Readers of this blog might have noticed that my main focus of research (and those of colleagues such as Eric Kaufmann) has been the reproductive potential of religiosity. Lots of data and studies have conclusively demonstrated that the religious tend to have - on average - more children than the secular.(More)
During the last years, cognitive studies of religion became a lively branch of evolutionary studies. But then, the ensuing consensus integrating modules such as Hyper-Agency Detection (HAD), Theory of Mind (TOM) and Reputation Management started to stagnate, especially as many cognitive scientists hesitated to widen their scope.
Not any more. With "Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not", Robert McCauley managed to connect the field with contemporary debates in surprising as well as convincing ways.
Another step in the increasingly dynamic history of evolutionary studies of religion has been taken: The respective TED-Talk by Jonathan Haidt has been seen more than 20.000 times on the first day of its appearance on YouTube. And it's worth every minute!
The online-magazine Evolution: This View of Life did get a new (and, if I might say, awesome) look. For example, the recommendation of John Jacob Lyons, who is a regular commentator here, about presenting the number of comments to each post has been fulfilled. You should check out the fresh page!
More than ever, the brilliant team with active members such as Robert "@RobertMKadar" Kadar and Hadassah "@Haddie" Head is experimenting with new media possibilities such as videos. Here, leading evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson is introducing into the dynamic field of evolutionary studies of religion.
After seeing this well-done tutorial, I decided to add a web-interview and sent him some questions.
Friedrich August von Hayek (1899 - 1992) was one of the most prominent economists of the 20th century, scientifically taking a stand for liberalism and fighting nationalistic and internationalistic versions of socialism in Europe and abroad since his eminent "Road to Serfdom" (1944). Here is a nice "economy-rap", depicting the debates between him and (students of) John Maynard Keynes (1883 - 1946). Please note their trainers Ludwig von Mises (1881 - 1973) and Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 - 1834), as well as appearances of Ben Bernanke and Carl Levin. Enjoy the show.
F.A. von Hayek as an Evolutionist
Far less known than Hayeks image as a free-market-economist is the root of his scientific perspectives and arguments: Evolution. Coming from an Austrian family deeply embedded in natural sciences as well as philosophy (i.e. he served together with his nephew Wittgenstein in the army and read the first drafts of the tractatus) Hayek urged his fellow economists to study real humans instead of the "spectre" of homo oeconomicus.
In 1952 he published "The Sensory Order" about the evolution of human perception, preceding contemporary works on neurocognition and evolutionary psychology by decades.
F.A. von Hayek about the Evolution of Religion
In his last decade, the professing agnostic Hayek turned to the subject of religion and started to explore it from his evolutionary perspective. Personally, I would count his German lecture of 1982 about the topic at Klessheim castle and his final chapter "Religion and the Guardians of Tradition" in his final book "The Fatal Conceit" (1991) among the most important works in this field and time. For example, he rightfully observed the reproductive potential of religious groups.
Of course, you should find out for yourself! But if you were interested for a start, I discussed and tested some of his hypotheses here:
"Von Hayek and the Amish Fertility. How religious communities manage to be fruitful and multiply. A Case study", in: Frey, Ulrich (Hrsg.), "The Nature of God - Evolution and Religion", Tectum Verlag Marburg 2010
Today, I want to use this scilog in a new way: As a tool for presenting a question. I stumbled upon the topic while preparing a German book about Charles Darwin's works on religion & evolution. In his last year, the great Victorian became captivated by a book on the topic and wrote to its author William Graham:
Dear SirI hope that you will not think it intrusive on my part to thank you heartily for the pleasure which I have derived from reading your admirably written `Creed of Science,’ though I have not yet quite finished it, as now that I am old I read very slowly. It is a very long time since any other book has interested me so much. The work must have cost you several years and much hard labour with full leisure for work.
Intrigued, I started to read the book "The Creed of Science" myself, which is available in print as well as in open-access-directories.
Although a quotation from this Darwinian letter to Graham started a heated debate about the contradictions of atheistic naturalism by Alvin Platinga, I couldn't find much information about the author. He seems to be virtually unknown not only to German libraries and handbooks of philosophy, but also to the Internet including Wikipedia. According to the preface of 'The Creed of Science', William Graham has been Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy at Queen's College, Belfast.
Could you help out?
Therefore, I wanted to ask abroad if someone out there is having some bibliographic informations or scientific references to William Graham (1839 - 1911). Please don't hesitate to post a comment or contact me via my homepage.
Applying evolutionary studies to human politics? Socialised as a German scientist, I winced on the spot. But then, I began to read "The Neighborhood Project" - and became more than convinced. For years, the eminent evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson has embarked on adventurous quests to broaden evolutionary studies into classic humanities - working together with scholars of literature, education and religion. In the captivating, autobiographic parts of "The Neighborhood Project", he is explaining why - his father has been the great novelist Sloan Wilson, who remained deeply curious about human emotions and behaviors throughout his life. After decades of doing scientific studies on plants and animals, his son finally came home.
Some readers of this blog may have met the post about Ara Norenzayan and his outstanding work on evolutionary studies of religion. Now, Ara has joined with another (evoluttionary) social psychologist - Will M. Gervais - for a fascinating article:
Ara Norenzayan & Will M. Gervais (University of British Columbia): The Cultural Evolution of Religion (2011)
One of the interesting experiences in doing a German as well as this English scilog about evolutionary studies of religion is to meet the dominant prejudices: While in the German blogosphere antitheist radicals tend to fight any studies exploring the field because of their fear of findings supporting adaptive scenarios, this English speaking blog is currently flooded by American-Catholic fundamentalists trying to fight evolutionary studies of humanity in general. But then, neither secular nor religious extremists managed to stop evolutionary sciences during the last century - and I happily assume they will not be able to do it in our time. ;-)
One of the reasons for my evolutionary optimism resides in the encouraging activities of David Sloan Wilson, rightfully one of the most popular evolutionary biologists around and author of famous books such as "Darwins Cathedral", "Evolution for Everyone" and now (and to be reviewed here) "The Neighborhood Project - Using Evolution to Improve my City".