In @nature today, Harvey Whitehouse, @pieterwfrancois, @Peter_Turchin, 9 other coauthors and I analyze 414 societies across 10,000 years of world history to show that religion has coevolved with society to stabilize large-scale societies after they arise. https://t.co/mfbEr2gDtl pic.twitter.com/xdrAhGeVqt— Pat Savage (@PatrickESavage) March 20, 2019
From a summary article at The Conversation:
We analysed data on 414 societies from 30 world regions, using 51 measures of social complexity and four measures of supernatural enforcement of moral norms to get to the bottom of the matter. New research we’ve just published in the journal Nature reveals that moralising gods come later than many people thought, well after the sharpest rises in social complexity in world history. In other words, gods who care about whether we are good or bad did not drive the initial rise of civilisations – but came later. [...]
Our statistical analysis showed that beliefs in supernatural punishment tend to appear only when societies make the transition from simple to complex, around the time when the overall population exceed about a million individuals.
We are now looking to other factors that may have driven the rise of the first large civilisation. For example, Seshat data suggests that daily or weekly collective rituals – the equivalent of today’s Sunday services or Friday prayers – appear early in the rise of social complexity and we’re looking further at their impact.