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Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history

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Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. / Whitehouse, Harvey; François, Pieter; Savage, Patrick E.; Currie, Thomas E.; Feeney, Kevin C.; Cioni, Enrico; Purcell, Rosalind; Ross, Robert M.; Larson, Jennifer; Baines, John; ter Haar, Barend; Covey, Alan; Turchin, Peter.

In: Nature, Vol. 568, No. 7751, 11.04.2019, p. 226-229.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Harvard

Whitehouse, H, François, P, Savage, PE, Currie, TE, Feeney, KC, Cioni, E, Purcell, R, Ross, RM, Larson, J, Baines, J, ter Haar, B, Covey, A & Turchin, P 2019, 'Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history' Nature, vol. 568, no. 7751, pp. 226-229. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

APA

Whitehouse, H., François, P., Savage, P. E., Currie, T. E., Feeney, K. C., Cioni, E., ... Turchin, P. (2019). Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. Nature, 568(7751), 226-229. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

Vancouver

Whitehouse H, François P, Savage PE, Currie TE, Feeney KC, Cioni E et al. Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. Nature. 2019 Apr 11;568(7751):226-229. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

Author

Whitehouse, Harvey ; François, Pieter ; Savage, Patrick E. ; Currie, Thomas E. ; Feeney, Kevin C. ; Cioni, Enrico ; Purcell, Rosalind ; Ross, Robert M. ; Larson, Jennifer ; Baines, John ; ter Haar, Barend ; Covey, Alan ; Turchin, Peter. / Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. In: Nature. 2019 ; Vol. 568, No. 7751. pp. 226-229.

Bibtex

@article{d744e46601274653af3bfe8ac0c7e3dc,
title = "Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history",
abstract = "The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles 1–8 . The ‘moralizing gods’ hypothesis offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that belief in morally concerned supernatural agents culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies 9–13 . Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of moralizing gods and social complexity 3,6,7,9–18 , the relationship between the two is disputed 9–13,19–24 , and attempts to establish causality have been hampered by limitations in the availability of detailed global longitudinal data. To overcome these limitations, here we systematically coded records from 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality. Our analyses not only confirm the association between moralizing gods and social complexity, but also reveal that moralizing gods follow—rather than precede—large increases in social complexity. Contrary to previous predictions 9,12,16,18 , powerful moralizing ‘big gods’ and prosocial supernatural punishment tend to appear only after the emergence of ‘megasocieties’ with populations of more than around one million people. Moralizing gods are not a prerequisite for the evolution of social complexity, but they may help to sustain and expand complex multi-ethnic empires after they have become established. By contrast, rituals that facilitate the standardization of religious traditions across large populations 25,26 generally precede the appearance of moralizing gods. This suggests that ritual practices were more important than the particular content of religious belief to the initial rise of social complexity.",
author = "Harvey Whitehouse and Pieter Fran{\cc}ois and Savage, {Patrick E.} and Currie, {Thomas E.} and Feeney, {Kevin C.} and Enrico Cioni and Rosalind Purcell and Ross, {Robert M.} and Jennifer Larson and John Baines and {ter Haar}, Barend and Alan Covey and Peter Turchin",
year = "2019",
month = "4",
day = "11",
doi = "10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4",
language = "English",
volume = "568",
pages = "226--229",
journal = "Nature",
issn = "0028-0836",
publisher = "Springer Nature",
number = "7751",

}

RIS - suitable for import to EndNote

TY - JOUR

T1 - Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history

AU - Whitehouse, Harvey

AU - François, Pieter

AU - Savage, Patrick E.

AU - Currie, Thomas E.

AU - Feeney, Kevin C.

AU - Cioni, Enrico

AU - Purcell, Rosalind

AU - Ross, Robert M.

AU - Larson, Jennifer

AU - Baines, John

AU - ter Haar, Barend

AU - Covey, Alan

AU - Turchin, Peter

PY - 2019/4/11

Y1 - 2019/4/11

N2 - The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles 1–8 . The ‘moralizing gods’ hypothesis offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that belief in morally concerned supernatural agents culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies 9–13 . Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of moralizing gods and social complexity 3,6,7,9–18 , the relationship between the two is disputed 9–13,19–24 , and attempts to establish causality have been hampered by limitations in the availability of detailed global longitudinal data. To overcome these limitations, here we systematically coded records from 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality. Our analyses not only confirm the association between moralizing gods and social complexity, but also reveal that moralizing gods follow—rather than precede—large increases in social complexity. Contrary to previous predictions 9,12,16,18 , powerful moralizing ‘big gods’ and prosocial supernatural punishment tend to appear only after the emergence of ‘megasocieties’ with populations of more than around one million people. Moralizing gods are not a prerequisite for the evolution of social complexity, but they may help to sustain and expand complex multi-ethnic empires after they have become established. By contrast, rituals that facilitate the standardization of religious traditions across large populations 25,26 generally precede the appearance of moralizing gods. This suggests that ritual practices were more important than the particular content of religious belief to the initial rise of social complexity.

AB - The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles 1–8 . The ‘moralizing gods’ hypothesis offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that belief in morally concerned supernatural agents culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies 9–13 . Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of moralizing gods and social complexity 3,6,7,9–18 , the relationship between the two is disputed 9–13,19–24 , and attempts to establish causality have been hampered by limitations in the availability of detailed global longitudinal data. To overcome these limitations, here we systematically coded records from 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality. Our analyses not only confirm the association between moralizing gods and social complexity, but also reveal that moralizing gods follow—rather than precede—large increases in social complexity. Contrary to previous predictions 9,12,16,18 , powerful moralizing ‘big gods’ and prosocial supernatural punishment tend to appear only after the emergence of ‘megasocieties’ with populations of more than around one million people. Moralizing gods are not a prerequisite for the evolution of social complexity, but they may help to sustain and expand complex multi-ethnic empires after they have become established. By contrast, rituals that facilitate the standardization of religious traditions across large populations 25,26 generally precede the appearance of moralizing gods. This suggests that ritual practices were more important than the particular content of religious belief to the initial rise of social complexity.

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U2 - 10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

DO - 10.1038/s41586-019-1043-4

M3 - Article

VL - 568

SP - 226

EP - 229

JO - Nature

T2 - Nature

JF - Nature

SN - 0028-0836

IS - 7751

ER -