Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society

One of the great intellectual battles of modern times is between evolution and religion Until now, they have been considered completely irreconcilable theories of origin and existence David Sloan Wilson s Darwin s Cathedral takes the radical step of joining the two, in the process proposing an evolutionary theory of religion that shakes both evolutionary biology and sociOne of the great intellectual battles of modern times is between evolution and religion Until now, they have been considered completely irreconcilable theories of origin and existence David Sloan Wilson s Darwin s Cathedral takes the radical step of joining the two, in the process proposing an evolutionary theory of religion that shakes both evolutionary biology and social theory at their foundations.The key, argues Wilson, is to think of society as an organism, an old idea that has received new life based on recent developments in evolutionary biology If society is an organism, can we then think of morality and religion as biologically and culturally evolved adaptations that enable human groups to function as single units rather than mere collections of individuals Wilson brings a variety of evidence to bear on this question, from both the biological and social sciences From Calvinism in sixteenth century Geneva to Balinese water temples, from hunter gatherer societies to urban America, Wilson demonstrates how religions have enabled people to achieve by collective action what they never could do alone He also includes a chapter considering forgiveness from an evolutionary perspective and concludes by discussing how all social organizations, including science, could benefit by incorporating elements of religion.Religious believers often compare their communities to single organisms and even to insect colonies Astoundingly, Wilson shows that they might be literally correct Intended for any educated reader, Darwin s Cathedral will change forever the way we view the relations among evolution, religion, and human society.
Darwin s Cathedral Evolution Religion and the Nature of Society One of the great intellectual battles of modern times is between evolution and religion Until now they have been considered completely irreconcilable theories of origin and existence David Sloan Wils

  • Title: Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society
  • Author: David Sloan Wilson
  • ISBN: 9780226901350
  • Page: 473
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society”

    1. David Sloan Wilson has made an interesting, if ultimately flawed, attempt to apply multi-level group selection to the study of human evolution and religion. Perhaps it's because the standards of this genre seem to have become non-existent in recent times, but I almost feel bad ragging on Wilson here. Quite unlike your average evolutionary psychology tract, Wilson's work is very much informed by the scholarship in religious studies and anthropology. There's much more to be had in this than many o [...]

    2. The main thrust of David Sloan Wilson's argument in this book is that religion (and other human cultural institutions) can be meaningfully analyzed from an evolutionary perspective, that in certain circumstances it makes sense to discuss the purpose of religion as it applies to the adaptive fitness of human beings.To make that argument he has to show that a lot of what the Academy believes about evolution, on the one hand, and social science, on the other, is either inaccurate or misguided. To t [...]

    3. Science and religion in our time are boxers in the ring. Is it possible to bring the two together in a way that makes one appreciate both?Darwin's Cathedral has achieved this seemingly impossible task. David Sloan Wilson looks at religion as a practical adaption, a way in which a group of human beings can fit itself better for survival. This useful aspect of religion is something that has no connection with the factual authentication of beliefs, quite the contrary, as Wilson states when speaking [...]

    4. This book should come with a warning – the first two chapters are terrifically boring and can probably be safely skipped. Wilson spends the first 100 or so pages (in a 230-page book) summarising in some depth evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. This has the frustrating effect of Wilson constantly telling you for 100 pages what he’s going to talk about but seemingly never getting there (I can hear Monty Python in my head yelling, “get on with it!”). These first two chapters [...]

    5. Interesting but somewhat labored thesis that religions, like other human social structures develop according to an evolutionary model based on developing and nurturing characteristics that make then functionally more likely to persist. These characteristics are called group adaptive as they are played out in behaviors and actions which may not necessarily be to the advantage of the individual but are to the advantage of the group. Wilson breaks this theory down to specific characteristics which [...]

    6. Evaluates religion from a naturalistic perspective, as a system for coordinating social behavior.

    7. Wilson soutient que les groupes sociaux constituent des unités adaptatives biologiques sous certaines conditions, et que les religions figurent parmi les ensembles de croyances et de comportements par lesquels les groupes satisfont de telles conditions. Elles y parviennent par la sacralisation des biens pour l'obtention desquels la collaboration est nécessaire, et par l'octroi, aux croyances et comportements collaboratifs pertinents, d'un halo de sérieux, de gravité et de prescription. Les g [...]

    8. A very solid and thought-provoking book, with major implications for the evolution of culture and the effects of group selection on how we think & behave. But as a non-biologist, I did not fully understand all of its contents. This is a book I would like to read in a seminar or book club with a few scientists participating.

