Competing cultural strategies: The evolution of religion

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2012-05

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Abstract

Understanding the impact of culture systems and cultural evolution is integral to understanding human evolution. Cultural systems have the property of both horizontal and vertical transmission of non-genetic highly heritable cultural phenotypes. This is particularly important when group identity is related to a specific cultural phenotype, as in religious systems. This study examines the effects of the process of conversion, in which an individual’s phenotype is changed within its generational timeframe. A game-theory approach using behavioral strategies was used to model the cultural group interactions. A stochastic simulation and a deterministic analytical framework were used to model this system. Groups that used a conversion strategy outcompeted groups that used a kill strategy unless heavily constrained. The results suggest that the ability to convert may have played a substantial role in the evolution of cultural systems such as religion and government, as well as directly impacted the direction of human evolution.

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Keywords

Culture technique, Evolution of religion, Cultural studies, Game theory

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