EVOLUTION OF RELIGIOSITY
Much of my research on humans has been on a theoretical level, although several of my doctoral students have done empirical research on human evolutionary psychology. However, I am now personally deeply engaged in human research, making a first attempt to compare the explanatory power of my adaptationist "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis" for the genetic and cultural evolution of religion versus the likewise adaptationist "Parasite-Stress Theory of Human Values and Sociality" largely attributable to my esteemed colleagues Drs. Randy Thornhill and Corey Fincher.
The "Parasite Hypothesis" proposes that most forms of ideological, moral, and religious diversity evolved to serve as parts of our behavioral immune system. According to this idea, which is backed by impressive data, variation in all kinds of values, including those conveyed in association with religious doctrines and all kinds of supernatural narratives, create relational boundaries between human groups that are hard for pathogens to cross.
In contrast, my "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis" proposes that most religious behavior, including talk, is designed to strategically modulate social-distancing amongst subgroups (e.g., kin-groups, clans, guilds) living within larger structured metagroups and, more specifically, to do this in ways that help religiously differentiated subgroups maximally protect their valuable human capital and intellectual property, as well as other forms of subgroup-specific private and strategic information. A full explanation awaits publication - or take my course!
Evolution of Religiosity - Data Gathering Complete, Analysis Has Begun! I am collaborating with Amber Dukes, Katherine Cauthen, and several fine undergraduate research assistants on a test of my "Informational Boundaries Hypothesis (IBH)." The IBH is a novel honest commitment signaling hypothesis concerning the evolution of religiosity and religious diversity. We recently have completed an experiment in evolving about 535 subjects designed to pit the IBH against the famous "Pathogen Stress Theory of Values and Sociality," which includes a pathogen (contagion evasion) hypothesis of religiosity, developed in large part by my good colleagues Drs. Randy Thornhill and Corey Fincher. Briefly, in a well-controlled within-subjects pre / post experiment, I predict that the IBH will do a much better job of explaining individual variation in religiosity per se, while the pathogen stress hypothesis will do a better job explaining shifts in more generalized and much less elaborate stranger-aversion instincts, like xenophobia.