Kin selection favours religious traditions : ancestor worship as a cultural descendant-leaving strategy
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Recent years have seen renewed interest in the role of religious systems as drivers of the evolution of cooperation in human societies. One suggestion is that a cultural tradition of ancestor worship might have evolved as a "descendant-leaving strategy" of ancestors by encouraging increased altruism particularly between distant kin. Specifically, Coe and others have suggested a mechanism of cultural transmission exploiting social learning biases, whereby ancestors have been able to establish parental manipulation of kin recognition and perceived relatedness as a traditional behavior, leading to increased altruism among co-descendants and thereby maximizing the ancestor’s long-term inclusive fitness. Here, we develop a demographically explicit model in order to quantify the resulting increase in altruism and concomitant “ancestor-descendant conflict”, and to determine the evolutionary feasibility of religiously motivated cultural norms that promote altruism among co-descendants. Our analysis reveals that such norms could indeed drive an overall increase in altruism with potential for ancestor-descendant conflict, particularly in low-dispersal settings. Moreover, we find that natural selection can favor traditions encouraging increased altruism towards co-descendants under a range of conditions, with the inclusive-fitness costs of enacting an inappropriately high level of altruism being offset by inclusive-fitness benefits derived from the cultural tradition facilitating kin recognition.
Stucky , K I & Gardner , A 2023 , ' Kin selection favours religious traditions : ancestor worship as a cultural descendant-leaving strategy ' , Religion, Brain & Behavior , vol. Latest Articles . https://doi.org/10.1080/2153599X.2023.2215854
Religion, Brain & Behavior
Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/),which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.
DescriptionFunding: This research was supported by a European Research Council Consolidator (grant no. 771387).
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