Wilson sees religion as a complex organism with "biological" functions. He argues that the social cohesiveness of religion makes it analogous to a beehive or a human body--and, in fact, religious believers sometimes employ these metaphors. He writes, "Thinking of a religious group as like an organism encourages us to look for adaptive complexity.... Mechanisms are required that are often awesome in their sophistication." To Wilson, therein lies the astonishing complexity of religion, just as in the biological world.
Following Wilson's argument requires understanding the rudiments of evolutionary biology; a smattering of theology, history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology is helpful, too. But the reasoning isn't as challenging as Wilson warns in the introduction. For educated readers, it's an accessible book.
In just 260 pages, Wilson can't begin to do justice to the broad swath of intellectual work he's cut out for himself. And ultimately, the book's main failing is its simplicity. In addition, his approach to religion is so clearly an outsider's that he is unlikely to win many converts. Adaptive-mechanistic explanations of forgiveness and altruism may be intriguing to the atheist in the ivory tower, but they are likely to elicit little more than a bemused and passing interest from believers. --Eric de Place --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Darwin's Cathedral" is a groundbreaking work that integrates biology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and theology in such a way as to fill the gaps left by theories of one... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Richard Bargielski
This debate is complicated even for the evolutionary biologist experts. Seems simple enough that religious groups are as adaptive or maladaptive as any military group, some survive... Read morePublished 10 months ago by John S. Pieri
This is a very believable account of how and why religion became such a dominant aspect of human society, from primitive hunter-gatherer societies to modern multi-cultural... Read morePublished 11 months ago by M. L White
This is a relatively early book by a scientist looking at religion. Religion is a messy subject, which only a few scientists have attempted to deal with. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Tim Tyler
detail-filled, clearly written, quick read, great resource for research papers
highly recommended for students/intellectuals interested in the topic of science "vs"... Read more
Can evolutionary methods be used to study the development of religion? David Sloan Wilson, a renowned evolutionary biologist, proposes that religion evolved because of the... Read morePublished on October 28, 2011 by Dubious Disciple
This book will end up being one of the most influential volumes on evolutionary perspectives in the modern analysis of religion; but a more interesting and less academic can of... Read morePublished on September 4, 2011 by Joel Finkelstein
This incredible book sets forth a rather innocent looking scientific hypothesis. However, in the end it is quite profound: that religion is an adaptive social organism. Read morePublished on May 13, 2011 by Herbert L Calhoun
I found Wilson's book to be an important contribution to the discourse on what purpose religious systems have in human society. Read morePublished on August 2, 2009 by J. Morgan