Religion: A Tool to Keep the Parasites Away?

By Nina Bai | November 4, 2008 1:19 pm

religionReligion has a funny way of dividing people. But religious fervor and intolerance may also keep you from getting sick, according to evolutionary biologists Corey Fincher and Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico. They propose a theory that says religious diversity was an evolutionary adaptation to keep groups of people separate and prevent them from infecting each other with diseases.

The researchers noted that religious diversity varies significantly across the globe. Why does Brazil have 159 religions while Canada only has 15? Fincher and Thornhill believe there is a relationship between geography, climate, and religious diversity. Since warmer locales harbor more infectious diseases, it was a good survival strategy to keep to yourself and religion enforced isolation.

The researchers used the World Christian Encyclopedia and the Global Infectious Disease Epidemiology Network to compare infectious diseases and religions across 219 countries. Even after taking other factors into account, such as democratization and colonization, they found a correlation between religious diversity and the number of infectious parasites in a given place.

Their research falls into the realm of sociobiology, a field pioneered by E. O. Wilson, which uses evolution to explain the social behavior of species. Sociobiology is criticized by many for promoting a sense of biological determinism reminiscent of social Darwinism or eugenics—although, one has to wonder, does that mean proselytization is a form of evolutionary suicide?

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Image: flickr / Svadilfari

  • Gina

    Somehow this does not factor in the widespread, global missionary movements of Islam and Christianity over the last 2000 and 1700 years …

  • Matthew

    This is the boldest attack on Christianity, Islam and Judaism I have ever seen the religion of secular humanism make. Why would this study leave out race or factors other than religion?

    Secular humanism in this case:
    -Uses its own belief system to attempt to diminish the validity another
    -Is making an attempt to proselytize members of other faiths
    -Can only be adhered to by “faith”

  • Mr Bray

    So, if evolution is a valid viewpoint then in our globalization of culture that is happening today, we should expect some natural “adaptation” that will continue to drive us apart?

    Seems this research could be used to justify racial inequality, AIDS being natures way of eliminating Homosexuals etc…

    Just a thought.

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  • prochoice

    simple enforced overpopulation gets better numerical results than anything else.

  • Gwenny

    I don’t see why folks are blaming this on secularists. This is clearly an effort by religionists to justify their hatred and loathing of other people.

  • Dyz

    “attack on Christianity, Islam and Judaism” LOL. I would love to read your explanation on WHY this is an attack on those specific religions. Should be some excellent stuff for FSTDT.

    “we should expect some natural “adaptation” that will continue to drive us apart” LOL. Yet another fundie that does not understand evolution. Sneaky little question mark at the end so it looks like an actual question.

    “Seems this research could be used to justify racial inequality, AIDS being natures way of eliminating Homosexuals etc.” LOL. I would love to read your explanation on HOW this can be used to justify those things. Should be some excellent stuff for FSTDT.

    You fundies are funny.

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