematically, which would put it beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. If a theory cannot be formally defined, then it is not scientific [. . .].’ 13 Even though I use here the word ‘manipulation’, I do not claim that it should be an intentional, well thought-out and calculated activity.

Chapter 7 1 Some authors are exceptions to this rule, e.g. L. A. Kirkpatrick who embraces both (see Kirkpatrick, 2008: 65), S. Atran who joined forces with J. Henrich to depict a more complete picture of evolution of religion (see Atran & Henrich, 2010) and A. Norenzayan who started utilizing cultural group selection (see Norenzayan, 2013). 2 How strong this position is in comparison to others in the current CSR can be seen also in J. S. Jensen’s designation when he describes the work of its two prominent theorists P. Boyer and I. Pyysiäinen (Jensen, 2009: 129): ‘I call their version of the cognitive science of religion the “standard cognitive science of religion model” as it has so far been the dominant model.’ 3 In this article, A. Norenzayan openly opposes the adaptationist approach and claims that religion is a ‘converging by-product of several cognitive and emotional mechanisms that evolved for mundane adaptive tasks’ (Atran & Norenzayan, 2004: 714). His later and more detailed position has been already presented in the Big Gods Hypothesis (see chapter ‘Dual Inheritance Accounts’). In that account, Norenzayan combines the strong by-productivist position (where he sees religion

150

4 5

6

7

8

Notes

as a cultural by-product which solves adaptive problem of cooperation in large groups) with the cultural evolutionary approach (in which he utilizes cultural group selection which formed religion to a ‘secondary adaptation’ for collective action and in the course of history made some of them more successful than others). Work based on his previous research conducted with colleagues (see Barrett & Keil, 1996). For this multiple by-products perspective based on J. Bowlby’s classic Attachment Theory was used to explain certain religious beliefs and behaviours (seeing many of those as generalizations or extensions of the parent–child bond rendering nurturance and protection). See Kirkpatrick (2006) for an extended argument as to why the author does not consider religion as a precise, economical and/or reliable solution to any particular problem and thus not suited to any adaptive task. This sort of adaptationism is not based on group selection argument – it does not need it in its elemental form and it does not work in it with autonomous cultural evolution. Nevertheless, that does not mean that it is in all its forms antagonistic towards these two concepts. On the contrary, to describe the positions of its authors we would again need a spectrum with two extremes, from open disagreement with one, the other or both, presenting itself in feisty critiques, or reserved distance (definitely not in the extreme, but still due to their negative stance towards group selection, this side could include R. Sosis or J. Dow), to explicit agreement with one, other or both concepts manifesting itself most often by the tendency to relate or achieve compatibility of their own theories with these approaches, treating them as supplementary or expanding (W. Irons, D. Johnson or J. Bulbulia). Basically an elaborate version of the original Zahavi’s handicap principle (see 1975; for extended and updated version see Zahavi & Zahavi, 1997), developed for the study of non-human animal behaviour, that offers an explanation of why traits that seem to be disadvantageous at first sight (peacock’s tail, stotting in gazelles) are not and how they might have been selected for. A. Zahavi’s theory connects such ‘handicapping’ traits to a demonstration of quality that attracts mating partners as it signals that only a very fit animal would be able to avoid predation in spite of them. An elaborated and improved version of the hard-to-fake sign argument which builds upon Iron’s hypothesis. R. Sosis’ theory is enhanced by at least two other factors: (a) psychological effects of performing rituals – merely taking part in rituals stimulates belief (through mechanisms suggested either by Self-Perception Theory (for full argument see Bem, 1972); or by Cognitive Dissonance Theory (for full argument see Festinger, 1964)), and (b) alterations in perception – contrary

Notes

151

to non-believers, believers perceive costs of rituals as lesser while simultaneously exaggerating their benefits (see Sosis, 2003). Moreover, religious constructs constitute memorable and emotionally evocative primes, they are associationally conditioned and trigger neuroendocrine responses that further motivate religious behaviour (see Sosis & Alcorta, 2004). Another aspect of costly signalling is that it is also a protective strategy to avoid the free-rider problem (free riders will be deterred by the high cost of entering the group). 9 In fact the theory does not require signals to be costly, only to be hard-to-fake (Bulbulia, 2008a: 153). The theory also constitutes a fundamental building block in a much broader conceptual evolutionary model of religion called ‘Religious Niche Construction’ (see Bulbulia, 2008b) within which it offers a solution to the question ‘how could religious altruism evolve?’ The answer to that question lies in the supply of access to clear, unambiguous and hard-tofake signals of religious commitment without which defectors and free riders would always doom proto-religionists to failure. Niche Constructivist model in general, places a special emphasis on the capacity of organisms to modify sources of natural selection in their environment, thus giving phenotypes much more active role in evolution than generally conceived (see Laland, OdlingSmee & Feldman, 2000). 10 Theory of Mind (ToM) module as well as previously mentioned Hypersensitive/Hyperactive Agency/Agent Detection Device (HADD) are both extensively used in backing up many of the general arguments that our brains really are evolved to deal with challenges in our social world or that social interaction is an important force in our cognitive evolution (see Dunbar, 1998; 2003 or Sterelny, 2003). 11 Defined as a social behaviour impacting individual fitness (see Fisher, 2006). For example, sexual selection which produces behaviour that is related to success in mating is one type of social selection. Sexual selection accounts are usually based on costly signalling or are at least highly compatible with the theory (along the lines of advertising fitness rather than promoting group solidarity). It basically states that religious behaviour might have been in part selected for as a sign of good overall conditions (good genes) or capability (or willingness) to invest resources in the care of the offspring. For example, ritualization results from sexual selection of signals and displays to optimally excite the perceptual systems of receivers (reason why courtship is typified by ritual action). As such, complex cultural ceremonies can then be considered to be the consequences of male display arms race. If this is so, religious practices should be like all sexually selected traits: widespread, adopted in puberty (initiation rites), male-dominated (women mostly as ‘audience’), costly and species-specific. Sexual selection theory

152

12

13

14

15 16

17

Notes is also a good example (or reminder) that even categories dividing approaches into the by-productivists vs. adaptationists are not impassable. Some authors combine both and to classify them into one or the other group would mean forced neglecting of one part of their work. For example, both I. Pyysiäinen (2008) and D. J. Slone (2008) support the hypothesis, despite of the fact that they so far, by and large, contributed mainly to building standard by-productivist CSR model. By-productivists as well as adaptationists study traits, that is, universal propensities towards something. Trait is the fundamental appropriate unit of study for this level of evolutionary analysis and behaviours and cognitive processes can be analysed as traits (see Andrews, Gangestad & Matthews, 2002). Person most responsible for promotion of concepts exaptation and spandrel not only in evolutionary biology but also in other fields is S. J. Gould (see Gould, 1991 and 1997b). He borrowed the term spandrel from architecture where it most commonly defines the inevitable irregular triangular space which gets created between the curve of an arch and the inclosing right angle (usually when two arches are placed to each other). There is a big difference between the terms adaptive and adaptation. To say that something is adaptive (bringing reproductive benefits to its bearer in a particular environment) does not necessarily mean that it is an adaptation and also adaptation itself might become maladaptive in environment different from which it evolved in. As are ‘adaptive’ and ‘adaptation’ two distinct concepts, so are ‘is religion adaptive?’ and ‘is religion an adaptation?’ two distinct questions. Adding to the confusion is the double meaning of the term adaptation itself which refers both to the process of phenotypic modification by natural selection and to the end result of this process. For more see the endnote in the ‘Conclusion’ of this book about formation of research programme in the evolutionary study of culture/religion. I use this dichotomy only figuratively as a description of differences in research approaches (description of different tendency, motivations, procedures in research programmes), and it is not to be taken literally. From the position of the adaptationist programme is this idea aptly expressed by R. Sosis (2009: 322): ‘But even if the cognitivist assessment is accurate and, for example, supernatural belief is a by-product of HADD, this would tell us nothing about whether or not the religious system is an adaptation. All adaptive systems consist of constituent parts. [. . .] For instance, to evaluate whether the human respiratory system is an adaptation to mediate the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the body, a detailed analysis of the larynx would be important, but insufficient to reveal the selective pressures that ultimately shaped the respiratory system.’

