Cooperation, conflict and the cultural evolution of religion
2nd Annual HESP Symposium
Human Evolutionary Studies Program, SFU
Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium, UBC
Recently archaeologists have begun to explore new ways of conceptualizing the role of religion in past human societies. So far, however, contemporary cultural evolutionary approaches to the study of religion have not featured in this discussion to any great extent. This symposium seeks to change this state of affairs by bringing together archaeologists, anthropologists, and psychologists to discuss the hypothesis that religious beliefs and practises facilitate the emergence of large-scale, complex societies by enhancing within-group cooperation. Some of the questions we anticipate examining during the symposium include: Do some forms of religion promote social solidarity and cohesion more effectively than others? How important are religious leaders in stimulating or preventing cooperation? Are costly rituals essential to the formation of large-scale, complex societies? How does increased social stratification relate to changes in religious beliefs and practises? Do episodes of warfare and territorial expansion follow shifts in religious beliefs and practises? Do environmental conditions make some types of religion more or less likely?