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Supernatural SelectionHow Religion Evolved$
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Matt Rossano

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385816

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385816.001.0001

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Making a Good Impression

Making a Good Impression

(p.37) 2 Making a Good Impression
Supernatural Selection

Matt J. Rossano (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 presents the first part of religion’s evolutionary story. It is argued that our ancestors went through a critical social transformation sometime between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago and that religion emerged as a part of this transformation. To fully understand how this transformation took place, the chapter reviews the basics of evolution by natural selection and then turns more specifically to the evolution of morality and altruism. Evidence is presented supporting the notion that cultural group selection played an important role in the evolution of religion and that religious groups outcompeted “secular” groups by virtue of greater within-group cooperativeness. This cooperativeness was achieved because religion increased social scrutiny. Religious people believed they were under the constant gaze of supernatural agents, therefore compelling them to adhere more scrupulously to group norms of generosity, reciprocity, and self-sacrifice.

Keywords:   altruism, cultural group selection, Levant, morality, Neanderthals, natural selection, reciprocity, social scrutiny

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