Totemism and long-term evolutionary success

Craig T. Palmer, Ryan O. Begley, Kathryn Coe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    5 Scopus citations


    This paper proposes that the clan Totemism existing in many traditional cultures, and described as religious by many ethnographers, provides evidence about the early evolutionary function of religion in the sense that it provides evidence of the effects of religion that caused it to become widespread in our species. However, this paper also proposes that evolutionary explanations of Totemism have failed to fully appreciate the reason clan Totemism acts as a kind of window into the past. This is the fact that the behaviors constituting clan Totemism could not have taken their form when first studied by anthropologists if they had not been copied from ancestors to descendants for many generations. This new multigenerational approach to clan Totemism combines 4 points about Totemism that have been recognized by others, but whose implications have not heretofore been fully comprehended.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)286-294
    Number of pages9
    JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


    • Clans
    • Evolution
    • Kinship
    • Religion
    • Totemism

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Religious studies
    • Applied Psychology

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