August 04, 2008

Religious diversity and pathogens

The same people also published on pathogens and individualism/collectivism.

Proc. R. Soc. B DOI 10.1098/rspb.2008.0688

Assortative sociality, limited dispersal, infectious disease and the genesis of the global pattern of religion diversity

Corey L. Fincher, Randy Thornhill

Why are religions far more numerous in the tropics compared with the temperate areas? We propose, as an answer, that more religions have emerged and are maintained in the tropics because, through localized coevolutionary races with hosts, infectious diseases select for three anticontagion behaviours: in-group assortative sociality; out-group avoidance; and limited dispersal. These behaviours, in turn, create intergroup boundaries that effectively fractionate, isolate and diversify an original culture leading to the genesis of two or more groups from one. Religion is one aspect of a group's culture that undergoes this process. If this argument is correct then, across the globe, religion diversity should correlate positively with infectious disease diversity, reflecting an evolutionary history of antagonistic coevolution between parasites and hosts and subsequent religion genesis. We present evidence that supports this model: for a global sample of traditional societies, societal range size is reduced in areas with more pathogens compared with areas with few pathogens, and in contemporary countries religion diversity is positively related to two measures of parasite stress.


1 comment:

Maju said...

Why does the country Cote d'Ivoire have 76 religions while Norway has 13, and why does Brazil have 159 religions while Canada has 15 even though in both comparisons the countries are similar in size?

It's sooo obvious that Brazil is a lot larger than Canada in population terms that the matter does not seem to even demand an answer. If you are going to compare Brazil with something in the temperate northern hemisphere, it should be the USA or Russia. I am sure that the number of denominations in the USA is larger than anywhere else in the whole planet. Canada can be compared with something like Venezuela or Colombia.

Norway has 4 or 5 million inhabitants, so what can it be compared with? Equatorial Guinea? A comparison for Ivory Coast's 19 million people, comparable to the Netherlands or Rumania maybe.

Anyhow the very matter of comparing the "number" of religions seems like crazy to me, a often the boundaries between confessions and beliefs are so blurry, often with people belonging to several sects at a time (like vodoo catholics and stuff like that).

It is obvious that such elements have to do only with the particular history of each country or region. In Europe and the Mediterranean there was a uniformizing empire that spread a single religion by force. Nothing like that has ever existed in non-Muslim Africa.

Additionally in Europe, when you leave the official religion you basically move to the no-religion sector, converts are few and scepticism high. In Africa and other underdeveloped regions, where full literacy is rare or a very recent achievement, religions are still somewhat popular. In this sense the right question would be why Tropical peoples appear to be more religious than those living in temperate areas? I think it's a mere historical accident more related with developement than anything else but maybe there's more to it.

Anyhow, Sud-Saharan Africans traditionally have never been of the pollution taboo kind (though "tribalism" is an important factor - though I'd call it "ethnical nationalism"). The pollution taboo is a more northern developement, common in the Mediterranean and India.