The Evolution of Religion

What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen

Research output: Conference materialsPaperResearch

Abstract

Theological assessments of the evolution of religion are rare. Such accounts, however, are offered in two influential works: The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture, and Religion by Philip Hefner (1993) and Alone in the World: Human Uniqueness in Science and Religion by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen (2006).

Both authors present evolutionary arguments in defending the value and rationality of early religion. Hefner emphasizes the role of myth and ritual in helping our ancestors to overcome the genetic disposition to selfishness and the limits of altruism. In fostering human flourishing, religion is seen as essentially reality-oriented.

Van Huyssteen underscores the “naturalness” of religion. Religion evolved as a response to certain challenges in the lifeworld of our ancestors. Also, it co-emerged with distinctive human cognitive skills, such as language and symbolic representation. This naturalness is the basis of the “plausibility”, “integrity”, “meaningfulness”, and “rationality” of religion.

While there is much to appreciate in these books, their attempt to vindicate religion with evolutionary science fails in the light of recent scholarship. However, they serve as case studies that may help theologians to reflect on how (not) to approach the evolution of religion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventReligion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference - Eynsham Hall Hotel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jul 201924 Jul 2019
https://www.issrconference.org/

Conference

ConferenceReligion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference
Abbreviated title2019 ISSR summer conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityOxford
Period21/07/201924/07/2019
Internet address

Fields of Science

  • 614 Theology
  • evolution of religion
  • Cognitive Science of Religion
  • theological anthropology
  • theology of evolution

Cite this

Launonen, L. (2019). The Evolution of Religion: What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. Paper presented at Religion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom.
Launonen, Lari. / The Evolution of Religion : What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. Paper presented at Religion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom.
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abstract = "Theological assessments of the evolution of religion are rare. Such accounts, however, are offered in two influential works: The Human Factor: Evolution, Culture, and Religion by Philip Hefner (1993) and Alone in the World: Human Uniqueness in Science and Religion by J. Wentzel van Huyssteen (2006).Both authors present evolutionary arguments in defending the value and rationality of early religion. Hefner emphasizes the role of myth and ritual in helping our ancestors to overcome the genetic disposition to selfishness and the limits of altruism. In fostering human flourishing, religion is seen as essentially reality-oriented.Van Huyssteen underscores the “naturalness” of religion. Religion evolved as a response to certain challenges in the lifeworld of our ancestors. Also, it co-emerged with distinctive human cognitive skills, such as language and symbolic representation. This naturalness is the basis of the “plausibility”, “integrity”, “meaningfulness”, and “rationality” of religion.While there is much to appreciate in these books, their attempt to vindicate religion with evolutionary science fails in the light of recent scholarship. However, they serve as case studies that may help theologians to reflect on how (not) to approach the evolution of religion.",
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Launonen, L 2019, 'The Evolution of Religion: What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen' Paper presented at Religion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom, 21/07/2019 - 24/07/2019, .

The Evolution of Religion : What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. / Launonen, Lari.

2019. Paper presented at Religion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Research output: Conference materialsPaperResearch

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Launonen L. The Evolution of Religion: What We May Learn From Philip Hefner and J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. 2019. Paper presented at Religion, Evolution and Social Bonding - International Society for Science & Religion Conference, Oxford, United Kingdom.