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The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures Paperback – September 28, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
I've read several of the negative reviews of this book. Many misrepresent the scientific points made by Wade, and misunderstand the broader implications of his arguments for, e.g., understanding religions other than the western monotheisms or the rise of the secular state.
I found the discussion of the roots of Islam especially fascinating. I had always assumed Muhammad was a historical figure whose life and battles were well documented by the historical record outside of Islam - but this apparently is not true.
The last quarter of the book, that deals with more recent trends, is weaker than the rest. But overall, this is a fascinating book that - if you approach it with an open mind - will transform how you think about religion.