The given article is aimed to deﬁ ne the heuristic value of the evolutionary models of religious representations and religious practices elaborated in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) and evolutionary psychology of religion. In the following analysis two such models are taken into consideration, which interpret religion in terms of adaptation and by-project, or spandrel, respectively. According to the ﬁrst one typical of evolutionary psychology, religion has a useful adaptive function, including its major contribution to the formation of prosocial behavior. The second model, which is characteristic of CSR, treats religion as an incidental and biologically useless or even maladaptive product of a set of cognitive systems designed to perform other cognitive functions. It is shown that both models have theoretical and methodological ﬂaws and might share some of these pitfalls. Adaptationist interpretations suﬀer from cultural universalism and tend to «biologize» religion and to reduce it to its behavioral side. The spandrelist approach is currently unable to show any ontogenetic relationship between diﬀ erent cognitive modules and their presumable religious by-products and fails to explain historical and cross-cultural persistence of costly religious by-products in spite of their evolutionary uselessness or maladaptiveness. Finally, both models treat religion as a one-dimensional variable, are prone to unjustiﬁed generalizations, and don’t take into account absence of causal relationship between the contemporary functional repertoire of religious phenomena and their original evolutionary value.
religion, evolution, adaptation, by-product, cognitive science of religion, evolutionary psychology of religion, prosociality, costly signaling theory, epidemiology of representations, intuitive ontology.
1. Markov A. V. 2009 “Religija: poleznaja adaptacija, pobochnyj produkt jevoljucii ili «virus mozga»?”, in Istoricheskaja psihologija i sociologija istorii, 2009, vol. 2/1, pp. 45–56.
2. Mihel'son O. 2013 “Podhody k izucheniju religii v sovremennoj jevoljucionnoj psihologii”, in Gosudarstvo, religija i Cerkov' v Rossii i za rubezhom, 2013, vol. 3/31, pp. 63–76.
3. Alcorta C. S., Sosis R. 2005 “Ritual, Emotion, and Sacred Symbols: The Evolution of Religion as an Adaptive Complex”, in Human Nature, 2005, vol. 16/4, pp. 323–359.
4. Atran S. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, Oxford, 2002.
5. Banerjee K., Haque O. S., Spelke E. S. 2013 “Melting Lizards and Crying Mailboxes: Children’s Preferential Recall of Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts”, in Cognitive Science, 2013, vol. 37/7, pp. 1251–1289.
6. Barrett J. L. 2011 “Cognitive Science of Religion: Looking Back, Looking Forward”, in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2011, vol. 50/2, pp. 229–239.
7. Barrett J. L. 2000 “Exploring the Natural Foundations of Religion’, in Trends in Cognitive Science, 2000, vol. 4/1, pp. 29–34.
8. Barrett J. L. 2004 “The Naturalness of Religious Concepts: An Emerging Cognitive Science of Religion’, in Antes P., Geertz A. W., Warne R. R. (eds.) New Approaches to the Study of Religion, vol. 2: Textual, Comparative, Sociological, and Cognitive Approaches, Berlin, 2004, pp. 401–408.
9. Barrett J. L. 2008 “Why Santa Claus is Not a God”, in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2008, vol. 8, pp. 149–161.
10. Barrett J. L. Why Would Anyone Believe in God?, Lanham, 2004.
11. Barrett J. L., Nyhof M. A. 2001 “Spreading Non-natural Concepts: The Role of Intuitive Conceptual Structures in Memory and Transmission of Cultural Materials”, in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2001, vol. 1/1, pp. 69–100.
12. Bartlett F.C. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology, Cambridge, 1995.
13. Boyer P. 1994 “Cognitive Constraints on Cultural Representations: Natural Ontologies and Religious Ideas”, in Hirschfeld L. A., Gelman S. A. (eds.) Mapping the Mind: Domain Specificity in Cognition and Culture, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 391–411.
14. Boyer P. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion, Berkeley, 1994.
15. Boyer P. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, New York, 2001.
16. Boyer P. 1996 “What Makes Anthropomorphism Natural: Intuitive Ontology and Cultural Representations”, in Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1996, vol. 2/1, pp. 83–97.
17. Boyer P., Bergstrom B. 2008 “Evolutionary Perspective on Religion”, in Annual Review of Anthropology, 2008, vol. 37, pp. 111–130.
18. Boyer P., Ramble C. 2001 “Cognitive Templates for Religious Concepts: Cross-Cultural Evidence for Recall of Counter-Intuitive Representations”, in Cognitive Science, 2001, vol. 25, pp. 535–564.
19. Bulbulia J. 2004 “The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion”, in Biology and Philosophy, 2004, vol. 19, pp. 655–686.
20. Bulbulia J., Shaver J., Greaves L., Sosis R., Sibley C. G. 2015 “Religion and Parental Cooperation: An Empirical Test of Slone’s Sexual Signaling Model”, in Slone D. J., Van Slyke J. A. (eds.) The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, London, 2015, pp. 11–27.
21. Chiao J. Y., Immordino-Yang M. H. 2013 “Modularity and the Cultural Mind: Contributions of Cultural Neuroscience to Cognitive Theory”, in Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2013, vol. 8/1, pp. 56–61.
22. d’Aquili E. G., Newberg A. B. The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience, Minneapolis, 1999.
23. Ferretti F., Adornetti I. 2014 “Biology, Culture and Coevolution: Religion and Language as Case Studies”, in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2014, vol. 14, pp. 305–330.
