The Evolution of Religion, on The Really Big Questions

Paul Harvey

Can science explain the evolution of religion, or why there is religion at all? The somewhat obscure public radio show The Really Big Questions, hosted by Lynn Neary, explores this. Just caught the show this weekend, and it was a terrific hour of radio which summarizes a lot of the contending thought on applying evolution to the study of religion in human societies. Hear it here. A bit more on the show below:

Wherever we look, in every corner of human history, we find religion. No other living species has it—why do we? How did it evolve, and what’s it for? Scanning the globe, The Really Big Questions explores the power of religion to create nurturing communities and vengeful armies, to console sufferers, and control non-conformists. We meet scientists searching for the underlying causes, and theologians, secular scholars and ordinary believers, who argue that these scientists are asking the wrong questions about the wrong things. Why do religions insist on truths that are either objectively false or unverifiable? Why is science unable to speak intelligibly about God, or Spirit, or the Divine? And can scientists trying to “explain” religion really do what they say?

There are also shows on "consciousness," "emotion," and "death" available for download at the site. You can read more on all of this also at the website The Evolution of Religion: The Adaptive Logic of Religious Beliefs and Behaviours.


Randall said…
Very interesting. Will have to listen in. Sounds like the kinds of pieces linked through Arts and Letters.
January said…
I tried hard to like the presentation but gave up half way through. The piece needed more critics along the way. The benefits of group membership and participation need have nothing to do with religion. The same benefits can be found in any group. Interview a member of any group and you will hear a sales pitch about its benefits. The thrill of initiation is commonplace.

The issue of altruism was bungled, since cheaters are now law breakers rather than defilers of religion.

It was such half-baked accommodations to a peculiar tradition that renders the program not about religion but rather about producers of radio programs. "A spoonful of sugar" and all that keeps the paycheck coming.
Paul Harvey said…
Rex: Listen to the 2nd half of the program, which has the "critics" that you want (the Dennett school squares off there with a Catholic theologian). The "same benefits can be found in any group" argument is proposed and discussed in the show, as is the issue of the problem of "free riders" as applied to religion.

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