From: William Benzon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon 31 Mar 2003 - 15:33:04 GMT
Benzon, W. L. (2003). Rock art in Darwin's cathedral. Evolutionary
Rock Art in Darwin's Cathedral
Shamanism and the Ancient Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Archaeology by James
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
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
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