A Critical Analysis of Evolutionary Theories about the Prevalence of Religious Beliefs

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant Professor, Department of Quranic knowledge and House hold of prophet, University of Isfahan,


Why religious beliefs and activities in many different cultures and at all times have been so widespread is a problem that has been addressed by many philosophers and scholars in the field of religion in the last few decades. Evolutionary ideas attempt to answer this question by studying religion as a natural phenomenon. There are two groups of evolutionary theories about this issue: by-product theory and group selection theory. In this paper, while analyzing the two aforesaid theories, we show that the two are not so much successful in answering the problem. Our analysis shows that these two theories are challenged on four main axes: (1) ambiguity in the concept of "evolutionary adaptation of religion" (2) the limited and incomplete definition of religion (3) explanatory limitations and (4) the lack of distinction between the natural and rational foundations of religious beliefs.


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