In Gods we Trust
Introduction 1.4 - Sexual Selection
The second chapter of the book comes across rather tedious, well at least if you are comfortable with evolution related concepts. One interesting point was a brief mention of the relation of religion to sexual selection. Unfortunately this passing reference on page 23 was more of an allusion that a substantive point. This is unfortunate as the idea seems intriguing, even if it hand waving and a priori justifications are all that its discussion can really lead to.
Lots of obscure traits arise due to sexual selection. Is religion one? Coming from a male perspective, I would certainly say women tend to find powerful, stable, secure individuals attractive. This is especially true if they have potential. Some people I know feel very reassured to know that someone always has a little bit more knowledge of the subject at hand. Not that most people ever want to hear about it :), only that it is comforting in case of. Does religion fill this role? As it is often unverifiable, does it's veracity even matter?
If religion hold a promise of potential, it is possible that visible potential is what mates may select for. From an evolutionary sense one could say that we have not yet evolved to distinguish between visible potentials that have substantive promise, and those that are more ethereal. Of course one could also say that such selection has already taken place, and the predominance of religious tendencies show that the potential religious beliefs proffer actually is substantive. I doubt many in Atran's field of study would appreciate this idea, but, like any other number of ideas, it does seem plausible. Unfortunately evolutionary psychology has a very hard time with definitive answers on evolution related issues.
To me the idea of religion as a sexual selector is enticing. Was it once associated with governmental potential? Was it associated with story telling ability? Was it merely associated with abstract thought? Many of these correlations seem to extend beyond sexual adaptation. Even if religion per se is not the adaptation, is it correlated with other advantageous adaptations. ex Can you really being an abstract thinker without religious metaphysics crossing your mind? In this sense, is religious thought an evolutionary spandrel, or it is actually a selecting factor?