The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion

Edited by Yair Lior and Justin Lane


The past two decades have seen a growing interest in evolutionary and scientific approaches to religion. The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion is an outstanding reference source to the key topics, problems and debates in this exciting and emerging field. Comprising over thirty chapters by a team of international contributors the handbook pulls together scholarship in the following areas:

  • evolutionary psychology and the cognitive science of religion (CSR)
  • cultural evolution
  • the complementarity of evolutionary psychology, cognitive science and cultural evolution.

Within these sections central issues, debates and problems are examined, including: Cliodynamics, cultural group selection, costly signaling, dual inheritance theory, literacy, transmitting narratives, prosociality, supernatural punishment, cognition and ritual, meme theory, fusion theory, sexual selection, agency detection, evoked culture, social brain hypothesis, theory of mind, developmental psychology, emergence theory, social learning, cultural cybernetics, cultural epidemiology, evolutionary and cultural psychology, memetics, by-product and adaptationist theories of religion, systems and information theory, and computer modeling.

This Handbook is essential reading for students and researchers in religious studies and anthropology. It will also be very useful to those in related fields, such as psychology, sociology of religion, cognitive biology, and evolutionary biology.

CMAC contributors

Chapter 1 | Introduction: Evolutionary Approaches to Religion – Yair Lior and Justin Lane

Chapter 2 | Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology – Justin Lane and Yair Lior

Chapter 6 | Sacred Values: Identity Fusion, Devoted Actor Theory, and Extremism – Kayla Bonnin and Justin Lane

Chapter 16 | Costly Signaling: The ABCs of Signaling Theory and Religion – Richard Sosis

Chapter 20 | Religion and Prosociality: The Naturalization of Norms – Connor Wood

Chapter 21 | Big Gods Theory: The Cultural Evolution of Social Complexity and Prosocial Religions – Yair Lior

Chapter 23 | Meme Theory – Justin Lane

Chapter 25 | Behavioral Ecology: Niche Construction and Religion – John Balch

Chapter 26 | Synthetic Approaches: At the Intersection of Evolutionary Psychology and Cultural Evolution – Yair Lior and Justin Lane

Chapter 28 | Cultural Cybernetics of Religion: Computation and Information Transmission in Religion – Justin Lane

Chapter 29 | Major Transitions in Cultural Evolution: A Dynamic Systems Approach – Yair Lior

Chapter 32 | Synthesis and Explanatory Pluralism – Wesley J. Wildman and David Rohr