The Extended Religious Phenotype: Religion as a Transsomatic Adaptation
Religion Evolving - Cultural, Cognitive, and Ecological Dynamics - Benjamin Grant Purzycki
Benjamin Grant Purzycki [+]
Richard Sosis [+]
University of Connecticut
Chapter 1 considers the idea that religion is a transsomatic adaptation. We argue that at the genic level, the religious system manifests as an extended phenotype that has been fashioned by natural selection to overcome socioecological challenges to cooperation and coordination inherent in human sociality. At the collective level, the religious system manifests as a cognitive-cultural niche into which people are born. This chapter details the complex connections between genes, cognitive faculties, and their expression in religious contexts. We also discuss how the “sacred coupling” of supernatural agency and religious ritual functions to maintain relative social order. We conclude by exploring the relevance of niche construction theory for understanding the adaptive nature of religious systems.