Since at least Ancient Greece scholars have attempted to provide naturalistic explanations of religion - Xenophanes famously quipped that “horses would draw the figures of the gods as similar to horses.” Yet only recently has an explicitly evolutionary framework been applied to the study of religion.
The Pulotu database of Austronesian religious belief and practice.
Evolutionary Religious Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand how and why humans evolved the capacity for religion. In the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution we collect comparative cross-cultural data on historical and current religions. Using this data and computational cross-cultural methods we test theories about the co-evolution of religion, society and environment. We have recently built the Pulotu database of Austronesian religious belief and practice, and published research on the evolution of big gods, supernatural punishment, and human sacrifice.