© 2009

The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior

  • Eckart Voland
  • Wulf Schiefenhövel
  • Presents new scientific evidence for controversial hypotheses about religiosity

  • Combines modern psychology and psychiatry with evolutionary biology, archeology, anthropology to explain religious phenomena

  • Survival value of religious behavior is analyzed

  • Questions whether similar mental states underlie spirituality, mysticism and delusions


Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Wulf Schiefenhövel, Eckart Voland
    Pages 1-7
  3. Rüdiger Vaas
    Pages 25-49
  4. Rebekah A. Richert, Erin I. Smith
    Pages 181-193
  5. Erica Harris, Patrick McNamara
    Pages 205-215
  6. Ulrich Frey
    Pages 229-241

About this book


In a Darwinian world, religious behavior - just like other behaviors - is likely to have undergone a process of natural selection in which it was rewarded in the evolutionary currency of reproductive success. This book aims to provide a better understanding of the social scenarios in which selection pressure led to religious practices becoming an evolved human trait, i.e. an adaptive answer to the conditions of living and surviving that prevailed among our prehistoric ancestors. This aim is pursued by a team of expert authors from a range of disciplines. Their contributions examine the relevant physiological, emotional, cognitive and social processes. The resulting understanding of the functional interplay of these processes gives valuable insights into the biological roots and benefits of religion.


Adaptive value of religion Anthropology and religion Charles Darwin Darwin Evolution Evolution of religious behaviour Evolutionary psychology Group selection Natural selection of religious behavior Propensity for religious behavior Religion Religion instinct Sociobiology and religiosity natural selection

Editors and affiliations

  • Eckart Voland
    • 1
  • Wulf Schiefenhövel
    • 2
  1. 1.Zentrum für Philosophie undUniversität GießenGießenGermany
  2. 2.MPI für OrnithologieAndechsGermany

About the editors

Wulf Schiefenhövel is professor for medical psychology and ethnomedicine at the University of Munich and head of the human ethology group at the Max-Planck-Institute in Andechs, Germany. His main research interests are human ethology and evolutionary medicine, within which he focuses on sexuality and reproduction, human birth behavior, early infancy, language and cognitive concepts as well as the genetic and oral history of Melanesian populations

Eckart Voland is professor for philosophy of life sciences at the University of Giessen, Germany. His main research interests are human sociobiology and behavioral ecology. In particular he is interested in the biological evolution of social and reproductive strategies in humans. Moreover, in pursuing the project of naturalizing the human mind and its achievements, he works on the philosophical implications of evolutionary anthropology as reflected in evolutionary ethics and aesthetics.

Bibliographic information