Notes

153

Conclusion 1 As if in those levels exist an inherent order of things subservient to these principles and this inherent order was the same for all life as well as for other open systems, wherever they could be in the universe. It is actually an unoriginal type of ideal, that there exists an all-encompassing evolutionary principle to which phenomena of all levels and kinds abide if you keep certain conditions equal. However, such a belief accompanied even pre-Darwinian evolutionary accounts (although in the Darwinian shape it is not connected to the concept of progress). Explaining even biological level of phenomena as being guided by this all-encompassing evolutionary principle should be in fact just a necessary logical consequence of the suppositions of such an ideal. The biological level of phenomena should have neither special status nor a special position in the explanatory process. What is original and ideologically ‘new’ on this ideal is brought forward by the exceptional success Darwin’s theory achieved when explaining biological phenomena. That is to say that this success turns the originally marginal standing of the biological level of phenomena, puts it into the spotlight and makes it the fundamental and most important level of all. Now as it acts as a default level, a starting point, it acts also as an inspirational source to all other sciences or to whole synthetizing efforts. 2 Perhaps the best known and the most prominent proponent of this theory is D. C. Dennett. Honest scientists and honest philosophers should not have a big problem with distinguishing scientific parts of theories from its philosophical overlaps (or assumptions). However, some scientistic philosophers (and scientists crossing into philosophy) unfortunately are unable or unwilling to do so. When it comes to big names like D. C. Dennett, it can either contaminate the discipline or at least throw it in a bad light (see Geertz, 2008). His opponents at times accuse him that his philosophy does not amount to much more than dogmatic biology. For example, L. Wieseltier, in The God Genome review of Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon describes his ‘explanation’ of religion with these words: ‘Dennett is extrapolating back to human prehistory with the aid of biological thinking, nothing more. Breaking the Spell is a fairy tale told by evolutionary biology. There is no scientific foundation for its scientistic narrative.. . .what he has written is just an extravagant speculation based upon his hope for what is the case, a pious account of his own atheistic longing.’ Dennett’s doctrine is biological reductionism par excellence, and this fact does not change his assurances, similar to so many other assurances of other biological reductionists, that it is not so. He claims that man is an animal that can exceed his animality (2006): ‘But we also have creeds, and the ability to transcend

154

3

4

5

6

Notes

our genetic imperatives. This fact does make us different.’ But with the same breath adds: ‘But it is itself a biological fact, visible to natural science, and something that requires an explanation from natural science.’ This effectively makes no fact about humans independent from biology and flattens previous ‘transcendence of genetic imperatives’ once again back into a fact of biology. D. S. Wilson considers this view too narrowing and he deliberately puts a distance between himself and this view in his work Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society. He does so to lay out the possibility for constructing his extended view of human evolution which apparently includes autonomous sociocultural evolutionary processes. To critically capture the ‘narrowing’ view, he uses these words (Wilson, 2002: 36): ‘The best we can do is try to understand how the stone-age mind is likely to react to the strange new world for which it is not prepared.’ I consider it a rather accurate evaluation of the classical evolutionary psychology approach and I fully concur, the only difference being that I do not think these should be words of criticism or condemnation. On the contrary, I see it as a realistic assessment of our capabilities/options which could form the foundations for establishing a strong and progressive research programme. Among authors which can be especially unclear in separating biological and cultural evolution, who work with many models which they relate to a different extent to each other, who overlay them and thus make it needlessly hard to interpret some of their opinions, I include, as an example, D. S. Wilson (2002). This is supported, by the fact, that A. Norenzayan and A. F. Shariff in their Science review article (2008: 58) about the origin and evolution of religious prosociality, classed D. S. Wilson’s theory both as adaptationism – which works with maximization of genetic fitness, and as cultural group selection – which works with the evolution of culture and has as a point of departure the by-productivist account. That is to use the term cultural evolution confusingly for what is in biological/ genetic evolution the long studied and well-known Baldwin effect (Baldwin, 1896). The Baldwin effect explains how intelligent behaviour, improved learning or better imitation, all have their impact on natural selection through the selective advantage they bring to a given organism at a given time and place for their survival and reproduction. All in perfectly Darwinian fashion with no Lamarckian inheritance needed. For some authors, these are not only the problems arising from legitimizing techniques, but also their philosophical inferences and forays into world-view positions, which they are trying to pass off as scientific (e.g. the atheistic agitations of D. C. Dennett and R. Dawkins).

Notes

155

7 In these programmes the usual common denominator is applying the same strategy utilized by any other evolutionary behavioural scientist – that is, to uncover mental capacities and behaviours involved universally in certain type of thought and behaviour (in our case defined as ‘religious’) and then try to seek plausible selective pressures that might relate to them (in other words, measure the contributions of various types of this behaviour to fitness). For example, P. Boyer and B. Bergstrom identify more thoroughly a common strategy of the evolutionary anthropology of religion in the following way (2008: 114): ‘A common strategy in the field consists in (a) identifying specific adaptive challenges encountered by Homo in its ancestral conditions of evolutionary adaptations; (b) specifying information-processing mechanisms that could meet these challenges and accrue fitness benefits – on the basis of what is independently established in experimental psychology, neuroscience, etc.; (c) designing new experimental protocols to establish or disconfirm the existence of these specific information-processing mechanisms; (d) specifying the kind of concepts and norms that would be widespread among humans, if these mechanisms operated as theoretically expected; and (e) testing the latter prediction against the ethnographic record from scientific publications or databases.’ This process can proceed in two ways, either to start from the cross-culturally recurrent features of religious behaviour and then infer what their impact is on fitness, and what evolutionary processes may have led to these features, or to start from developed psychological tendencies and subsequently show how they could have led to religious behaviour. The first of them is more dangerous as it runs the risk of becoming ‘just-so stories’ (unfalsifiability) and is typical rather for the approach of early sociobiology (Wilson, 1975). The second one is closer to the approach of current evolutionary psychology (Kirkpatrick, 2006) and due to that, also used in the current CSR. 8 The theory of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ or the ‘Upper Palaeolithic Revolution’ – the rapid transition to the behavioural modernity of anatomically modern humans, that is, Homo sapiens (see Diamond, 1997) – is dated at approximately 50,000 years into the past. An alternative theory suggests that the change was not rapidly revolutionary but evolutionarily gradual and accompanied anatomically modern humans since their first ‘occurrence’ 200,000 years ago (see McBrearty & Brooks, 2000). 9 P. J. Richerson and R. Boyd have argued that humans’ (Archaic Homo sapiens) ability to cumulate more complex cultural adaptations occurred up to 500,000 years into the past (see 2005: chap. 4). 10 The criterion of division ‘adaptation vs. by-product’ is broader (more general) because it comes from evolutionary biology and after the transfer to the sociocultural domain it is applicable to any evolutionary processes (both of

156

Notes

purely genetic evolution, and of gene-culture coevolution or purely cultural evolution). The contribution of this distinction and of my own typology is that they do not only help us navigate in the evolutionary theories of religion (they facilitate the study of Religious Studies itself in organizing various theories, methods and frameworks and in this way it is thus a ‘meta’ contribution to the study of religion), but also help with the organization of the evolutionary study of religion itself. And they do it by sorting and arranging the hypotheses with very different predictions (to the presentation of which I devoted space in this book, wherever the theme made it possible and appropriate) and placing them, in much brighter light, into oppositions which are ultimately (ideally) decided based on empirical tests, which in turn results in genuine scientific progress. 11 Similarly, these questions were posed by J. Fracchia and R. C. Lewontin (1999: 78), when they asked whether any ‘useful work is done by substituting the metaphor of evolution for history’. 12 The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, one of many hypotheses attempting to explain human evolution through a single causal mechanism, suggests that humans underwent a period when they were adapting to a semiaquatic existence, but returned to terrestrial life before having become fully adapted to the aquatic environment.

Bibliography Abbot, P., Abe, J., Alcock, J., Alizon, S., Alpedrinha, J. A. C., Andersson, M., . . . Zink, A. (2010). Inclusive fitness theory and eusociality. Nature, 471, E1–E4. Alexander, R. D. (1987). The biology of moral systems. New York: Aldine de Gruyter. Andrews, P. W., Gangestad, S. W. & Matthews, D. (2002). Adaptationism – How to carry out an exaptationist program. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 489–553. Atran, S. (1990). Cognitive foundations of natural history: Towards an anthropology of science. Cambridge: Cambridge Universtity Press. Atran, S. (2001). The trouble with memes: Inference versus imitation in cultural creation. Human Nature, 12, 351–81. Atran, S. (2002). In gods we trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion. New York: Oxford University Press. Atran, S. & Henrich, J. (2010). The evolution of religion: How cognitive by-products, adaptive learning heuristice, ritual displays, and group competition generate deep commitments to prosocial religions. Biological Theory, 5(1), 18–30. Atran, S. & Norenzayan, A. (2004). Religion’s evolutionary landscape: Counterintuition, commitment, compassion, communion. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 27(6), 713–30. Aunger, R. (2002). The electric meme: A new theory of how we think. New York: Free Press. Axelrod, R. & Hamilton, W. (1981). The evolution of cooperation. Science, 211, 1390–6. Baillie, J. (1950). The belief in progress. London: Geoffrey Cumberlege. Baldwin, J. M. (1896). A new factor in evolution. American Naturalist, 30, 441–51, 536–53. Baldwin, J. M. (1909). Darwin and the humanities. Baltimore: Review Publishing. Bannister, R. C. (1979). Social darwinism: Science and myth in Anglo-American social thought. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Barrett, J. L. (1998). Cognitive constraints on hindu concepts of the divine. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 608–19. Barrett, J. L. & Keil, F. C. (1996). Conceptualizing a nonnatural entity: Anthropomorphism in god concepts. Cognitive Psychology, 31, 219–47. Baumard, N. (2011). Punishment is not a group adaptation: Humans punish to restore fairness rather than to support group cooperation. Mind and Society, 10(1), 1–26. Baumard, N., André, J. B. & Sperber, D. (2013). A mutualistic approach to morality: The evolution of fairness by partner choice. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 59–122.

