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The Evolution of Religious Belief: Seeking Deep Evolutionary Roots

April 28, 2019

Barbara J. King, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, discussed how we may better understand the human impulse for religious belief by adopting an evolutionary perspective. King described the ways in which an understanding of the cognitive and emotional behaviors of monkeys and apes, human ancestors, and our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals may aid us in this endeavor. Our species evolved religiosity, she suggested, in large part because we evolved first as primates deeply invested in belongingness: the drive to matter, emotionally, to others who matter to us. King is a biological anthropologist whose work, including her books Evolving God (2017 version with an updated afterword), Personalities on the Plate (2017), and How Animals Grieve (2013), and her pieces for NPR, The Atlantic, Scientific American, and Aeon, explore what it means to be human--- and at the same time, what it means to be animal.

This presentation was followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Nancy Howell from Saint Paul School of Theology,  Dr. Michael Tenneson from Evangel University, and Fr. Peter Ryan from Sacred Heart Major Seminary; the panel discussion will be moderated by Dr. Jim Miller from the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith. 

Page last updated: December 20, 2019