FW: [evol-psych] Rock Art in Darwin's Cathedral

From: William Benzon (bbenzon@mindspring.com)
Date: Mon 31 Mar 2003 - 15:33:04 GMT

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    Essay Review

    Benzon, W. L. (2003). Rock art in Darwin's cathedral. Evolutionary Psychology, 1:28-41.

    Rock Art in Darwin's Cathedral

    Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology by James L. Pearson. AltaMira Press, 2002; ISBN: 0759101558.

    Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson. University of Chicago Press, 2002; ISBN: 0226901343.

    William L. Benzon, Ph.D., 708 Jersey Avenue, 2A, Jersey City, NJ 07302, USA.

    The two books under review ask us to think about complementary aspects of religion: social group and symbolic order. In Darwin's Cathedral David Sloan Wilson examines religious beliefs as biological adaptations for group living; he writes for an intellectually sophisticated general audience. Writing for specialists-the literature review is a sure sign, James L. Pearson sets out to find the nature of rock art in Shamanism and the Ancient Mind. He considers rock art within a psycho-cultural framework that gives his argument general interest.

    Wilson tackles religion head-on, arguing that it provides the bio-cultural cohesive force that binds individual humans into coherent groups that function as a single organism. He is thus updating an old metaphor-society as organism-by explicating it in terms of group selection, arguing that the causal structure of evolution forces us to regard human groups as unitary evolutionary actors.

    Pearson's purview is more limited. He's not concerned about religion in general, nor about human society, nor even about evolution. He is interested in the symbolic and ritual proclivities of the human mind as it is revealed in the activities of a particular kind of religious specialist, the shaman. Still more specifically, he focuses on rock art, arguing that it is derived from shamanic visions which, in turn, follow patterns inherent in the visual nervous system.

    Full text http://human-nature.com/ep/reviews/ep012841.html

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