Animals evolve. People evolve. Can groups evolve?

It seems as if, evolutionarily speaking, groups are real entities. Mathematical modeling and lab studies show that they don’t have to be discrete replicators, churning out unique copies of themselves, for for this to be true. What does this mean for the evolution of culture? Read more

Religion and evolution, part deux

Rollicking debates about evolutionary theory are crucial for understanding how religion evolved – because many of the most fertile hypotheses about religious behavior are directly related to questions of group cooperation. Read more

Anthropology, not demagoguery, is the way to understand ISIS

Blaming ISIS on generic religious irrationality makes us completely blind to the social processes that are actually happening. People really do have more needs than superficial prosperity. When these deeper needs aren’t met, things get ugly. Read more

Is religion evolutionarily adaptive?

Darwinian evolution is amoral. Evolutionary adaptations are often extremely nasty. Genetically maladaptive behavior can be subjectively wonderful. We should never get Darwinian success mixed up with objective goodness. Read more

Is belief in heaven good for you? No. Yes. Maybe.

Belief in hell is good for society – it frightens people into shaping up, toeing the line, and playing by the rules. But this fear of God isn’t so great for people at the individual level. A loving, forgiving God is psychologically better for you than believe in a punitive and angry one. Read more

Comments aren’t for atheist evangelism

Interreligious tensions in Europe are growing and American religious resistance to evolution slouches on intransigently. We’ll need to actually understand religion if we want to deal with these issues, and that’s why I’m moderating this comment board more strictly from now on. Read more

Why the religion-science dialogue needs secular religious studies

Secular religious studies could add vibrant insight to a dialogue whose main purpose is to achieve rapprochement between religion and science. Read more

Michael Shermer thinks he’s more moral than you

Skeptic thinker Michael Shermer believes that Western society is becoming more moral because we’re very abstract thinkers. Concrete thinking leads to tribalism and prejudice. But doesn’t Shermer realize that somebody needs to attend to “concrete reality?” Otherwise, who’s growing the food or fixing cars? Read more

Is willpower really a finite resource?

Publication bias is rampant in psychology. Has it led us astray with one of the most important psychological theories of all time? Read more

America’s public ritual gone terribly wrong

Sports exemplify the central role of play in human culture, the crucial importance of arbitrary rules and ritual. But the hyper-commercialized ritual of the Super Bowl is becoming increasingly disturbing. Read more

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