Meme infection or religious niche construction? An adaptationist alternative to the Cultural maladaptationist hypothesis
(2008) Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Vol. 20, No. 1 67-107pp.
Some biologists hold that religious ideas propagate for their own success against ours, as mental viruses.
This article motivates an alternative model according to which religious traditions are culturally inherited systems that co-evolved to support human welfare. I explain (i) why this alternative model offers a better fit with known facts and (ii) how religion’s functional origins may nevertheless occasion human misery.
The article extends previous research by revealing an ecological dimension to the evolution of religious cooperation. Religious cooperation depends on the transmission of genes and ideas, but it also depends on the maintenance of human social and material ecologies – a “cooperative niche.”