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The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures Paperback – September 28, 2010
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"[In The Faith Instinct], longtime New York Times science reporter Wade deftly explores the evolutionary basis of religion. He draws on archaeology, social science, and natural science as he vigorously shows that the instinct for religious behavior is an evolved part of human nature...Wade's study compels us to reconsider the role of evolution in shaping even our most sacred human conditions."
"The Faith Instinct is a big winner! Its highly intelligent and much- needed narrative about why religions have proved essential to human success kept me engrossed from its beginning to its final pages."
-James D. Watson, author of The Double Helix
"There is so much...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."
"It is a rare book that will be read as eagerly by religion's defenders as by its detractors. Building on his rightly admired Before the Dawn, Nicholas Wade has written just such a book."
-Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography
"As he did earlier for human prehistory in Before the Dawn, Nicholas Wade has delivered the most balanced and fact-based account available of a subject fundamental to human self-understanding. His scholarship is thorough, and his writing crystalline and exciting."
-Edward O. Wilson, author of Consilience and The Future of Life
"Instead of attacking or defending religion, as so many have done lately, the biggest challenge is to explain how we became the only religious primate. In a spell-binding and wide-ranging account, Nicholas Wade offers a natural history of religion and convincingly explains why the phenomenon is here to stay."
-Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
"Of all the recent books on religion, I believe The Faith Instinct is simultaneously the most complete, the most correct, and the most accessible to the general public. Wade tells an extraordinary story in which morality, community, and religion are three strands of the same rope. Free of jargon and partisanship, The Faith Instinct is full of fascinating and up-to-the- minute scientific discoveries."
-Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis
"With his new book, New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade positions himself as a serious challenger to Steven Pinker for the title of Best Living Popularizer of the Human Sciences."
-The National Review
About the Author
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780143118190
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143118190
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.47 inches
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint Edition (September 28, 2010)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0143118196
- Best Sellers Rank: #389,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
An empty book with a lot a talk around d relevant issues: e.g., did religion preceded language?
Top reviews from other countries
Early religions, such as those still practiced today by hunter-gatherer tribes, evolved from the need to unite tribe members in order to make them better at warfare against other tribes. They are based on strongly emotional dance and music rituals binding the whole tribe together and with its gods. Wade convincingly explains how these religions had to be very egalitarian in order to increase the cohesion within the tribe, thereby increasing its military power against rival tribes.
With the advent of sedentism and the job specialisation it required, religion and contacts with gods became monopolized by priests. This eventually led to the establishment of the three monotheist religions. Wades narrates their history, including historical hypotheses regarding the reasons for their creation, and their evolution up to the present days.
Wade shows in a clear and rigorous language how early religion is an evaluative factor, making selection to operate at the level of the group. But he omits to explain how and why religion and associated morals had to evolve from instilling egalitarianism to accepting menial roles in complex societies. This book leaves missing the link from hunter-gatherer to monotheist religions.