Blogs > Stone Age Brain | Rick Shenkman > This study claims how we worship may be dependent on the environment

Nov 12, 2014

This study claims how we worship may be dependent on the environment

tags: religion,worship

Here's the headline announcing a new study:

"Societies living in harsh environments are more likely to believe in moralizing gods."

The chief finding, perhaps not too surprising, is that "When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," as the lead researcher, Russell Gray, put it.  The harsher the climate, the more people felt the need to believe.  

But here's what is surprising.  They found a way to demonstrate this statistically.  That's the scientist's holy grail in research of this kind.

Here's how the research developed, according to a press release:  "On a whim," Carlos Botero, one of the researchers, "plotted ethnographic data of societies that believe in moralizing, high gods and found that their global distribution is quite similar to a map of cooperative breeding in birds. The parallels between the two suggested that ecological factors must play a part. Furthermore, recent research has supported a connection between a belief in moralizing gods and group cooperation. However, prior to this study, evidence supporting a relationship between such beliefs and the environment was elusive."

The study was conducted by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a well-respected science institution run by Duke, UNC at Chapel Hill, and NC State.

You can read the whole press release here.

Hat Tip:  HNN intern Erik Moshe. 

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