cover image Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved

Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved

Matt J. Rossano, Oxford Univ., $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-538581-6

The existence of God has been part of human discussion for centuries. Believers point to evidence of design and rationality as convincing proofs of divine presence. Rossano, head of the psychology department at Southeastern Louisiana University, looks instead to notions borrowed from anthropology and sociology to construct a purely nonreligious view of the evolution of religion. Favoring science over sentiment, he takes great comfort in the idea that “pieces of our evolutionary puzzle are now falling into place.” He suggests that religion, which he describes as an “evolutionary adaptation,” arises from intergroup competition and is the result of the inevitable struggles that occur when groups compete for the same prizes (in this case, adherents to their message). To true believers, this is a grim assessment of the religious notions that underlie their lives. Casual readers will find this book tough going and, in some instances, overly technical. But with patience, most will find food for thought. (June)