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Why We Believe

Evolution and the Human Way of Being

Agustin Fuentes



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Yale University
14 January 2020
A wide-ranging argument by a renowned anthropologist that the capacity to believe is what makes us human Why are so many humans religious? Why do we daydream, imagine, and hope? Philosophers, theologians, social scientists, and historians have offered explanations for centuries, but their accounts often ignore or even avoid human evolution. Evolutionary scientists answer with proposals for why ritual, religion, and faith make sense as adaptations to past challenges or as by-products of our hyper-complex cognitive capacities.

But what if the focus on religion is too narrow? Renowned anthropologist Agustin Fuentes argues that the capacity to be religious is actually a small part of a larger and deeper human capacity to believe. Why believe in religion, economies, love? A fascinating intervention into some of the most common misconceptions about human nature, this book employs evolutionary, neurobiological, and anthropological evidence to argue that belief-the ability to commit passionately and wholeheartedly to an idea-is central to the human way of being in the world.
By:   Agustin Fuentes
Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 215mm,  Width: 145mm,  Spine: 27mm
Weight:   490g
ISBN:   9780300243994
ISBN 10:   0300243995
Series:   Foundational Questions In Science
Pages:   280
Publication Date:   14 January 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Agustin Fuentes is the Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.

Reviews for Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being

Not only a very engaging book, but one that provokes thought....Fuentes...offers what is, to my knowledge, the first comprehensive etiological view of the origins and evolution of belief as an essential component of the human niche. -Luis Oviedo, ESSSAT News & Reviews Awarded the Popular Book Award sponsored by the International Society for Science and Religion A wholly impressive look at how our capacity for belief evolved, with fresh insights, especially about early Homo sapiens. I found Fuentes' case studies on religion, economics, and love fascinating. -Barbara J. King, author of Evolving God We are the believing species. Much of what we are and what we do is driven by belief of one kind or another. Agustin Fuentes, a gifted writer and teacher, helps us understand both the power and role of belief in this brilliant book. Why We Believe is an exciting intellectual tour through culture, neurobiology, prehistory, religion, economies, love, war, and more. Read it to better know yourself and your species. -Guy P. Harrison, author of At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life, Think: Why You Should Question Everything

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