Supernatural as Natural, A Biocultural Approach to Religion
by Dr. Michael Winkelman and Dr. John R. Baker., January 2009.
Religion - a product of mammalian evolutionary adaptation?
Michael Winkelman, PhD, and John Baker, PhD, reveal that the human capacity for ritual, and therefore religion, is a part of our biology that is imbedded in our evolutionary record.
By studying many cultures around the world we do not find any that do not have religion or altered states of consciousness. And if all cultures and peoples posses these characteristics, then what, other than outdated superstitious beliefs, could these functions hold to benefit human evolution? How about group cohesion and cooperation rather than egocentricity? Then the energy is focused to the group or tribe as a whole, which promotes the survival of the greater group.
There are startling theories in this book, many of which I had not really considered previously. And this book gives us pause to stop and really consider the impact that religions have on our species. And, as a process of natural selection, would human's ability for religiosity have developed across the globe, in every culture, unless there was a benefit to that selection?
We find from studying animals that they, too, have ritualistic behavior. Whether it's fishes mating, or wolves organizing their pack structures into alpha-male and female, or the chimpanzee rituals of grooming and screaming at the sky when it rains; animals too show a propensity toward rituals.
And how do altered states of consciousness play a part of all of this? Winkelman and Baker argue that ASCs allow humans to shut off external stimuli to aid in healing and other functions such as seeing things from different, previously excluded, perspectives that would allow us to have an overall advantage over other groups. In fact, religion is a product of society (pg. 257).
But over the years as tribes grew into villages and villages became towns and cities and countries, and those groups started warring over natural resources and each group's gods, have we as a human species come to a point where we need to evolve the current religions into a new one? Or do we need to evolve ourselves away from religion, into a group that needs to learn to work together as a whole toward our own survival? Or is our end ever approaching. It does not appear that humans will stop believing in religion anytime soon.
Therefore, this is also a book about science and religion coming together and realizing the value in each other. Science needs religion, and religion needs science. And not just in their typically juxtaposed systems, but as enduring functions of each other - of the yin yang. And to anthropology, there is no difference between religious and scientific myth.
A collegiate and meaty read. This fascinating book, if correct, could have great implications on future studies of religion and human evolution.
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