Seit einigen Jahren wird die Frage heftig diskutiert, inwieweit man das Entstehen der Religion evolutionstheoretisch erklären kann. Nicholas Wade setzt sich damit in seinem Buch The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why it Endures auseinander. Eine lesenswerte Rezension findet sich im Economist:
Whatever Darwin’s personal sensibilities, Mr Wade is convinced that a Darwinian approach offers the key to understanding religion. In other words, he sides with those who think man’s propensity for religion has some adaptive function. According to this view, faith would not have persisted over thousands of generations if it had not helped the human race to survive. Among evolutionary biologists, this idea is contested. Critics of religion, like Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker, suggest that faith is a useless (or worse) by-product of other human characteristics.
These objections aside, this is a masterly book. It lays the basis for a rich dialogue between biology, social science and religious history. It also helps explain a quest for collective ecstasy that can take myriad forms.