Yes, I am an Evolutionist!

Posted 7 April 2014 by Michael Blume

When people press me into defining either as a conservative, a liberal/libertarian or a leftist, I like to answer that I am an "Evolutionär", an evolutionist: My scientific interests and researches have led me to appreciate that any biological or cultural tradition surviving to our day is the product of a long and deep history, which should not be dismissed easily. In this sense, I feel like a conservative. The very same perspective helped me to appreciate that variation is necessary for... Read more

Great Adaptations – A Bold Project Bringing Evolutionary Knowledge to Kids

Posted 28 February 2014 by Michael Blume

Exploring religion from an evolutionary perspective, I have been repeatedly flabbergasted by a specific gap: Evolutionary theorists tended to bring up far more scientific facts, but dynamic religious movements tended to bring up far more catching narratives! Although a lot of scientific authors and bloggers contributed to closing this gap concerning educated adults, this gap remained with regards to children! Obviously, the fact that the non-religious tend to have smaller families than the devout and evolutionary theism has only started to form as a cultural milieu... Read more

Hyper Agency Detection (HAD) as Building Block of Religious Cognition – A Humorous Introduction

Posted 13 November 2013 by Michael Blume

Among the many things Charles Darwin got right about evolution, his definitions and theses concerning the evolution of religious beliefs and behaviors deserve special attention. For example, the learned theologian observed his dog growling at moving objects, assuming possible "agency" as a possible building block of early religious cognition. Contemporary psychologists agree. There is a overdetection of agency, frequently called Hyper-Agency Detection (HAD) in animal and human cognition. And this is not very surprising from an evolutionary perspective: It is far... Read more

Researching Religion and Prosociality – Lecture by Ara Norenzayan

Posted 2 November 2013 by Michael Blume

Ara Norenzayan has been repeatedly featured on my German and English scilogs. My recent review on his new book "Big Gods" and the list of 10 principles of the social psychology of religion have been taken up by many readers, especially via the social media. Therefore, I am glad to be able to share a video of a lecture Ara recently gave at the Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture. If you are interested in human psychology, evolutionary studies... Read more

Social Psychology of Religion – Ten Gems from Big Gods by Ara Norenzayan

Posted 23 October 2013 by Michael Blume

Once in a while, a whole field of research is pushed forward by a seminal work. Ara Norenzayan's "Big Gods. How Religion Transformed Cooperation And Conflict" is one of those rare books bound to becoming a classic for a generation of colleagues and students. Applauding this compelling piece of empirical and evolutionary studies, I wrote two reviews - one in English at "Evolution - This View of Life" and the other in German at "Natur des Glaubens". Among the many... Read more

The Power of Narrative – Example by a musical letter from Fred to Sweet Lorraine

Posted 28 August 2013 by Michael Blume

Many people seem to believe that "myths" - not necessarily scientific narratives perceived as meaningful by many - are to be found only among religions. Nothing could be farther from the (now scientific!) truth: As Jonathan Gottschall showed in his great-to-read "The Storytelling Animal", we human beings evolved a hunger for sharing myths in order to be able to survive, to cooperate and to reproduce. In fact, your personal identity is a myth you are repeatedly and constantly trying to... Read more

Remembering Robert Bellah (1927 – 2013), Discoverer of Civil Religion

Posted 3 August 2013 by Michael Blume

On July 31, one of the great contemporary scholars of religion has left this world. Growing up as a sociologist in the United States during World War II, followed by McCarthyism and the Vietnam War, this great scientist decided to move to Canada for some years in order not to compromise his analytical views. His name will be remembered especially for the discovery and description of "Civil Religion", the inevitably emerging combination of symbols, myths, rituals and beliefs in every... Read more

Sam Harris vs. Scott Atran – Hate vs. Science

Posted 23 June 2013 by Michael Blume

As I started to enter the then brand-new field of evolutionary studies of religiosity and religions, I was frequently warned about religious fundamentalists objecting to anyone exploring religious experiences and beliefs from an evolutionary perspective. And, yes, some of them pop up now and then, claiming that "evolution is bad science" and "evolutionists are atheists by necessity" etc. But what I wasn't warned about and what I feel to be a really sad experience are those antitheists being prejudiced against religion(s) in such... Read more

The “Russian Amish” – resisting the demographic decline of the former Soviet Union

Posted 24 May 2013 by Michael Blume

For decades, the Russian population is declining due to low birth rates and (comparatively) low life expectancies. The communist regime of the Soviet Union suppressed and destroyed most religious traditions and communities - and family structures along the way. Although the Russian State recently tried to raise the fertility levels with money, there's a long way to go to stop the demographic implosion. But there's an interesting and telling exception from the perspective of evolutionary studies. While no non-religious populations... Read more

May Atheism succeed demographically?

Posted 5 May 2013 by Michael Blume

In the wake of the fruitful explosion of Evolutionary Studies of Religion, Evolutionary Studies of Atheism are making inroads, too. I was glad to be able to blog about Dominic Johnson's respective hypotheses last summer and recently about a ground-breaking paper by Ara Norenzayan and Will M. Gervais. Although we are beginning to understand the emergence and expansion of non-religious worldviews better than ever, a major question remains: Are human populations lacking any beliefs in superempirical agents doomed to demographic... Read more