24. Fodor J. The Modularity of Mind, Cambridge, 1983.
25. Galen L. W. 2014 “Beyond “Prosocial””, in Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 2014, vol. 2/1, pp. 17–22.
26. Gervais W. M., Henrich J. 2010 “The Zeus Problem: Why Representational Content Biases Cannot Explain Faith in Gods”, in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2010, vol. 10, pp. 383–389.
27. Gould S. J., Lewontin R. C. 1979 “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme”, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1979, vol. 205/1161, pp. 581–598.
28. Gould S. J., Vrba E. S. 1982 “Exaptation — a Missing Term in the Science of Form”, in Paleobiology, 1982, vol. 8/1, pp. 4–15.
29. Guthrie S. E. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion, New York, 1993.
30. Haidt J. The Righteous Mind: Why People are Divided by Politics and Religion, New York, 2012.
31. Hirschfeld L. A., Gelman S. A. “Toward a Topography of Mind: An Introduction to Domain Specificity”, in Mapping the Mind: Domain Specificity in Cognition and Culture, pp. 3–35.
32. Hunn E. 1976 “Toward a Perceptual Model of Folk Biological Classification”, in American Ethnologist, 1976, vol. 3/3, pp. 508–524.
33. Irons W. 2001 “Religion as Hard-to-Fake Sign of Commitment”, in Nesse R. M. (ed.) Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment, New York, 2001, pp. 292–309.
34. Keil F. C. Semantic and Conceptual Development: An Ontological Perspective, Cambridge, 1979.
35. Lawson E. T. 2001 “Psychological Perspectives on Agency”, in Andresen J. (ed.) Religion in Mind: Cognitive Perspectives on Religious Belief, Ritual, and Experience, Cambridge, 2001, pp. 141–172.
36. Mahoney A. “The Evolutionary Psychology of Theology”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 189–210.
37. Martin L. H., Wiebe D. 2014 “Pro- and Assortative-Sociality in the Formation and Maintenance of Religious Groups”, in Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 2014, vol. 2/1, pp. 5–16.
38. Martinez M., Lienard P. “The Dividents of Discounting Pain: Self-Inflicted Pain as a Reputational Commodity”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 133–158.
39. McCauley R. N. Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not, Oxford, 2011.
40. McKay R., Whitehouse H. 2015 “Religion and Morality”, in Psychological Bulletin, 2015, vol. 141/2, pp. 447–473.
41. Norenzayan A. Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Princeton, 2013.
42. Norenzayan A., Atran S., Faulkner J., Schaller M. 2006 “Memory and Mystery: The Cultural Selection of Minimally Counterintuitive Narratives”, in Cognitive Science, 2006, vol. 30, pp. 531–553.
43. Norenzayan A., Shariff A. F. 2008 “The Origin and Evolution of Religious Prosociality”, in Science, 2008, vol. 322/5898, p. 58–62.
44. Palmer C. T., Begley R. O. “Costly Signaling Theory, Sexual Selection, and the Influence of Ancestors on Religious Behavior”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 93–109.
45. Persinger M. A. Neuropsychological Basis of God Beliefs, New York, 1987.
46. Porubanova-Norquist M., Shaw D. J., Xygalatas D. 2013 “Minimal-Counterintuitiveness Revisited: Effects of Cultural and Ontological Violations on Concept Memorability”, in Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 2013, vol. 1/2, pp. 181–192.
47. Powell R., Clarke S. 2012 “Religion as an Evolutionary Byproduct: A Critique of the Standard Model”, in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 2012, vol. 63/3, pp. 457–486.
48. Prinz J. J. 2006 “Is the Mind Really Modular?”, in Stainton R. J. (ed.) Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science, Malden, Oxford, 2006, pp. 22–36.
49. Schloss J. 2009 “Introduction: Evolutionary Theories of Religion. Science Unfettered or Naturalism Run Wild?”, in Schloss J., Murray M. J. (eds.) The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion, Oxford, 2009, pp. 1–25.
50. Sela Y., Shackelford T. K., Liddle J. R. “When Religion Makes It Worse: Religiously Motivated Violence as a Sexual Selection Weapon”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 111–131.
51. Slone D. J. Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t, Oxford, 2004.
52. Slone D. J., Van Slyke J. A. “Introduction: Connecting Religion, Sex, and Evolution”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 1–9.
53. Sosis R., Alcorta C. 2003 “Signaling, Solidarity, and the Sacred: The Evolution of Religious Behavior”, in Evolutionary Anthropology, 2003, vol. 12, pp. 264–274.
54. Sperber D. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach, Oxford, 1996.
55. Upal M. A., Gonce L. O., Tweney R. D., Slone D. J. 2007 “Contextualizing Counterintuitiveness: How Context Affects Comprehension and Memorability of Counterintuitive Concepts”, in Cognitive Science, 2007, vol. 31, pp. 415–439.
56. Weeden J. “Losing My Religion: An Analysis of the Decline in Religious Attendance from Childhood to Adulthood”, in The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Psychology of Religion, pp. 73–91.
57. Zahavi A., Zahavi A. The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle, Oxford, 1997.
Malevich Tat'iana Academic Degree:
Candidate of Sciences*
in Philosophy; Place of work:
Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Sciences, St Tikhon Orthodox University; Email:
*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.
Текст подготовлен в рамках проекта «Религия, наука, общество: серия лекций и семинаров», осуществляемого Общецерковной аспирантурой и докторантурой РПЦ при поддержке Фонда Джона Темплтон