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The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures Paperback – September 28, 2010
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More About the Author
Nicholas Wade is the author of three books about recent human evolution. They are addressed to the general reader interested in knowing what the evolutionary past tells us about human nature and society today.
One, Before the Dawn, published in 2006, traces how people have evolved during the last 50,000 years.
The second book, The Faith Instinct (2009), argues that because of the survival advantage of religion, an instinct for religious behavior was favored by natural selection among early human societies and became universal in all their descendants.
A Troublesome Inheritance (2014), the third of the trilogy, looks at how human races evolved.
Wade was born in Aylesbury, England, and educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences. He became a journalist writing about scientific issues, and has worked at Nature and Science, two weekly scientific magazines, and on the New York Times.
Top Customer Reviews
After the introductory chapter on the nature of religion, the book has an excellent chapter on the work of moral psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt and Mark Hauser. The work of moral psychologists at this point vindicates Hume over Kant because the evidence is overwhelming that sentiments are more important than reasoning in morality. This chapter is followed by three chapters that are at the crux of Wade's argument--"The Evolution of Religious Behavior", "Music, Dance and Trance", and "Ancestral Religion." All three chapters deal chiefly with ancestral religion drawing mainly from research on three contemporary hunting and gathering societies--the !Kung San, the Andaman Islanders, and Australian Aborigines. He says, "With all three peoples, religion was a major part of their daily lives. Religious practice involved all-night ceremonies with vigorous singing and dancing and intense emotional involvement. The emphasis was on ritual rather than belief...Read more ›
Wade's, The Faith Instinct: How religion evolved and why it endures offers a fascinating theory: The tendency toward religious belief has genetically evolved as an adaptive mechanism to help early human societies survive. Early belief in supernatural agencies, along with the associated rituals, made early hunter gather bands more cohesive, giving them the sense of community necessary to work together for their mutual benefit and to make them willing to risk their lives for the group during the many wars that have always been a fact of life.
Wade supports his argument with references from biology, sociology, anthropology and historic scholarship, quoting sources like Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Samuel Huntington, Emile Durkheim and the Bible.
While neither supporting or denigrating religion, Wade systematically spells out how it has had survival benefits, which continue to operate into modern times. He traces the evolution of religion, using early studies of isolated, primitive tribes, historical accounts of how new religions developed from older ones and the evolution from preliterate rituals to modern text based faiths.
The issue of group selection was a sticking point, with many biologists arguing against the idea that natural selection could operate at the group, rather than the individual level.Read more ›
Pleasures of prayer or goodness may fill the believer, but these, Wade reasons, are secondary to the evolutionary rationale for religion. It's not to provide personal satisfaction so much as to bind people together, to make them "put the group's interests ahead of their own." (58) Those who disobey are punished, now and in the retributory afterlife; those who obey tap into a reward system that, unlike fundamental and primal drives for eating and reproduction, are relatively recent in evolution. Therefore, rewards for faith are "pitched at a far higher cognitive level," and religious behavior gets perceived as sensually satisfying, enhanced by communal celebrations passed down over thousands of years full of music, dance, and ritual.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a teacher of world history and someone who seeks to profit from both religion and science, this book was a joy! The latest research married to deep insight. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Majicdad
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 5 months ago by Mayday
Unproven assumptions, deductive method of reasoning and arguing, poor and baseless conclusions make this work a pointless reading exercise.Published 11 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 13 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 13 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 15 months ago by Louise Radanovich