Allen S. Maller

Religion, evolution, and human survival

Homo Sapiens is not the only species to make tools, that started over a million years ago; but it is the only species that has been making tools for the last 35-40,000 years to play music, and using tools to carve statues of Gods.

Homo Sapiens is not the only species to use fire to cook food, that started over a half a million years ago; but it is the only species that has been using fire for the last 35-40,000 years to make clay figurines to worship.

Homo Sapiens is not the only species to use tools to hunt; but it is the only species that makes ritual offerings of burnt animals, or to sacred animals, in order to influence a spiritual power.

Perhaps the reason that of the four closely related species of the genus Homo that lived on planet Earth 50,000 years ago; the only species of genus Homo that is still living here is Homo Sapiens, the most religious one.

Perhaps Homo Sapiens survived because religions give individual humans spiritual hopes, faith and patience to endure; and gave small family groups and hunter-gatherer bands, greater bonds of large scale tribal unity and cooperation, to help them survive the vast and rapid climate changes cause by the growth and then the end of the last major ice age.

When Homo Sapiens came out of Africa the first time about 100-110,000 years ago they did not establish an ongoing presence either in Israel or along the south Arabian coast.

But when Homo Sapiens sapiens came out of Africa the second time about 50-60,000 years ago they did spread throughout the world; and Homo Neanderthals, Homo Denisovans and Homo Floresiensis disappeared.

Sometime between those two events, Homo Sapiens turned into Homo Sapiens sapiens (modern mankind); and Adam and Eve’s descendants exited Africa and filled up Planet Earth

Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing gods who enforce a moral code is similarly advantageous for human cultures in unpredictable environments.

“When life is tough or when it’s uncertain, people believe in moral gods,” says Russell Gray, a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. “Prosocial behavior helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.”

Gray and coauthor Botero found a strong correlation between belief in high gods who enforce a moral code and other societal characteristics such as a social hierarchy beyond the local community and the practice of animal husbandry. Both were strongly associated with a belief in moralizing gods.

The widespread veneration of animals in many religions, and the even more wide spread existence of religious dietary restrictions, usually connected to animals, could also be related to a belief in moralizing gods.

This study began when Botero plotted ethnographic data of societies that believe in moralizing, high gods and found that their global distribution is quite similar to a map of cooperative breeding in birds.

The parallels between the two suggested that one aspect of religion could be an evolutionary creative reaction by intelligent minds to ecological factors.

Recent research had already supported a connection between a belief in moralizing gods and group cooperation. And this study provides additional strong evidence from the use of historical, social, and ecological data for 583 societies to illustrate the multifaceted relationship between belief in gods who enforce a moral code, and human survival.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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