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Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved 1st Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195385816
ISBN-10: 0195385810
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The existence of God has been part of human discussion for centuries. Believers point to evidence of design and rationality as convincing proofs of divine presence. Rossano, head of the psychology department at Southeastern Louisiana University, looks instead to notions borrowed from anthropology and sociology to construct a purely nonreligious view of the evolution of religion. Favoring science over sentiment, he takes great comfort in the idea that £pieces of our evolutionary puzzle are now falling into place.¥ He suggests that religion, which he describes as an £evolutionary adaptation,¥ arises from intergroup competition and is the result of the inevitable struggles that occur when groups compete for the same prizes (in this case, adherents to their message). To true believers, this is a grim assessment of the religious notions that underlie their lives. Casual readers will find this book tough going and, in some instances, overly technical. But with patience, most will find food for thought.
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Review


"Well-reasoned and ultimately persuasive book...Writing with verve, insight, and even occasional wit, Rossano does an outstanding job of placing his reconstruction of the origins of human religiousness in the context of up-to-date knowledge from diverse scientific fields of human origins. Very highly recommended." -- Library Journal



"This exhaustively researched and intriguing book...is sure to get you thinking about the nature of religion." -- New Scientist


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195385810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195385816
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think the author is basically correct in his major points. At times though, unless I am interpreting some of his statements incorrectly, there may be some logical flaws. For example, at one point says that ritual behavior was the very mechanism by which we acquired our uniquely human capacity for symbolic thought; he points to ritual that exists in the animal kingdom, which has no symbolic content, but I saw no explanation why this would trigger symbolic capacity for humans. Separately, I personally prefer books that rely less on very recent research, especially when only a single study is involved, since it often takes a while for flawed research studies to be "de-bunked."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Probably the best and most informative book I have ever read concerning this subject. I particularly liked the way he progressed from the beginnings of rituals, how they began, how these conclusions were arrived at by comparing traditional hunter gathers and other primates types of rituals, through shamanism and finally arriving at supernatural agents.

One Quibble. Mr. Rossano, like many modern authors, have begun to use she in place of he when describing a group or a representative of a group. Traditional English language uses the word he for this sort of description. Using she is, in my mind, a form of political correctness. This always starts me wondering if any of the authors who write this way allow political correctness to alter some of there findings.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book from my local library, but if you are interested in the ancestral roots of religion it might be a good purchase. It doesn’t say much about the creation more modern religions as we know them (Hinduism, Buddhism Judaism, Christianity, Islam). What this book does best is suggest an early starting point for religion, about 70,000 year ago in Africa, and a point at which it flourishes: 30,000 years ago in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic. The author contends that shamanistic ritual is one of the early elements of religion, and that religion is essentially about relationships and a cohesive group morality and behavior. The book cannot account for or describe everything; it is best treated as one plausible theory, and not the definitive last word on religion. Certainly much more needs to be said about that, but overall as possible or even plausible account of how religion may have begun, it sheds some useful light.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have written a lengthy review of this book that will be posted on another site, and so will make just two comments on the book here: (1) The author is obviously confused as to whether he is offering an account of the evolution of religion (between 500,000 - 35,000 YPB) or discussing the relevance of religion as a factor in biological evolution. (2) I hunted and hunted for a theory of religion's evolution in the book, but could find nothing worth mentioning; the book is a hodgepodge of materials whose relationship one to another, and to the theme of religion's evolution, is virtually impossible to detect. Shortly, my copy of the book will end up in the recycling bin!
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