158

Bibliography

Bem, D. J. (1972). Self-perception theory. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (vol. 6, pp. 1–62). New York : Academic Press. Bering, J. (2011). The god instinct: The psychology of souls, destiny, and the meaning of life. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Blackmore, S. (1999). The meme machine. New York: Oxford University Press. Bloom, P. (2004). Descartes’ baby: How the science of child development explains What makes us human. New York: Basic Books. Blute, M. (2010). Darwinian sociocultural evolution: Solutions to dilemmas in cultural and social theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Boehm, C. (1997). Impact of the human egalitarian syndrome on Darwinian selection mechanics. American Naturalist, 150 (supplement), S100–S121. Boehm, C. (1999a). Hierarchy in the forest: Egalitarianism and the evolution of human altruism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Boehm, C. (1999b). The natural selection of altruistic traits. Human Nature, 10(3), 205–52. Boehm, C. (2000). Conflict and the evolution of social control. Journal of Conscioussness Studies, 7, 79–101. Boehm, C. (2008). A biocultural evolutionary exproration of supernatural sanctioning. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 143–50). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Boehm, C. (2012). Moral origins: The evolution of virtue, altruism, and shame. New York: Basic Books. Bourke, A. F. G. (2011). The validity and value of inclusive fitness theory. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278, 3313–20. Bowles, S. (2006). Group competition, reproductive leveling, and the evolution of human altruism. Science, 314, 1569–72. Bowles, S. & Gintis, H. (2004). The evolution of strong reciprocity: Cooperation in heterogenous populations. Theoretical Population Biology, 65, 17–28. Bowles, S., Choi, J. K. & Hopfensitz, A. (2003). The co-evolution of individual behaviours and social institutions. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 223, 135–47. Boyd, R. & Richerson, P. J. (2002). Group beneficial norms can spread rapidly in a structured population. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 215, 287–96. Boyd, R. & Richerson, P. J. (2004). The origin and evolution of cultures. New York: Oxford University Press. Boyd, R. & Richerson, P. J. (2006). Solving the puzzle of human cooperation. In S. Levinson & P. Jaisson (Eds.), Evolution and culture: A Fyssen Foundation symposium (pp. 105–32). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Boyd, R., Gintis, H., Bowles, S. & Richerson, P. J. (2003). The evolution of altruistic punishment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100, 3531–5.

Bibliography

159

Boyd, R., Richerson, P. J. & Henrich, J. (2011). The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential for human adaptation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 10918–25. Boyer, P. (1994). The naturalness of religious ideas: A cognitive theory of religion. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. Boyer, P. (1998). Cognitive tracks of cultural inheritance: How evolved intuitive ontology governs cultural transmission. American Anthropologist, 100, 876–89. Boyer, P. (2001). Religion explained: The human instincts that fashion gods, spirits and ancestors. London: William Heinemann. Boyer, P. & Bergstrom, B. (2008). Evolutionary perspectives on religion. Annual Review of Anthropology, 37, 111–30. Brodie, R. (1996). Virus of the mind: The new science of the meme. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House. Browne, J. (2002). Charles Darwin: The power of place. New York: Knopf. Bulbulia, J. (2004). Religious costs as adaptations that signal altruistic intention. Evolution & Philosophy, 18, 655–86. Bulbulia, J. (2007). Evolution of religion. In R. I. M. Dunbar & L. Barrett (Eds.), Oxford handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 621–36). New York: Oxford University Press. Bulbulia, J. (2008a). Free love: Religious solidarity on the cheap. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 153–60). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Bulbulia, J. (2008b). Meme infection or religious niche construction? An adaptationist alternative to the cultural maladaptationist hypothesis. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 20, 67–107. Bulbulia, J. & Frean, M. (2009). Religion as superorganism: On David Sloan Wilson’s Darwin’s Cathedral (2002). In M. Stausberg (Ed.), Contemporary theories of religion: A critical companion (pp. 129–55). New York: Routledge. Buller, D. J. (2005). Adapting minds: Evolutionary psychology and the persistent quest for human nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Calvin, W. (1987). The brain as a Darwin machine. Nature, 330, 33–44. Calvin, W. (1996). How brains think. London: Phoenix. Capps, W. (1995). Religious studies: The making of a discipline. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Carpenter, J. E. (1913). Comparative religion. London: Thornton Butterworth. Carpenter, J. P. & Matthews, P. H. (2012). Norm enforcement: Anger, indignation, or reciprocity? Journal of the European Economic Association, 10, 555–72. Cartwright, J. (2000). Evolution and human behaviour. Houndmills: MacMillan Press.

160

Bibliography

Cartwright, J. (2001). Evolutionary explanations of human behaviour. London: Routledge. Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. & Feldman, M. W. (1981). Cultural transmission and evolution: A quantitative approach. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cavalli-Sforza, L. L., Menozzi, P. & Piazza, A. (1994). The history and geography of human genes. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Chudek, M. & Henrich, J. (2010). Culture-gene coevolution, norm-psychology, and the emergence of human prosociality. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(5), 218–26. Cloak, F. T. (1975). Is a cultural ethology possible? Human Ecology, 3, 161–82. Cochran, G. & Harpending, H. (2009). The 10 000 year explosion: How civilization accelerated human evolution. New York: Basic Books. Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (1981). Cytoplasmic inheritance and intragenomic conflict. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 89, 83–129. Coyne, J. (2009). Why evolution is true. New York: Viking. Coyne, J. (2012, June). The problem with group selection [Response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Darwin, C. R. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: Murray. Darwin, C. R. (1871). The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London: Murray and New York: Hill. Darwin, C. R. (1901). The descent of man and selection in relation to sex (2nd edn). London: Murray. (First published in 1871.) Darwin, F. (Ed.). (1887). The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter (vol. 3). London: Murray. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype: The long reach of the gene. New York: Oxford University Press. Dawkins, R. (1983). Universal Darwinism. In D. S. Bendall (Ed.), Evolution from molecules to man (pp. 403–25). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dawkins, R. (1993). Viruses of the mind. In B. Dahlbohm (Ed.), Dennett and his critics: Demystifying mind (pp. 13–27). Oxford: Blackwell. Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. London: Bantam Press. Dawkins, R. (2012, June). ‘Group Selection’ is a cumbersome, time-wasting distraction [Response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/ conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Deacon, T. (1997). The symbolic species: The co-evolution of language and the human brain. London: Penguin. Delius, J. (1989). Of mind memes and brain bugs: A natural history of culture. In W. A. Koch (Ed.), The nature of culture (pp. 26–79). Bochum: Bochum Publications.

Bibliography

161

Delton, A. W., Krasnow, M. M., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2010). Evolution of fairness: Rereading the data. Science, 329(5990), 389. Delton, A. W., Krasnow M. M., Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (2011). The evolution of direct reciprocity under uncertainty can explain human generosity in one-shot encounters. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(32), 13335–40. Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Dennett, D. C. (1995). Darwin’s dangerous idea: Evolution and the meanings of life. New York: Simon & Schuster. Dennett, D. C. (2006). Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. New York: Viking. Desmond, A. (1989). The politics of evolution: Morphology, medicine and reform in radical London. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton. Dickens, P. (2000). Social Darwinism: Linking evolutionary thought to social theory. Buckingham: Open University Press. Distin, K. (2005). The selfish meme: A critical reassessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Distin, K. (2011). Cultural evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Douglas, M. (1970). Purity and danger: An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. London: Pelican Books. Dow, J. W. (2006). The evolution of religion: Three anthropological approaches. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 18, 67–91. Dow, J. W. (2008, March). Is religion an evolutionary adaptation? Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 11(2). Retrieved from http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/11/2/2.html Dugatkin, L. A. (1997). Cooperation among animals: An evolutionary perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dunbar, R. I. M. (1998). The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology, 6, 178–90. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2003). The social brain: Mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology, 32, 163–81. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2013). The origin of religion as a small-scale phenomenon. In S. Clarke, R. Powell & J. Savulescu (Eds.), Religion, intolerance, and conflict: A scientific and conceptual investigation (pp. 48–66). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Durham, W. H. (1991). Coevolution: Genes, culture and human diversity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Edelman, G. M. (1987). Neural Darwinism: The theory of neuronal group selection. New York: Basic Books.

