Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society / Edition 1

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From Calvinism in sixteenth-century Geneva to Balinese water temples, from hunter-gatherer societies to urban America, Wilson demonstrates how religions have enabled people to achieve by collective action what they never could do alone. He also includes a chapter considering forgiveness from an evolutionary perspective and concludes by discussing how all social organizations, including science, could benefit by incorporating elements of religion. Religious believers often compare their communities to single organisms and even to insect colonies. Astoundingly, Wilson shows that they might be literally correct. Intended for any reader, Darwin's Cathedral will change forever the way we view the relations among evolution, religion, and human society.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Viewing religion from an evolutionary perspective, Wilson (biology and anthropology, Binghamton Univ.) argues that religious belief and other symbolic systems are closely connected to reality in that they are a powerful force in motivating adaptive behaviors. Disconnecting religion from its reliance on supernatural agents as a defining principle, he posits human religious groups as adaptive organisms wherein processes like group selection, evolutionary pressures, and moral systems come into play, offering a new avenue for interpretive insights. To his credit, Wilson looks for a middle ground in this complex confluence of biology, sociology, anthropology, and religion: "I think group selection can explain much about religion but by no means all." He depends heavily on Darwinian theory, sociologists like Rodney Stark, and symbolic thinkers like mile Durkheim and Terrence Deacon. He ultimately argues for the power of symbolic thinking as a sophisticated adaptive advantage alongside factual thinking. Wilson's readers should be prepared for a tightly argued, highly academic yet satisfying read. Sandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., Pittsburgh Sports & Recreation The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2001. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226901350
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 389,771
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Sloan Wilson is a professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University. He is the author of The Natural Selection of Populations and Communities and coauthor of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Church as Organism 1
Ch. 1 The View from Evolutionary Biology 5
Ch. 2 The View from the Social Sciences 47
Ch. 3 Calvanism: An Argument from Design 86
Ch. 4 The Secular Utility of Religion: Historical Examples 125
Ch. 5 The Secular Utility of Religion: The Modern Literature 161
Ch. 6 Forgiveness as a Complex Adaptation 189
Ch. 7 Unifying Systems 219
Notes 235
Bibliography 245
Acknowledgments 259
Index 261
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