There’s an interesting article in The Economist this week. It’s about a new EU project to study religion using science. But it spends most of it’s time discussing a couple of disparate studies that have already been conducted. I feel they are trying to present 2 early conclusions:
- Religion is an evolutionary tool, like morality, to promote better groups. Groups are important because in an extremely dangerous and competitive environment, aka a war, the better group will win.
- The converse is also true. Because religion preferences group selection over individual selection, it causes religious people to make bad individual decisions when they are not in an extremely dangerous environment, aka a war.
Pretty strong stuff! The implication here seems dangerous: Religious people are evolutionary encouraged to create dangerous conflicts. Yikes. If the logic and science holds, that would put all religion in the same category as weapons dealers, terrorists, extremists, and some bad political company.
I see one problem though. Morality does seem like the same evolutionary pressure. Morality binds society together much in the same way, with laws, police, and social guidelines. But most of us feel that losing these things would lead to total anarchy, a lower quality of life, and little chance of survival. Oops! It doesn’t seem like we have the complete story. Here’s one piece I think is missing: Historically, religiousness tends to diminish over the long term without these dangerous environments. Morality seems to increase.