Reviews and Recommendations; March / April 2011; Scientific American Mind; by Ferris Jabr; Nicole Branan; Frank Bures; Melinda Wenner Moyer; 2 Page(s)
The Belief Instinct
by Jesse Bering. W.W. Norton, 2010
Why do so many people believe in God? Evolutionary psychologist and Scientific American blogger Jesse Bering has a novel answer to this tired question. In The Belief Instinct, he explains that although the evolution of language was beneficial—allowing us to communicate easily and disseminate important information—it also brought with it a deeply troubling problem for early humans. Language allowed onlookers to report on someone else’s behavior long after the event had occurred. This meant that if you were caught doing something objectionable, such as stealing, you had “foolishly gambled away” your reputation and consequently your reproductive prospects. Thus, believing in a supernatural being who monitored and judged anyone at all times encouraged people to avoid acting on their immoral impulses, helping them survive, Bering says.