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Taking up where he left off in Before the Dawn (2006), an engaging examination of human evolution in light of explorations in the human genome, longtime New York Times science reporter Wade deftly explores the evolutionary basis of religion. He draws on archeology, social science and natural science as he vigorously shows that the instinct for religious behavior is an evolved part of human nature because, like other human social traits that have evolved over many thousands of years, the practice of religion conferred a decided survival advantage to those who practiced it. Natural selection operates according to principles of survival and reproduction of offspring with heritable traits. Many of the social aspects of religious behavior offer advantages—such as internal cohesion—that lead to a society's members having more surviving children. More importantly, since religions have evolved as their societies have developed, is it possible, Wade asks, for religions to be reworked so that as many people as possible can exercise their innate religious instincts to their own and society's benefits? Sure to be controversial for its reduction of religion to a product of natural selection, Wade's study compels us to reconsider the role of evolution in shaping even our most sacred human creations. (Nov. 16)
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Evolutionary studies have accumulated enough convincing explanations based on enough factual discovery for it to be indisputable that religion is biologically rooted. Wade, a science journalist whose vita includes stints with the revered journals Nature and Science before he joined the New York Times science section, draws on the most famous and influential researchers to synthesize the story of religion through the ages. While religion has utility for the individual, it is overwhelmingly important for group cohesion and loyalty, as evidenced by the mass dancing, chanting, and trance-seeking of hunter-gatherer cultures, in which what much later Christian idealists called the priesthood of all believers genuinely obtained. When stationary communities arose, hierarchies followed in all enterprises, including religion, and if anything, religion’s community-binding function became more crucial as populations and then technology burgeoned. By now, it should be obvious that religion not only won’t but can’t be expunged. There is so much more in this compact account, including cultural-evolutionary explanations of the three great monotheisms—enough, in fact, to make it a cornerstone of popular religion-and-science studies. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
I have not yet completed reading this book; however, it gets a 5 star rating; for the first two chapters alone, this book is worth the purchase.Published 2 days ago by Mayday
Unproven assumptions, deductive method of reasoning and arguing, poor and baseless conclusions make this work a pointless reading exercise.Published 5 months ago by Susana Conde
This has really influenced my view on religion in a positive way, allowing me to be both objective and compassionate to religious people, instead of constantly angry or bitter. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Elizabeth M. Shoemaker
Negative stars. In the last chapters the author essentially says Christianity should be taught in schools to instill moral values and understanding of the majority belief, and that... Read morePublished 8 months ago by sans
Padded with thumbnail comparative histories of the 3 major western religions.
Keeps saying "IF there are parts of the brain hardwired for belief.. Read more
This is a wonderful journey through human history. I never thought about the evolution of religion before the rise of monotheism in the middle east, nor entertained the idea of it... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Louise Radanovich
That religions start, evolve and endure are a tribute to the starting, evolution and endurance of rumors in the office. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Fred Bichl
After reading his earlier work "Before the Dawn" I knew this would be good and it is. Now I am reading " How to Read the Bible" to learn more from James Kugel... Read morePublished 10 months ago by L. barthel
This book is very good and explains much about why humans need any religion. I would recommend it to anyone who is curious about why we have religion and about the beginnings of... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ron Rey