The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures
By Nicholas Wade
Penguin Press; 310 pages
Whether a higher power exists is debatable, but widespread belief in one has helped humanity advance for millennia. Wade, a New York Times reporter, defends that provocative thesis with evidence drawn from biology, archaeology and anthropology. Humans may be innately selfish, he argues, but early hunter-gatherers needed to subordinate self-interest to the will of the group in order to survive, and "the solution that evolved was religious behavior"--humankind's best organizing principle. Ritual chants and dances fostered kinship and inspired tribes to battle outside threats....