Totemism, metaphor and tradition

Incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary psychology explanations of religion

Craig T. Palmer, Lyle B. Steadman, Chris Cassidy, Kathryn Coe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Totemism, a topic that fascinated and then was summarily dismissed by anthropologists, has been resurrected by evolutionary psychologists' recent attempts to explain religion. New approaches to religion are all based on the assumption that religious behavior is the result of evolved psychological mechanisms. We focus on two aspects of Totemism that may present challenges to this view. First, if religious behavior is simply the result of evolved psychological mechanisms, would it not spring forth anew each generation from an individual's psychological mechanisms? Yet, Australian Totemism, like other forms of Totemism, is profoundly traditional, copied by one generation from the prior ones for hundreds of generations. Regardless of personal inclinations, individuals are obligated to participate. Second, it is problematic to assume that all practitioners of Totemism actually believe their religious claims. We propose an alternative explanation that accounts for the persistence of Totemism and that does not rely on an assumption that its practitioners are preliterate or naive because they have strange beliefs. We focus on Totemism as a cultural mechanism aimed at building and sustaining social relationships among close and distant kinsmen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-735
Number of pages17
JournalZygon
Volume43
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

metaphor
psychology
Religion
religious behavior
psychologist
persistence
Cultural Tradition
Evolutionary Psychology
Totemism
Psychological

Keywords

  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Religion
  • Totemism
  • Tradition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education

Cite this

Totemism, metaphor and tradition : Incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary psychology explanations of religion. / Palmer, Craig T.; Steadman, Lyle B.; Cassidy, Chris; Coe, Kathryn.

In: Zygon, Vol. 43, No. 3, 2008, p. 719-735.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Palmer, Craig T. ; Steadman, Lyle B. ; Cassidy, Chris ; Coe, Kathryn. / Totemism, metaphor and tradition : Incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary psychology explanations of religion. In: Zygon. 2008 ; Vol. 43, No. 3. pp. 719-735.
@article{a65a86d606ce4f33b5918aba265da586,
title = "Totemism, metaphor and tradition: Incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary psychology explanations of religion",
abstract = "Totemism, a topic that fascinated and then was summarily dismissed by anthropologists, has been resurrected by evolutionary psychologists' recent attempts to explain religion. New approaches to religion are all based on the assumption that religious behavior is the result of evolved psychological mechanisms. We focus on two aspects of Totemism that may present challenges to this view. First, if religious behavior is simply the result of evolved psychological mechanisms, would it not spring forth anew each generation from an individual's psychological mechanisms? Yet, Australian Totemism, like other forms of Totemism, is profoundly traditional, copied by one generation from the prior ones for hundreds of generations. Regardless of personal inclinations, individuals are obligated to participate. Second, it is problematic to assume that all practitioners of Totemism actually believe their religious claims. We propose an alternative explanation that accounts for the persistence of Totemism and that does not rely on an assumption that its practitioners are preliterate or naive because they have strange beliefs. We focus on Totemism as a cultural mechanism aimed at building and sustaining social relationships among close and distant kinsmen.",
keywords = "Evolutionary psychology, Religion, Totemism, Tradition",
author = "Palmer, {Craig T.} and Steadman, {Lyle B.} and Chris Cassidy and Kathryn Coe",
year = "2008",
doi = "10.1111/j.1467-9744.2008.00950.x",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "43",
pages = "719--735",
journal = "Zygon",
issn = "0591-2385",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Totemism, metaphor and tradition

T2 - Incorporating cultural traditions into evolutionary psychology explanations of religion

AU - Palmer, Craig T.

AU - Steadman, Lyle B.

AU - Cassidy, Chris

AU - Coe, Kathryn

PY - 2008

Y1 - 2008

N2 - Totemism, a topic that fascinated and then was summarily dismissed by anthropologists, has been resurrected by evolutionary psychologists' recent attempts to explain religion. New approaches to religion are all based on the assumption that religious behavior is the result of evolved psychological mechanisms. We focus on two aspects of Totemism that may present challenges to this view. First, if religious behavior is simply the result of evolved psychological mechanisms, would it not spring forth anew each generation from an individual's psychological mechanisms? Yet, Australian Totemism, like other forms of Totemism, is profoundly traditional, copied by one generation from the prior ones for hundreds of generations. Regardless of personal inclinations, individuals are obligated to participate. Second, it is problematic to assume that all practitioners of Totemism actually believe their religious claims. We propose an alternative explanation that accounts for the persistence of Totemism and that does not rely on an assumption that its practitioners are preliterate or naive because they have strange beliefs. We focus on Totemism as a cultural mechanism aimed at building and sustaining social relationships among close and distant kinsmen.

AB - Totemism, a topic that fascinated and then was summarily dismissed by anthropologists, has been resurrected by evolutionary psychologists' recent attempts to explain religion. New approaches to religion are all based on the assumption that religious behavior is the result of evolved psychological mechanisms. We focus on two aspects of Totemism that may present challenges to this view. First, if religious behavior is simply the result of evolved psychological mechanisms, would it not spring forth anew each generation from an individual's psychological mechanisms? Yet, Australian Totemism, like other forms of Totemism, is profoundly traditional, copied by one generation from the prior ones for hundreds of generations. Regardless of personal inclinations, individuals are obligated to participate. Second, it is problematic to assume that all practitioners of Totemism actually believe their religious claims. We propose an alternative explanation that accounts for the persistence of Totemism and that does not rely on an assumption that its practitioners are preliterate or naive because they have strange beliefs. We focus on Totemism as a cultural mechanism aimed at building and sustaining social relationships among close and distant kinsmen.

KW - Evolutionary psychology

KW - Religion

KW - Totemism

KW - Tradition

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=50849127462&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=50849127462&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2008.00950.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2008.00950.x

M3 - Article

VL - 43

SP - 719

EP - 735

JO - Zygon

JF - Zygon

SN - 0591-2385

IS - 3

ER -