    9. Jonathan Haidt on this book's thesis: When opponents of evolution object that humans are not mere apes, they are correct. We are also part bee. And I liked the thesis. But the book, as a book, not so much. Especially the first 85 pages or so were quite the slog.

    10. Sloan Wilson applies his multilevel selection scenario to outline an analysis of the evolution religions. It is just an outline, not an inquiry. An outline goes as follows. A withing-group selection occurs in originary small tribes. In more populous groups there prevails a between-group selection because of the need to cooperate in larger groups. An adaptationist argument applies here. Sloan Wilson traces adaptationist argument from Durkheim on. Religions help societies adapt to their environmen [...]

    11. Can evolutionary methods be used to study the development of religion? David Sloan Wilson, a renowned evolutionary biologist, proposes that religion evolved because of the advantages it confers on those who share in it. Religion may even have contributed to humanity’s rise as the dominant animal on earth. By studying religious concepts in their group settings (religions are well known for their in-group morality and out-group hostility), Wilson places the evolution of social behavior, and reli [...]

    12. Wilson's argument that religions can be understood in evolutionary terms as organisms unto itself, provided one understand evolution in multi-level terms, is clearly laid out and lucidly articulated.There were places where I wondered if his generalizations were too broad. For instance, he has an interesting explanation for why Judaism has been so widely persecuted yet just as widely enduring over time and place, but it doesn't seem to apply to the state of Israel. It seemed an oversight that he [...]

    13. Wow did this book take me a while to finish. Densely written, wonderfully researched, Dr. Wilson takes Religion on a test drive when viewed thru a scientific method - starting with Darwin and then to modern scientific thought and analysis. No, this is not a book that debunks Religion - in fact it is the opposite. It is an attempt to attach Religion to the communities that raised it from a cult to a sect to a Religion. The sections on the concept of Forgiveness were especially well done. But unle [...]

    14. An interesting premise, (basically that religion is a group level evolutionary adaptation, not altogether different from the group selection that occurs in eusocial insects), but one that is laboriously explained. I understand that it is an academic book and that Wilson's aim is to be as thorough as possible, but I found his style repetitive and his examples to be somewhat sparse. I came out of reading the book agreeing with him, and I think that religion can be most effectively hypothesized thr [...]

    15. this is a refreshing view from an evolutionary biologist that sees religion from an evolutionary biology perspective (a church is an organism). it is much more accepting of religion as a biological function than writings of for example dawkins. dawkins takes a genes eye view of everything and blieves it to be the only unit of selection oan wilson believes in multi-level selection genegenomeorganellscellorganismfamilyinterpretive groupsocietyspeciesu highlighted a load of suff n this book

    16. The author makes a good case that religion allows societies to form groups that can then undergo group selection. However I feel the author did not make a great case for the existence of group selection itself. I also felt the author did not explain very well what the source of genetic variation is that selection can act upon in religious groups. But if we can believe the author's assessment of previous religious theory in sociology or anthropology it seems his thesis has a lot to offer in terms [...]

    17. Facinating look from a scientific (and evolutionary) perspective at why religion is pervasive among humans. New answers to very old questions. I found the answers very plasible and feel this book answers questions I've had about religion for a long time.Warning and advice- the first couple chapters (particularly chapter 2) are very scientific and boring. If that doesn't interest you just skip to the chapter on Calvinism (chapter 3).

    18. The first two chapters almost did me in, I was ready to drop the book and move on to other material. I did manage to finish; I'm not entirely sure it wouldn't have been better to leave off after the second chapter.The history is engaging, the group selection analysis inadequate. His analogies do not work and his examples inconclusive.

    19. While it takes some time and effort to really get into this book, Wilson delivers a stunning argument for the evolution and (continued) existence of religion. Despite being ultimately unsuccessful in convincing this molecular biologist, Darwin's Cathedral is a great read with a great many eye openers.

    20. This was an interesting book, but reads too much like a thesis to have broad appeal. The concept of religious groups as adaptive units is interesting, however, and would go a long way towards explaining the persistence of religion.

    21. A marvelous account of the evolutionary value of religion. I had seen this book cited in other books I read and thought I would go to the source code. It really presents a convincing case for the evolution of religious belief and its value for survival.

    22. not light reading but this book offers an evolutionary perspective on religion and helped me understand why it evolved and why it is important to so many. This from someone who has mostly been apathetic on the subject.

    23. Местами занудно, иногда спорно, но в целом весьма интересно.

    24. Definitely left it on the Metro about halfway through (accidentally). Wasn't that great anyway - interesting, very illuminating, but very dense, not particularly accessible.

    25. David Sloan Wilson carefully requires us to go through some basics in evolution and group evolution. Harder going for me, but I appreciated it finally. Insightful book.

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