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How Religion Evolved: And Why It Endures

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When did humans develop spiritual thought? What is religion's evolutionary purpose? And in our increasingly secular world, why has it endured? Every society in the history of humanity has lived with religion. In How Religion Evolved, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar tracks its origins back to what he terms the 'mystical stance' - the aspect of human psycholo When did humans develop spiritual thought? What is religion's evolutionary purpose? And in our increasingly secular world, why has it endured? Every society in the history of humanity has lived with religion. In How Religion Evolved, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar tracks its origins back to what he terms the 'mystical stance' - the aspect of human psychology that predisposes us to believe in a transcendent world, and which makes an encounter with the spiritual possible. As he explores world religions and their many derivatives, as well as religions of experience practised by hunter-gatherer societies since time immemorial, Dunbar argues that this instinct is not a peculiar human quirk, an aberration on our otherwise efficient evolutionary journey. Rather, religion confers an advantage: it can benefit our individual health and wellbeing, but, more importantly, it fosters social bonding at large scale, helping hold fractious societies together. Dunbar suggests these dimensions might provide the basis for an overarching theory for why and how humans are religious, and so help unify the myriad strands that currently populate this field. Drawing on path-breaking research, clinical case studies and fieldwork from around the globe, as well as stories of charismatic cult leaders, mysterious sects and lost faiths, How Religion Evolved offers a fascinating and far-reaching analysis of this quintessentially human impulse - to believe.


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When did humans develop spiritual thought? What is religion's evolutionary purpose? And in our increasingly secular world, why has it endured? Every society in the history of humanity has lived with religion. In How Religion Evolved, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar tracks its origins back to what he terms the 'mystical stance' - the aspect of human psycholo When did humans develop spiritual thought? What is religion's evolutionary purpose? And in our increasingly secular world, why has it endured? Every society in the history of humanity has lived with religion. In How Religion Evolved, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar tracks its origins back to what he terms the 'mystical stance' - the aspect of human psychology that predisposes us to believe in a transcendent world, and which makes an encounter with the spiritual possible. As he explores world religions and their many derivatives, as well as religions of experience practised by hunter-gatherer societies since time immemorial, Dunbar argues that this instinct is not a peculiar human quirk, an aberration on our otherwise efficient evolutionary journey. Rather, religion confers an advantage: it can benefit our individual health and wellbeing, but, more importantly, it fosters social bonding at large scale, helping hold fractious societies together. Dunbar suggests these dimensions might provide the basis for an overarching theory for why and how humans are religious, and so help unify the myriad strands that currently populate this field. Drawing on path-breaking research, clinical case studies and fieldwork from around the globe, as well as stories of charismatic cult leaders, mysterious sects and lost faiths, How Religion Evolved offers a fascinating and far-reaching analysis of this quintessentially human impulse - to believe.

30 review for How Religion Evolved: And Why It Endures

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Mitev

    Известният еволюционен биолог Робин Дънбар обяснява защо религията е продукт на човешката еволюция и защо е универсално разпространена в съвременните и минали общества. Homo sapiens е единственият животински вид, който е религиозен. Възходът на религиите става възможен след възникването на езика като метод за комуникация и внушение. В миналото хората са живеели в далеч по-малки общности, обикновено включващи около 150 индивида (число на Дънбар). Човешкият мозък е способен да изгражда социални вр Известният еволюционен биолог Робин Дънбар обяснява защо религията е продукт на човешката еволюция и защо е универсално разпространена в съвременните и минали общества. Homo sapiens е единственият животински вид, който е религиозен. Възходът на религиите става възможен след възникването на езика като метод за комуникация и внушение. В миналото хората са живеели в далеч по-малки общности, обикновено включващи около 150 индивида (число на Дънбар). Човешкият мозък е способен да изгражда социални връзки и да мониторира интеракциите между отделните хора, когато кръгът на роднини, приятели и познати е до около 150. Това число е многократно потвърдено при научни изследвания, включително и в модерния глобализиран свят. Ние просто нямаме когнитивния капацитет да изграждаме неограничен брой трайни социални взаимоотношения. С нарастването на размера и гъстотата на човешките общества (поради все по-благоприятни условия на средата) възникват сериозни проблеми - междуличностни конфликти, агресия към непознатите, беззаконие до степен на граждански войни. Религията решава именно проблемите, свързани с нарастващите популации и интеракциите между отделните членове. Религиозните общества са били по-сплотени, единни и устойчиви на външни и вътрешни заплахи. Участниците в тях са имали еволюционно предимство от гледна точка на оцеляване и репродукция спрямо конкурентни популации. Ние сме потомци на общества, които са успели да оцелеят в значително по-жестоки условия на средата в близкото и далечно минало. Книгата е сложна за четене, с многобройни цитирания на антропологични и биологични публикации. Изводите няма да се харесат на мнозина. Секуларните доктрини (напр. хуманизъм) нямат същата притегателна сила, както религиите, включващи крайно ирационални и невъзможни елементи (чудеса). Последните две глави са посветени на многобройни култове, секти, схизми и субкултури, които ясно демонстрират ползите (поне за отделни членове), но и рисковете от организираната доктринална религия. Заключението е донякъде песимистично - религиите няма да изчезнат дори в съвременното модерно общество. Религията е еволюционен феномен и продължава да изпълнява важна роля дори днес, особено при нарастващото отчуждаване в големите градове. Не се сърдете на религиозните си приятели, които вярват в "чудеса". Сляпата им вяра е заложена еволюционно.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave Stone

