The Evolution of Religion: A Re-Examination

The Evolution of Religion: A Re-Examination

The Evolution of Religion: A Re-Examination

The Evolution of Religion: A Re-Examination

Synopsis

The Evolution of Religion: A Re-Examination attempts to show that while religion has evolved like any other cultural entity, the process is not as simple as earlier "evolutionists" of religion have made it out to be.

Excerpt

For years I have listened to what scholars from every field have been saying about the origin and nature of religion. That many of them seemed to be contradicting each other did not especially bother me. It was, I assumed, part and parcel of any genuinely dialectical encounter. More disturbing, however, was the suspicion that not a few of them were simply talking past each other, with little or no attention to how their own specialized views might be combined with those of others to develop a larger picture of where religion came from, how it developed, and what it really is. and so, mainly for the sake of clarifying matters for myself and my students, I set out to investigate whether and how the material from disparate fields might be brought together into a more coherent, unified theory. the result is the book at hand. in reality, it is little more than a study guide, indicating a frame of reference within which to proffer some tentative answers to a set of questions that will require more than a single lifetime of research. Venturing as I have across so many different fields in which I have no special expertise, I know only too well how vulnerable I am leaving myself on every flank. As Donald T. Campbell once observed, only "marginal scholars who are willing to be incompetent in a number of fields at once" could attempt such interdisciplinary work. Given the risks involved and the controversial nature of so much of the material presented, readers might wonder why the author has not delayed airing it until such time as he had thought it through more thoroughly, and arrived at a higher degree of certitude than he can now claim. But if philosophy is, as I suppose it to be, an ongoing conversation, there may be some value in the injection of half-digested, still rather raw material that participants, like avian nestlings, might . . .

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