The evolution of religiosity by kin selection

Kerstin Stucky*, Andy Gardner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite religion’s apparent ubiquity, hypotheses about the selection pressures that may have shaped its cognitive foundations remain controversial. Here, we develop and analyse a mathematical model inspired by Crespi and Summers’ suggestion that parent-offspring conflict has driven the evolution of religious beliefs to explore the causes and consequences of these selection pressures. To this end, we employ kin selection methodology to investigate how selection may mould an individual’s propensity for religiosity and corresponding patterns of gene expression, revealing that the evolution of religiosity is modulated by genetic relatedness between social partners, that selection in relation to religiosity may depend on an individual’s age and sex, and that religiosity can foment intragenomic conflicts of interest that give rise to parent-of-origin specific patterns of gene expression and concomitant clinical disorders. More generally, we develop a formal, theoretical framework that enables the derivation of clear-cut, comparative predictions about adaptive as well as maladaptive phenotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalReligion, Brain & Behavior
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date10 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2022


  • Evolution
  • Genomic imprinting
  • Inclusive fitness
  • Intragenomic conflict
  • Imprinting disorders
  • Kin selection
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Religion


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