162

Bibliography

Edmonds, B. (2005). The revealed poverty of the gene-meme analogy: Why memetics per se has failed to produce substantive results. Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission, 9(1). Retrieved from http://cfpm.org/jomemit/2005/vol9/edmonds_b.html Ehrlich, P. R. & Raven, P. H. (1964). Butterflies and plants: A study in coevolution. Evolution, 18, 586–608. Everett, D. L. (2012, June). [Untitled response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Fehr, E. & Fischbacher, U. (2003). The nature of human altruism. Nature, 425, 785–91. Fehr, E. & Henrich, J. (2003). Is strong reciprocity a maladaptation? On the evolutionary foundations of human altruism. In P. Hammerstein (Ed.), Genetic and cultural evolution of cooperation (pp. 55–82). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Festinger, L. (1964). Conflict, decision, and dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Fisher, S. A. (2006). Social selection. In C. W. Fox & J. B. Wolf (Eds.), Evolutionary genetics: concepts and case studies (pp. 350–63). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fracchia, J. & Lewontin, R. C. (1999). Does culture evolve? History & Theory, 38(4), 52–78. Frank, R. H. (1988). Passions within reason: The strategic role of the emotions. New York: Norton. Geden, A. S. (1922). Comparative religion (2nd edn.). London. Geertz, A. W. (2008). How not to do the cognitive science of religion today. Methods & Theory in the Study of Religion, 20(1), 7–21. Giddens, A. (1981). A contemporary critique of historical materialism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gintis, H. (2000). Strong reciprocity and human sociality. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 206, 169–79. Gintis, H., Bowles, S., Boyd, R. & Fehr, E. (2003). Explaining altruistic behaviour in humans. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24(3), 153–72. Goldstein, L. J. (1967). Theory in anthropology: Developmental or causal? In L. Gross (Ed.), Sociological theory: Inquiries and paradigms. New York: Harper and Row. Gould, S. J. (1977). The return of the hopeful monster. Natural History, 86, 22–30. Gould, S. J. (1991). Exaptation: A crucial tool for an evolutionary psychology. Journal of Social Issues, 47, 43–65. Gould, S. J. (1996a, November 11). Debate with S. Blackmore, S. Fry and O. Sacks [Radio series episode]. In Start the week. London, Great Britain: BBC Radio 4. Gould, S. J. (1996b). Full house. New York: Harmony Books.

Bibliography

163

Gould, S. J. (1997a, June). Darwinian fundamentalism. The New York Review of Books, 44. Retrieved from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1997/ jun/12/darwinian-fundamentalism/?page=1 Gould, S. J. (1997b). The exaptive excellence of Spandrels as a term and prototype. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94, 10750–5. Gould, S. J. & Lewontin, R. C. (1979). The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 205, 581–98. Gould, S. J. & Vrba, E. (1982). Exaptation: A missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology, 8, 4–15. Grafen, A. (1984). Natural selection, kin selection and group selection. In J. R. Krebs & N. B. Davies (Eds.), Behavioral ecology: An evolutionary approach (pp. 62–84). Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications. Grafen, A. (2006). Optimisation of inclusive fitness. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 238, 541–63. Guthrie, S. E. (1993). Faces in the clouds: A new theory of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Pantheon. Haley, K. J. & Fessler, D. M. T. (2005). Nobody’s watching? Subtle cues affect generosity in an anonymous economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26, 245–56. Hamilton, W. D. (1963). The evolution of altruistic behaviour. American Naturalist, 97, 354–6. Hamilton, W. D. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behaviour, I & II. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7, 1–52. Hamilton, W. D. (1975). Innate social aptitudes of man: An approach from evolutionary genetics. In R. Fox (Ed.), Biosocial anthropology (pp. 133–55). New York: Wiley. Harrison, J. H. (1909). The influence of Darwinism on the study of religions. In A. C. Seward (Ed.), Darwin and modern science: Essays in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Charles Darwin and of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the origin of species (pp. 494–511). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hawkins, M. (1997). Social Darwinism in European and American thought: Nature as model and nature as threat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Henrich, J. (2001). Cultural transmission and the diffusion of innovations: Adoption dynamics indicate that biased cultural transmission is the predominate force in

164

Bibliography

behavioral change and much of sociocultural evolution. American Anthropologist, 103, 992–1013. Henrich, J. (2006). Cooperation, punishment, and the evolution of human institutions. Science, 312, 60–1. Henrich, J. (2009). The evolution of costly displays, cooperation, and religion: Credibility enhancing displays and their implications for cultural evolution. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 30, 244–60. Henrich, J. (2010). Market, religion, community size, and the evolution of fairness and punishment. Science, 327, 1480–4. Henrich, J. (2012). Hunter-gatherer cooperation. Nature, 481, 449–50. Henrich, J. & Boyd, R. (1998). The evolution of conformist transmission and the emergence of between-group differences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 19, 215–42. Henrich, J. & Boyd, R. (2001). Why people punish defectors. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 208, 79–89. Henrich, J. & Boyd, R. (2002). On modeling cultural evolution: Why replicators are not necessary for cultural evolution. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2(2), 87–112. Henrich, J., Boyd, R. & Richerson, P. J. (2008). Five misunderstandings about cultural evolution. Human Nature – an Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 19(2), 119–37. Henrich, N. S. & Henrich, J. (2007). Why humans cooperate: A cultural and evolutionary explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Camerer, C., Fehr, E., Gintis, H., . . . Tracer, D. (2005). ‘Economic man’ in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2/3), 795–855. Henrich, J., McElreath, R., Barr, A., Ensminger, J., Barrett, C., Bolyanatz, A., . . . Ziker, J. (2006). Costly punishment across human societies. Science, 312, 1767–70. Henrich, J., Ensminger, J., McElreath, R., Barr, A., Barrett, C., Bolyanatz, A., . . . Ziker, J. (2010). Market, religion, community size and the evolution of fairness and punishment. Science, 327, 1480–84. Hirschfeld, L. & Gelman, S. (Eds.). (1994). Mapping the mind: Domain-specificity in cognition and culture. New York: Cambridge University Press. Hirschmann, E. (1940). Phänomenologie der Religion: Eine Historisch-Systematische Untersuchung von ‘Religionsphänomenologie’ und ‘Religionsphänomenologischer Methode’ in der Religionswissenschaft. Würzburg. Hodgson, G. M. (2004). Social Darwinism in anglophone academic journals: A contribution to the history of the term. Journal of Historical Sociology, 17(4), 428–63. Hodgson, G. M. (2005). Generalizing Darwinism to social evolution: Some early attempts. Journal of Economic Issues, 39(4), 899–914.

Bibliography

165

Hoffman, E., McCabe, K., Schachat, K. & Smith, V. (1994). Preferences, property rights, and anonymity in bargaining games. Games and Economic Behavior, 7, 346–80. Hofstadter, R. (1944). Social Darwinism in American thought, 1860–1915. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Holden, C. & Mace, R. (1997). Phylogenetic analysis of the evolution of lactose digestion in adults. Human Biology, 69, 605–28. Hölldobler, B. & Wilson, E. O. (1990). The Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hull, D. L. (1988a). Interactors versus vehicles. In H. C. Plotkin (Ed.), The role of behaviour in evolution (pp. 19–50). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hull, D. L. (1988b). Science as a process: An evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Hull, D. L., Langmann, R. E. & Glenn, S. S. (2001). A general account of selection: Biology, immunology, and behavior. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(3), 511–73. Irons, W. (2001). Religion as a hard-to-fake sign of commitment. In R. M. Nesse (Ed.), Evolution and the capacity for commitment (pp. 292–309). New York: Russell Sage Foundation. James, E. O. (1934). The place of history and philosophy in the study of religion. Church Quarterly Review, 116, 245–60. James, E. O. (1954). The history, science and comparative study of religion. Numen, 1, 91–105. Jensen, J. S. (2009). Religion as the unintended product of brain functions in the ‘Standard cognitive science of religion model’: On Pascal Boyer, Religion explained (2001) and Ilkka Pyysiäinen, How religion works (2003). In M. Stausberg (Ed.), Contemporary theories of religion: A critical companion (pp. 129–55). New York: Routledge. Johnson, D. (2005). God’s punishment and public goods: A test of the supernatural punishment hypothesis in 186 world cultures. Human Nature, 16, 410–46. Jordan, L. H. (1905). Comparative religion its genesis and growth . Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Keeley, L. H. (1996). War before civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage. New York: Oxford University Press. Kelemen, D. (2004). Are children ‘intuitive theists?’ Reasoning about purpose and design in nature. Psychological Science, 15, 295–301. Ketelaar, T. & Ellis, B. J. (2000). Are evolutionary explanations unfalsifiable? Evolutionary psychology and the Lakatosian philosophy of science. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 1–21. Kipling, J. R. (1902). Just so stories. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company.