    This is the book I've been seeking for 30 years It's going to hard to avoid comparing this book to Germs, Guns & Steel. It's clear, concise, conversational, and fills in the blanks. After you read it, So much makes sense. There were so many eureka moments in this book where I said "OH! That's why!" This book looks at religion, all religion as a human phenomenon that fulfills biological, and neurological needs. (view spoiler)[ Religion allows group sizes to increase with out increased social & p This is the book I've been seeking for 30 years It's going to hard to avoid comparing this book to Germs, Guns & Steel. It's clear, concise, conversational, and fills in the blanks. After you read it, So much makes sense. There were so many eureka moments in this book where I said "OH! That's why!" This book looks at religion, all religion as a human phenomenon that fulfills biological, and neurological needs. (view spoiler)[ Religion allows group sizes to increase with out increased social & physiological stresses by satisfying the primate need for social grooming and bonding through ritual. Secular attempts to recreate religion's successes have historically all fallen flat. Groups that successfully use religion outperform groups that do not. And yes, like all evolutionary traits, it can become maladaptive. (hide spoiler)] If you've wondered, where did it come from? Why does it do what it does? Why do they all seem so similar? Why do they get under our skin? This is the book for you. Robin Dunbar lays it all out step by step in a way that makes sense, but doesn't make you feel small or hopeless. I loved this book. I fully expect to reread this book every few years like I do with GG&S by Jared Diamond, and The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maher Razouk

    في التقاليد الأوروبية الشمالية ، تتمتع الينابيع والآبار المقدسة بتاريخ طويل يعود إلى عصور القبائل السلتية والجرمانية. كان يُعتقد أن بعض الينابيع أو الآبار تتمتع بقدرات علاجية ؛ كان لبعضها الآخر خاصية القدرة على تلبية رغبات الناس . إن عادة إلقاء العملات المعدنية أو الأشياء الثمينة في الآبار أو البرك (وإبداء الرغبة أثناء القيام بذلك) لا تزال معنا ، حتى لو - في بعض الأحيان ولكن ليس دائمًا - تم تخفيف إيماننا بفاعلية هذه الممارسة بدرجة من الشك. تعتبر أشجار الأمنيات مثالًا آخر : انتشرت عادة إرفاق عروض في التقاليد الأوروبية الشمالية ، تتمتع الينابيع والآبار المقدسة بتاريخ طويل يعود إلى عصور القبائل السلتية والجرمانية. كان يُعتقد أن بعض الينابيع أو الآبار تتمتع بقدرات علاجية ؛ كان لبعضها الآخر خاصية القدرة على تلبية رغبات الناس . إن عادة إلقاء العملات المعدنية أو الأشياء الثمينة في الآبار أو البرك (وإبداء الرغبة أثناء القيام بذلك) لا تزال معنا ، حتى لو - في بعض الأحيان ولكن ليس دائمًا - تم تخفيف إيماننا بفاعلية هذه الممارسة بدرجة من الشك. تعتبر أشجار الأمنيات مثالًا آخر : انتشرت عادة إرفاق عروض أو رسائل نذرية بجذع أو أغصان شجرة معينة في جميع أنحاء الجزر البريطانية وأجزاء أخرى من شمال أوروبا. في الهند ، تُعرف أيضًا شجرة الأثأب (أحد أفراد عائلة التين) التي تقع في وسط كل قرية تقريبًا باسم kalpavriksha (شجرة تحقيق الرغبات). تشهد هذه الأنواع من الظواهر على الإيمان بعالم غامض متأصل بعمق في أنفسنا جميعاً. . Robin Dunbar How Religion Evolved Translated By #Maher_Razouk

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    I think this is a fair although much too brief summary of Dunbar’s conclusions: people created religion because it feels good and it works for human beings in many ways. Dunbar, an Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, doesn’t deal with faith. How Religion Evolved explores the mental, emotional, social, and psychological dimensions of all the world’s religions, including the very early animist/shamanic religions and the more familiar doctrinal religions that do I think this is a fair although much too brief summary of Dunbar’s conclusions: people created religion because it feels good and it works for human beings in many ways. Dunbar, an Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, doesn’t deal with faith. How Religion Evolved explores the mental, emotional, social, and psychological dimensions of all the world’s religions, including the very early animist/shamanic religions and the more familiar doctrinal religions that dominate today. An element of his discussion is the social bonding process and a particular foundation of the “set of cultural criteria that function mainly as cues of community membership, and hence trustworthiness” that Dunbar labels "the Seven Pillars of Friendship." (p. 107) These are: sharing the same language, place of origin, educational trajectory, hobbies and interests, worldview (religious, moral, and political views), musical tastes, and sense of humor. Think about how your family members and friends match up with you on these scales. Dunbar concludes that religion—the long and the short of it, the wide and the narrow of it, the shallow and the deep of it—is naturally a part of human life. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Loveabudge

    Absolutely loved this. You can't understand human social psychology unless you understand religion. Endlessly fascinating subject. Thank you to the author Absolutely loved this. You can't understand human social psychology unless you understand religion. Endlessly fascinating subject. Thank you to the author

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sorrento

  7. 5 out of 5

    Priyankar Bhunia

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daan

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

  10. 5 out of 5

    Yahia Khedewi

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bram Hessels

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brenton Thomas

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beukenick

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lila

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shoaib Nagi

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Lockwood

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gijs

  19. 5 out of 5

    Denzel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Bogdanescu

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lukas

  22. 5 out of 5

    Simone Barbera

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pufnasta Zecija Sapica

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kaloyan Kirilov

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Buchanan-Januskevic

  26. 5 out of 5

    Agnes

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sim

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  29. 4 out of 5

    Radiantflux

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Sanicola

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