Religion – evolution and neurobiology

Authors: F. Koukolík
Authors‘ workplace: Oddělení patologie a molekulární medicíny ;  Národní referenční laboratoř prionových chorob ;  Fakultní Thomayerova nemocnice s poliklinikou, Praha ;  Primář: MUDr. František Koukolík, DrSc.
Published in: Prakt. Lék. 2009; 89(11): 621-626
Category: Various Specialization


The discourse on evolution and the nature of religion is similar to discourse on evolution and nature of language and music. The first theory explaining religion as a by-product of evolution supposes that at the core of a religion is a contra-intuitive belief in supernatural agents arising from innate „intuitions“, related to agency. Three cognitive constituents can be recognised in religions: religious and other supernatural representations are contra-intuitive, religion helps with anxiety (but can also provoke anxiety) and a part of religion is behaviour that deviates from maximalization of benefit. The second theory, which perceives religion as an adaptation, does not dispute the aforementioned arguments but alleges that a basic benefit of religion is the reinforcement of intragroup solidarity and thereby fitness of a member of the group. Contra-intuitive belief does not need to be necessarily maladaptive. Contemporary functional methods make it possible to observe neural correlates of religious belief and mystical experiences.

Key words:
religion, cognitive science, evolution, neural correlates of religious belief.


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