166

Bibliography

Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2004). The evolutionary social psychology of religious beliefs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27(6), 741. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment, evolution, and the psychology of religion. New York: Guilford Press. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2006). Religion is not an adaptation. In P. McNamara (Ed.), Where god and science meet: How brain and evolutionary studies alter our understanding of religion (vol. 1, pp. 159–79). London: Praeger Perspectives. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2008). Religion is not an adaptation: Some fundamental issues and arguments. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 61–6). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Kurzban, R., DeSciolli, P. & O’Brien, E. (2007). Audience effects on moralistic punishment. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 75–84. Laland, K. N. & Brown, G. R. (2002). Sense and nonsense: Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Laland, K. N., Odling-Smee, J. & Feldman, M. W. (2000). Niche construction, biological evolution, and cultural change. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 131–75. Lang, A. (1884). Custom and myth. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Lang, A. (1887). Myth, literature and religion. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Lang. A. (1898). The making of religion. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Langdon, J. H. (1997). Umbrella hypotheses and parsimony in human evolution: A critique of the aquatic ape hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution, 33, 479–94. Lawson, E. T. & McCauley, R. N. (1990). Rethinking religion: Connecting cognition and culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lévy-Bruhl, L. (1926). How natives think. London: George Allen & Unwin. (First published in 1910.) Lewontin, R. C. (1970). The units of selection. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1, 1–18. Lubbock, J. (1865). Pre-historic times, as illustrated by ancient remains, and the manners and customs of modern savages. London: Williams & Norgate. Lubbock, J. (1870). The origin of civilisation and the primitive condition of man: Mental and social condition of savages. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Lumsden, C. J. & Wilson, E. O. (1981). Genes, mind, and culture: The coevolutionary process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Lynch, A. (1996). Thought contagion: How belief spreads through society. New York: Basic Books. Mandelbaum, M. (1971). History, man, and reason: A study in nineteenth-century thought. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Marett, R. R. (1909). The threshold of religion. London: Methuen.

Bibliography

167

Marett, R. R. (1912). Anthropology. New York: Henry Holt. Marett, R. R. (1941). Jerseyman at Oxford. London: Oxford University Press. Marett, R. R. (1971). Psychology and Folklore. Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications. (First published in 1920.) Margulis, L. (1970). Origin of eukaryotic cells. New Haven: Yale University Press. Martin, L. H. (2008). Can religion realy evolve? (And what is it anyway?). In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 349–55). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Maynard Smith, J. (1982). Evolution and the theory of games. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Maynard Smith, J. (1996). Evolution – natural and artificial. In M. A. Boden (Ed.), The philosophy of artificial life (pp. 173–8). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Maynard Smith, J. & Szathmary, E. (1995). The major transitions in evolution. New York, Oxford: W. H. Freeman. McBrearty, S. & Brooks, A. S. (2000). The revolution that wasn’t: A new interpretation of the origin of modern human behavior. Journal of Human Evolution, 39, 453–563. Mesoudi, A. (2011). Cultural evolution: How Darwinian theory can explain human culture & synthesize the social sciences. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Midgley, M. (1994, February 12). Letter to the Editor. New Scientist, 50. Moore, G. E. (1968). Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (First published in 1903.) Morgan, L. H. (1974). Ancient society, or researches in the lines of human progress from Savagery through Barbarism to civilization. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith. (First published in 1877.) Müller, F. M. (1869). Chips from a German workshop: Essays on mythology, traditions, and customs (vol. 2). New York: Charles Scribner and Co. Müller, F. M. (1873). Introduction to the science of religion: Four lectures delivered at the Royal Institution with two essays on false analogies, and the philosophy of mythology. London: Longmann, Green, and Co. Müller, F. M. (1875). Chips from a German workshop: Essays chiefly on the science of language (vol. 4). London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Müller, F. M. (1876). Chips from a German workshop: Essays on the science of religion (vol. 1). New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co. (First published in 1867.) Müller, F. M. (1889). Natural religion: The Gifford lectures delivered before the University of Glasgow in 1888. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Müller, F. M. (1891). Physical religion: The Gifford Lectures delivered before the University of Glasgow in 1890. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.

168

Bibliography

Müller, F. M. (1892). Anthropological religion: The Gifford Lectures delivered before the University of Glasgow in 1891. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Müller, F. M. (1893). Theosophy, or psychological religion: The Gifford Lectures delivered before the University of Glasgow in 1892. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Müller, F. M. (1899). Chips from a German workshop: Essays on language and literature (vol. 3). London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Nisbet, R. (1969). Social change and history: Aspects of the Western theory of development. New York: Oxford University Press. Norenzayan, A. (2013). Big gods: How religion transformed cooperation and conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Norenzayan, A. & Shariff, A. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322, 58–62. Nowak, M. A., Tarnita, C. E. & Wilson, E. O. (2010). The evolution of eusociality. Nature, 466, 1057–62. Okasha, S. (2003). The concept of group heritability. Biology and Philosophy, 18(3), 445–61. Overy, C. (1997). Charles Darwin: His life, journeys and discoveries. London: English Heritage. Parsons, T. (1932). Economics and sociology: Marshall in relation to the thought of his time. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 46(2), 316–47. Parsons, T. (1934). Some reflections on ‘The Nature and Significance of Economics.’ Quarterly Journal of Economics, 48(3), 511–45. Parsons, T. (1937). The structure of social action. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pinker, S. (1997). How the mind works. London: Penguin Books. Pinker, S. (2004, October 29). The evolutionary psychology of religion [Presented at the Annual Meeting of Freedom from Religion Foundation on receipt of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes Award’]. Retrieved from http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/ articles/media/2004_10_29_religion.htm Pinker, S. (2012, June). The false allure of group selection. Edge.org. Retrieved from http:// edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Pitt-Rivers, A. H. L. F. (1906). The evolution of culture: And other essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Plotkin, H. C. (1994). Darwin machines and the nature of knowledge: Concerning adaptations, instinct, and the evolution of intelligence. London: Penguin. Popper, K. R. (1957). The poverty of historicism. Boston: Beacon Press. Preus, J. S. (1987). Explaining religion: Criticism and theory from Bodin to Freud. New Haven: Yale University Press. Price, G. (1972). Extensions of covariance selection mathematics. Annals of Human Genetics, 35, 485–90.

Bibliography

169

Price, M. E. (2012a). Group selection theories are now more sophisticated, but are they more predictive? Evolutionary Psychology, 10, 45–9. Price, M. E. (2012b June). A distinct theory of biological group selection is unnecessary (Although Multilevel Selection Occurs) [Response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Pyysiäinen, I. (2003). How religion works: Towards a new cognitive science of religion. Leiden: Brill. Pyysiäinen, I. (2008). Ritual, agency, and sexual selection. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 175–80). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Queller, D. C. (1992). Quantitative genetics, inclusive fitness, and group selection. The American Naturalist, 139(3), 540–58. Reeve, H. K. & Keller, L. (1999). Levels of selection: Burying the units-of-selection debate and unearthing the crucial new issues. In L. Keller (Ed.), Levels of selection in evolution (pp. 3–14). Princeton: Princeton University Press. Richerson, P. J. (2012, June). [Untitled response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Richerson, P. J. & Boyd, R. (1999). Complex societies: The evolutionary origins of a crude superorganism. Human Nature, 10, 253–90. Richerson, P. J. & Boyd, R. (2005). Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Richerson, P. J. & Newson, L. (2008). Is religion adaptive? Yes, no, neutral, but mostly, we don’t know. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 73–8). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Richerson, P. J., Boyd, R. & Henrich, J. (2010). Gene-culture coevolution in the age of genomics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (Supplement 2), 8985–92. Ridley, M. (1996a). Evolution (2nd edn). Oxford: Blackwell. Ridley, M. (1996b). The origins of virtue: Human instincts and the evolution of cooperation. London: Penguin Books. Rose, M. R. & Lauder, G. V. (Eds.). (1996). Adaptation. San Diego: Academic Press. Sanderson, S. K. (2007). Evolutionism and its critics: Deconstructing and reconstructing an evolutionary interpretation of human society. London: Paradigm Publishers. Sanderson, S. K. (2008). Religious attachment theory and the biosocial evolution of the major world religions. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 67– 72). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Service, E. R. (1971). Cultural evolutionism: Theory in practice. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

