The Coevolution of Sacred Values and Religion

Poster presented at the Future Directions On The Evolution of Rituals, Beliefs and Religious Minds Conference, Ettore Majorana Centre, Sicily.

Abstract: Sacred values – meaning values that people resist trading-off against money or other "secular" values – appear to be a human universal. Arguably they are more universal than religion itself, in that even secular atheists may hold certain values (such as loyalty to a loved one, a food taboo, or even football team devotion) to be "sacred". The role of sacred values in the evolutionary history of religion is not clearly established – are they a pre-cursor to religion, a by-product, or something else? In this poster I review a number of evolutionary models that might explain sacred values as: a signalling device, a bargaining strategy, or a coordination point, as well as shed light on the relation between the evolution of sacred valuing and religion. We then outline a design for an experiment, using techniques of experimental economics, that will test the plausibility of these models.

Poster (PDF 1.3MB)