170

Bibliography

Shariff, A. & Norenzayan, A. (2007). God is watching you: Priming god concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game. Psychological Science, 18, 803–9. Shariff, A. F. & Norenzayan, A. (2011). Mean gods make good people: Different views of god predict cheating behavior. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 21, 85–96. Shariff, A. F., Norenzayan, A. & Henrich, J. (2009). The birth of high gods: How the cultural evolution of supernatural policing agents influenced the emergence of complex, cooperative human societies, paving the way for civilization. In M. Shaller, A. Norenzayan, S. Heine, T. Yamagishi & T. Kameda (Eds.), Evolution, culture, and the human mind (pp. 117–36). New York: Psychology Press. Sharpe, E. J. (1986). Comparative religion: A history (2nd edn). London: Duckworth. (First published in 1975.) Sjöblom, T. (2007). Spandrels, gazelles and flying buttresses: Religion as adaptation or as a by-product. Journal of Gognition and Culture, 7, 293–312. Skyrms, B. (1996). Evolution of the social contract. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Slone, D. J. (2004). Theological incorrectness: Why religious people believe what they shoudn’t. New York: Oxford University Press. Slone, D. J. (2008). The attraction of religion: A sexual selectionist account. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 181–7). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Smith, W. R. (1885). Kinship and marriage in early Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University. Smith, W. R. (1889). Lectures on the religion of the semites: Fundamental institutions, first series. London: Adam & Charles Black. Sober, E. & Wilson, D. S. (1998). Unto others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Sørensen, J. (2005). Religion in mind: A review article of the cognitive science of religion. Numen, 52, 465–94. Sosis, R. (2003). Why aren’t we all hutterites? Costly signalling theory and religious behavior. Human Nature, 14, 91–127. Sosis, R. (2009). The adaptationist-byproduct debate on the evolution of religion: Five misunderstandings of the adaptationist program. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 9, 315–32. Sosis, R. & Alcorta, C. (2003). Signaling, solidarity and the sacred: The evolution of religious behavior. Evolutionary Anthropology, 12, 264–74.

Bibliography

171

Sosis, R. & Alcorta, C. (2004). Is religion adaptive? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 749–50. Speel, H. C. (1995, June). Memetics: On a conceptual framework for cultural evolution (Paper presented at the symposium ‘Einstein meets Magritte’). Free University of Brussels. Spencer, H. (1851). Social statics: Or, the conditions essential to happiness specified, and the first of them developed. London: John Chapman. Spencer, H. (1855). The principles of psychology. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans. Spencer, H. (1891a). Essays: Scientific, political, and speculative. Library edition, containing seven essays not before republished, and various other additions (vol. 1). London: Williams and Norgate. (First published in 1852.) Spencer, H. (1891b). Essays: Scientific, political, and speculative. Library edition, containing seven essays not before republished, and various other additions (vol. 3). London: Williams and Norgate. (First published in 1854.) Sperber, D. (1985). Anthropology and psychology: Towards an epidemiology of representations. Man, 20, 73–89. Sperber, D. (1996). Explaining culture: A naturalistic approach. Oxford: Blackwell. Sperber, D. (2000). An objection against memetics. In R. Aunger (Ed.), Darwinizing culture: The status of memetics as a science (pp. 163–73). London: Oxford University Press. Sperber, D. & Hirchfeld, L. A. (2004). The cognitive foundations of cultural stability and diversity. Trends in Cognitive Science, 8, 40–6. Sterelny, K. (2003). Thought in a hostile world: The evolution of human cognition. Oxford: Blackwell. Sterelny, K. & Griffiths, P. E. (1999). Sex and death: An introduction to philosophy of biology. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press. Tiele, C. P. (1897). Elements of the science of religion. Edinburgh, London: William Blackwood & sons. Tinbergen, N. (1963). On aims and methods of ethology. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 20(4), 410–33. Tomassello, M. (1996). Do apes ape? In C. M. Heyes & B. G. Galef (Eds), Social learning in animals: The roots of culture (pp. 319–46). London: Academic Press. Tooby, J. (2012, June). Genic selection and adaptationism: Are we moving forward or back? [Response to S. Pinker (2012)]. Retrieved from http://edge.org/ conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection#edn1 Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (1992). The psychological foundations of culture. In J. Barkow, L. Cosmides & J. Tooby (Eds), The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp. 19–136). New York: Oxford University Press.

172

Bibliography

Toulmin, S. (1972). Human understanding (vol. 1). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Trigger, B. (1998). Sociocultural evolution: Calculation and contingency. Oxford: Blackwell. Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35–57. Turchin, P. (2003). Historical dynamics: Why states rise and fall. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Turchin, P. (2005). War and peace and war: The life cycles of imperial nations. New York: Pearson Education distributor. Turchin, P. (2009). A theory for formation of large empires. Journal of Global History, 4, 191–217. Turchin, P. (2010). Warfare and the evolution of social complexity: A multilevelselection approach. Structure and Dynamics, 4, 1–37. Turner, J. (1985). Herbert Spencer: A renewed appreciation. Beverley Hills, CA: Sage. Tylor, E. B. (1861). Anahuac: Or, Mexico and the Mexicans, ancient and modern. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts. Tylor, E. B. (1865). Researches into the early history of mankind and the development of civilisation. London: John Murray. Tylor, E. B. (1871). Primitive culture: Researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, art, and custom. London: John Murray. Wade, M. J. (1985). Soft selection, hard selection, kin selection, and group selection. American Naturalist, 125, 61–73. West, S. A., Griffin, A. S. & Gardner, A. (2007). Social semantics: Altruism, cooperation, mutualism, strong reciprocity and group selection. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 20, 415–32. West, S. A., Griffin, A. S. & Gardner, A. (2008). Social semantics: How useful has group selection been? Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21, 374–85. Whitehouse, H. (2002). Modes of religiosity: Towards a cognitive explanation of the sociopolitical dynamics of religion. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 14, 293–315. Whitehouse, H. (2004). Modes of religiosity: A cognitive theory of religious transmission. Walnut Creek, CA: Oxford University Press. Whitehouse, H. (2008). Cognitive evolution and religion: Cognition and religious evolution. In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 31–41). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Whiten, A., Horner, V., Litchfield, C. A. & Marshall-Pescini, S. (2004). How do apes ape? Learning & Behavior, 32, 36–52.

Bibliography

173

Whiten, A., McGuigan, N., Marshall-Pescini, S. & Hopper, L. M. (2009). Emulation, imitation, over-imitation and the scope of culture for child and chimpanzee. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 27(364/1528), 2417–28. Wiebe, D. (2008). Does talk about the evolution of religion make sense? In J. Bulbulia, R. Sosis, E. Harris, R. Genet, C. Genet & K. Wyman (Eds.), The evolution of religion: Studies, theories, and critiques (pp. 339–46). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press. Wieseltier, L. (2006, February). The god genome. The New York Times Books review. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/books/review/19wieseltier. html?pagewanted=1&_r=0 Williams, G. C. (1966). Adaptation and natural selection: A critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Williams, G. C. (1992). Natural selection: Domains, levels, and challenges. New York: Oxford University Press. Wilson, D. S. (1975). A theory of group selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 72, 143–6. Wilson, D. S. (1992). On the relationship between evolutionary and psychological definitions of altruism and selfishness. Biology and Philosophy, 7, 61–8. Wilson, D. S. (2002). Darwin’s cathedral: Evolution, religion, and the nature of society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Wilson, D. S. (2005). Testing major evolutionary hypotheses about religion with a random sample. Human Nature, 16(5), 419–46. Wilson, D. S. & Wilson, E. O. (2007a). Rethinking the theoretical foundation of sociobiology. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 82(4), 327–48. Wilson, D. S. & Wilson, E. O. (2007b). Survival of the selfless. New Scientist, Nov. 3, 42–6. Wilson, D. S. & Wilson, E. O. (2008). Evolution ‘for the good of the group.’ American Scientist, 96, 380–9. Wilson, E. O. (1975). Sociobiology: The new synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wilson, E. O. (1978). On human nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Knopf. Wrangham, R. (2009). Catching fire: How cooking made us human. New York: Basic Books. Yamagishi, T. & Kiyonari, T. (2000). The group as the container of generalized reciprocity. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63, 116–32. Zahavi, A. (1975). Mate selection: A selection for a handicap. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 53, 205–14. Zahavi, A. & Zahavi, A. (1997). The handicap principle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Index adaptation 28, 30, 46, 55, 61, 69, 70, 74–5, 84, 100, 102, 112, 114, 122–3, 128n.8, 133n.4, 137n.28, 140n.12, 140n.13, 141n.14, 152n.14, 152n.17, 155n.10 cultural 63, 66, 77, 155n.9 group 134n.8, 140n.13 see also grouplevel adaptation group-level 37–8, 50, 134n.8, 138n.34, 141n.18 see also group adaptation psychological 102, 105 religion as an 28, 111–15 secondary 77, 113, 140n.11, 140n.13, 150n.3 adaptationism. see adaptationist programme adaptationist programme 28, 30, 49, 92, 102, 109, 144n.9, 145n.11, 150n.6, 152n.17 Alexander, R. D. 52, 111 altruism 38, 40–5, 51–2, 56, 67, 72–6, 102, 107–8, 135n.13, 135n.14, 136n.17, 138n.37 reciprocal 39, 41, 44, 51, 71, 73, 107–8, 111 selfish versus selfless 50, 71–3, 78, 103, 105–6, 136n.20 self-sacrificial 38, 43–5, 48, 90 self-sacrificing. see self-sacrificial altruism weak 62, 73 animism 18, 21, 24, 131n.4 anthropomorphism 109, 110 Atran, S. 51, 110, 146n.22, 147n.1, 147n.27, 149n.1 Attachment Theory 28–9, 110, 150n.5 Axelrod, R. 71 Barrett, J. L. 110 Baumard, N. 71, 73, 107 Belief, Preferences, and Constraints model 71 Bering, J. 111

Big Gods Hypothesis 77–8, 142n.19, 142n.20, 149n.3 biological evolution. see genetic evolution Blackmore, S. 37, 53, 85–8, 90–2, 112, 127n.3, 127n.4, 143n.7, 144n.8, 144n.10, 145n.11, 145n.14, 145n.16, 146n.18 Bloom, P. 110 Boehm, C. 40, 51–3, 67, 71, 138n.33, 138n.35, 138n.36, 138n.39 Bowles, S. 67, 71, 73, 75–6, 103 Boyd, R. 49, 53, 65–8, 70, 74–5, 89, 122, 127n.3, 139n.6, 140n.8, 140n.12, 140n.9, 155n.9 Boyer, P. 95, 110, 141n.18, 147n.1, 149n.2, 155n.7 Bulbulia, J. ix, 56, 111, 150n.6, 151n.9 by-product hypothesis 75, 77, 109–15, 123, 138n.34, 140n.11, 140n.13, 141n.18, 149n.3, 150n.5, 151n.11, 152n.12, 152n.17, 154n.4, 155n.10 see also spandrel, exaptation Cheating. see free-riding Cavalli-Sforza, L. L. 89 coevolution 53, 74, 109, 142n.21 gene-culture. see gene-culture coevolution cognitive module 101–2, 109–10 Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) 2, 23, 28, 32–3, 36–7, 50–1, 53, 65, 97, 104, 109–10, 121–2, 127n.2, 132n.7, 134n.6, 147n.26, 148n.6 collective action problems 135n.10 see also free-riding commitment 111, 141n.17, 151n.9 Commitment Theory 111 Commitment-Signalling Theory 111, 151n.9 comparative method 14 Comparative linguistics 22

176

Index

mythology 20–2 Religion 12–3, 20, 22, 24, 132n.4 consilience viii cooperation 52, 71, 73, 77–8, 90, 102–3, 105–6, 141n.16, 141n.18, 142n.20, 148n.10, 150n.3 Cosmides, L. 100, 109, 147n.1 costly signalling 52, 141n.17, 151n.8, 151n.11 Costly Signalling Theory 111 Credibility Enhancing Displays (CREDs) 141n.17 cultural epidemiology 109, 125, 146n.23, 147n.1 cultural evolution autonomous 46, 65, 67, 88–9, 92, 97, 99, 109, 119–20, 150n.6, 154n.3 cumulative 70, 93, 97, 99, 119, 145n.11 of religious groups 38, 121 of religion 141n.16, 141n.18 cultural group selection 36, 71, 75, 77–9, 103, 122, 145n.15, 148n.7, 149n.1, 150n.3, 154n.4 cultural learning biases 141n.17 Cultural Maladaptationist Hypothesis 92 Cultural Parasite Hypothesis. see Cultural Maladaptationist Hypothesis cultural replicator. see meme cultural transmission 89, 93–6, 109, 144n.7, 146n.20, 146n.22, 146n.23 Darwin, C. R. 2–3, 12, 15–16, 18–19, 22–3, 29, 39, 79, 118, 127n.5, 130n.6, 130n.8, 130n.9, 130n.11, 131n.13, 133n.2 and group selection 35 Darwinian fundamentalism 144n.9 Darwinian monism 3, 11, 31, 118, 127n.4, 142n.1 Darwinian principles 2, 15–18, 23, 65, 70, 118, 120, 129n.4 Darwinism 11–12, 15–17, 20–1, 31, 84, 118, 129 Generalized 3, 11, 15–19, 21, 24, 31, 84, 118, 127n.4, 130n.6 neo-. see neo-Darwinism Social. see Social Darwinism Universal 3, 11, 15–16, 31, 83–4, 87–8, 118, 121, 127n.4, 130n.5, 142n.1, 143n.2 Dawkins, R. 16, 37, 58, 62, 84, 87, 90–2, 127n.4, 128n.9, 133n.3, 137n.23,

142n.1, 143n.2, 143n.4, 143n.5, 143n.6, 145n.14, 146n.16, 146n.18, 147n.29, 154n.6 Dennett, D. C. 16, 87, 90–2, 122, 127n.4, 131n.1, 132–3n 7, 142n.1, 144n.9, 146n.18, 153n.2, 154n.6 developmentalism 29–30 domain-specificity 109 Dual Inheritance Theory 2, 33, 36, 49, 53, 65, 67–70, 74, 77–80, 89, 122, 127n.3, 129n.16, 138n.34 Dunbar, R. I. M. 148n.8, 151n.10 economic games 44, 106 egalitarianism. see also Guarded Egalitarianism Hypothesis. Boehm, C. empathy 76 epidemiology of representations. see cultural epidemiology evoked culture 147n.1 evolution cultural. see cultural evolution genetic. see genetic evolution of culture viii, 33, 65, 67–8, 79, 83, 88, 92, 99, 119–21, 128n.8, 145n.11, 154n.4 and progress 1, 6, 11, 14–15, 19–22, 28, 32, 84, 118, 121–2, 131n.2, 153n.1 through culture ix, 65–8, 79, 109, 120–2 Evolutionary without Cultural Evolution (EWCE) approach 2, 37, 45–6, 67, 88, 97, 99–101, 103–4, 107–9, 111–2, 115, 119, 121–2, 124, 139n.4 exaptation 112, 140n.11, 140n.13, 152n.13 Fehr, E. 71, 73, 103 fitness 61 averaging 61–3, 135n.12 inclusive 62, 72, 74, 103, 105, 111, 145n.13 see also Inclusive Fitness Theory foragers. see hunter-gatherers free-rider problem. see free-riding free-riding 39–40, 44, 52, 67, 77, 105, 108, 136n.18, 141n.17, 151n.8, 151n.9 Game Theory 135n.10 Evolutionary 62, 99

Index gene ix, 2, 16, 36–8, 44, 46–8, 52, 58–9, 60, 63, 65–8, 74, 84–5, 87–92, 96, 100, 105–6, 111, 120, 128n.8, 128n.9, 135n.12, 137n.23, 139n.3, 145n.14, 146n.17, 147n.27, 147n.28, 148n.8 pool 65–6, 92 selection 38, 41, 44–5, 47, 52, 61, 71–2, 78–9, 85, 87, 104–8, 122, 137n.27, 145n.14 selfish. see selfish gene -view revolution. see selfish gene, gene selection gene-culture coevolution 49, 67, 74–5, 78–9, 81, 139n.4, 142n.22, 155n.10 genetic drift 112 evolution 37–8, 45–6, 50–1, 63, 68, 70, 79, 88, 92, 104, 120, 122, 136n.21, 137n.22, 140n.9, 148n.5, 154n.5, 156n.10 mutation 65–6, 129n.13 genotype 52, 143n.4, 144n.8 genotypic. see genotype Gifford lectures 13 Gintis, H. 67, 71, 73, 78, 103 Gould, S. J. 30, 70, 96, 102, 122, 140n.10, 140n.11, 144n.9, 152n.13 group selection 2, 33, 35–57, 60–4, 67, 70–5, 78–9, 85, 87, 90, 93, 100, 104–9, 121, 127n.3, 128n.8, 129n.16, 134n.8, 135n.11, 135n.12, 135n.15, 136n.20, 137n.25, 137n.27, 138n.32, 148n.7, 148n.8, 149n.11, 149n.12, 150n.6 cultural. see cultural group selection Guarded Egalitarianism Hypothesis 51–2, 67, 138n.33 Guthrie, S. E. 109 Haidt, J. 105 Hamilton, W. D. 38, 61, 71 Henrich, J. 70–1, 75, 77, 103, 112, 141n.16, 141n.17, 148n.10, 149n.1 heritability 2, 36, 83–4, 96, 127n.5, 129n.16, 139n.40, 143n.3, 148n.8 hunter-gatherers 40, 46, 53, 67, 138n.35 Huxley, T. H. 70, 130n.11 Hyperactive Agency Detection Device (HADD) 110, 151n.10

177

imitation 16, 63, 85–6, 89, 94–6, 143n.7, 144n.8, 145n.12, 146n.22, 147n.27, 154n.5 impostors. see free-riding Inclusive Fitness Theory 61, 105 individual-gene selection. see gene selection individual selection 77, 104, 134n.8 see also gene selection ingroups 73–4 inheritance 16–7, 46, 49, 68–70, 89, 96, 129n.3, 130n.6, 148n.8 see also heritability intentional selection 69, 79, 140n.7 Irons, W. 111, 150n.6 Johnson, D. 111, 150n.6 just-so stories 30, 118, 155n.7 Kelemen, D. 110 kin selection 38–9, 41, 44, 48, 52, 62, 67, 103, 107, 135n.14, 149n.12 Kirkpatrick, L. A. 28, 110, 149n.1, 150n.5, 155n.7 lactose digestion 65–6 Lamarckism 3, 5, 83–4, 96, 127n.5, 129n.16, 130n.6, 144n.8, 154n.5 Lang, A. 14, 22–3, 131n.4 Lawson, E. T. 109 Lewontin, R. C. 16, 30, 102, 156n.11 Lubbock, J. 14, 22–3, 130n.11 McCauley, R. N. 109 Marett, R. R. 11–2, 22–4, 131n.13, 131n.4 Massive Modularity Theory 102 Maynard Smith, J. 58, 62, 96 meme 83–9, 91–4, 96, 143n.4, 144n.9, 145n.12, 145n.13, 145n.16, 146n.17 memeplex 90–2, 143n.6 Meme Theory. see memetics memetics 2, 33, 51, 53, 81, 83, 85, 86–93, 96, 122, 127n.3, 143n.6, 144n.10, 145n.12, 145n.13, 146n.17, 146n.19 mental representation 102, 109 mind-body dualism 110 minimal counter-intuitiveness 95 Mismatch Hypothesis 107, 148n.10 Modes of Religiosity Theory 141n.18

178

Index

monitoring reputational 107–8 see also reputation social 77–8 mutation 5, 50, 54, 68–70, 93, 95–6, 140n.10, 147n.28, 147n.29 mutualism 39, 73, 108 Müller, F. M. 13–4, 20–2 natural selection 1–7, 16, 29–30, 32, 35–8, 42, 46, 58, 60, 63–5, 69–70, 78–80, 83, 93, 95, 99, 111–2, 119–21, 123–5, 140n.7, 140n.8, 142n.24, 147n.29, 151n.9, 152n.14, 154n.5 principles of 2–5, 53–4, 68, 70, 121, 127n.5, 128n.8, 137n.23 neo-Darwinian evolution/ synthesis. see neo-Darwinism neo-Darwinism 2–4, 16, 31, 83–4, 93, 118, 121, 127n.5, 128n.8 organism 5–6, 36–8, 40, 42, 44, 47–8, 50, 53, 55–61, 79, 85–6, 104, 123, 128n.8, 137n.23, 138n.31, 143n.5, 143n.6, 145n.13, 145n.14, 146n.17, 146n.22, 151n.9, 154n.5 originalism 27, 131n.1 out-groups 74, 90 Partner choice mechanism 71 phenotype 52, 96, 100, 128n.9, 143n.4, 144n.8, 146n.17, 151n.9 Pinker, S. 6–7, 30, 36, 54–5, 57, 76–7, 104, 108, 110, 112, 128n.10 Popper, K. R. 131n.3 preadaptation 112, 140n.13 progress and evolution. see evolution and progress prosociality 74, 111, 135n.15, 154n.4 psychopaths 71, 138n.37 Public Goods game 44, 135n.10, 136n.18 punishment 52, 103, 138n.35 altruistic 106 costly 71 Pyysiäinen, I. 110, 149n.2, 152n.11 reciprocity 45, 78, 108 direct and indirect 52, 67 strong 103 reductionism 36, 130n.5, 153n.2

Religious Niche Construction ix, 151n.9 replication 5–6, 15–17, 30, 54, 63, 68, 83–4, 95, 100, 129n.3, 142n.1, 147n.28, 147n.29 high fidelity 86, 93–4, 96, 129n.15 true. see high fidelity replication replicator 4–7, 41, 44, 54, 60, 83–9, 92–4, 96, 128n.9, 129n.15, 142n.1, 145n.13 and vehicle 58, 60, 100, 128n.8, 143n.3, 143n.5, 146n.17 reputation 45, 52, 67, 71, 73, 78, 103, 106–8, 111, 148n.10 retention. see heritability Richerson, P. J. 31, 49, 53, 65–71, 73–5, 79, 89, 122, 127n.3, 139n.6, 140n.8, 140n.9, 140n.12, 155n.9 ritual 23–4, 51, 54, 64, 74, 91, 109, 111, 113, 115, 146n.18, 148n.10, 150n.8, 151n.11 Sanderson, S. K. 28–9 selection by reputation 52, 67 cultural group. see cultural group selection individual. see individual selection individual-gene. see individual-gene selection intentional. see intentional selection gene. see gene selection group. see group selection kin. see kin selection multilevel 36, 47, 56, 60 natural. see natural selection sexual 67, 151n.11 social. see social selection unit of. see unit of selection selfish gene 41, 84, 145n.14 Selfish Gene Theory 62, 87. see also selfish gene Shariff, A. F. 77–8, 154n.4 Slone, D. J. 110, 152n.11 Smith, W. R. 22–3 Social Darwinism 11, 15, 17, 130n.7, 130n.9 social insects 48, 105–6, 137n.25, 137n.26 social learning 68, 86, 89, 105, 144n.7, 145n.12 social selection 51–2, 67, 111, 151n.11

Index sociobiology 50–1, 137n.25, 145n.11, 155n.7 Sosis, R. 111, 150n.6, 150n.8, 152n.17 spandrel 112, 140n.13, 152n.13 Spencer, H. 11, 19–23, 25, 32, 130n.7, 130n.12, 131n.4, 131n.8, 133n.13 Sperber, D. 81, 94, 109–10, 136n.20, 139n.40, 146n.22, 146n.23, 147n.28 and cultural attractors 95, 146n.24, 147n.26 Standard Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) model 77, 99, 147n.27, 149n.2, 151n.11 Standard social science model 147n.1 Sterelny, K. 58, 148n.3, 151n.10 stone-age mind parallel 37, 104, 119, 154n.3 Supernatural Punishment Hypothesis 111, 142n.19 survival struggle 5, 58 theological incorrectness 110 Theory of Mind 111, 114, 151n.10 Tinbergen, N. 102 Tomassello, M. 144n.7 Tooby, J. 60–1, 100, 102, 106, 109, 135n.13, 136n.20, 147n.1 trait 7, 33, 38, 42–6, 48, 50–3, 55–6, 58–9, 62, 71–4, 76, 79, 89–90, 96, 102–7, 112–13, 120, 122, 134n.7, 139n.41, 140n.11, 142n.24, 150n.7, 151n.11, 152n.12 transmission. see inheritance cultural 89, 93–6, 109, 144n.7, 146n.20, 146n.22, 146n.23 horizontal 86, 89 unit of 17, 54 vertical 86, 89 Tribal Social Instincts Hypothesis 84

179

Trivers, R. L. 39, 41, 52, 71, 73 trust 74, 77 Turchin, P. 75–6 Tylor, E. B. 14, 18, 21–3, 31, 131n.4 Ultimatum Game 149n.10 unit of selection 4–5, 16–17, 35, 37–8, 46–7, 49–50, 53–5, 58–60, 85, 89, 93–4, 96, 100, 114, 128n.8, 134n.5, 137n.26, 138n.31, 142n.1, 143n.4, 145n.13, 148n.8, 152n.12 Upper Palaeolithic Revolution 155n.8 Variation. see Darwinian principles.; See principles of natural selection non-random 69, 78–80, 129n.13 see also intentional selection vehicle. see replicator and vehicle virus 37, 85–6, 91–2, 129n.4, 143n.6 warfare 29, 52, 76, 130n.7, 135n.11, 138n.34 West, S. A. 37, 48, 62–3, 72–3, 102–4, 149n.12 Westermarck, E. 99 Whitehouse, H. 50, 77, 111, 134n.6, 138n.34, 141n.18 Within-Tribe Instincts Hypothesis. see Tribal Social Instincts Hypothesis Williams, G. C. 4, 62, 95, 112, 133n.3, 139n.41, 143n.2 Wilson, D. S. 36–7, 40, 42, 46–7, 49–51, 55–7, 61–4, 70, 74, 79, 89, 105, 121, 127n.3, 134n.5, 134n.6, 135n.10, 136n.21, 137n.22, 137n.28, 142n.24, 145n.15, 148n.7, 154n.3, 154n.4 Wilson, E. O. 50–1, 68, 73, 79, 89, 105, 137n.25, 138n.39, 139n.4, 145n.11