Religion and Morality 2019 update
This has been a good year for one of the CSSC’s flagship projects, funded by the Templeton World Charity Fund, examining the relationship between religion and morality worldwide and over human history. In February 2019, CSSC researchers led by Oliver Curry published in Current Anthropology the largest ever cross-cultural study of human morality ever conducted. The study found that seven rules (help your family, help your group, return favours, be brave, defer to superiors, divide resources fairly, and respect others’ property) were judged morally good in a sample of 60 cultures from all around the world. The following month, CSSC researchers led by Harvey Whitehouse, Pieter Francois, Patrick Savage, and Peter Turchin published a paper in Nature testing the so-called ‘Big Gods Hypothesis’ using data on over 2,000 theoretically motivated variables from a stratified sample of past polities and quasi-polities in world history. Researchers coded 47,613 records for 414 societies spanning the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, based on 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality. The findings of this paper were reported in 62 news stories worldwide, including The Economist, The Telegraph, Scientific American, Fox News, the BBC, and many other major outlets. Whitehouse also published a popular article in New Scientist shortly afterwards, summarizing the main findings for a general audience. This past year also saw the culmination of a long-term collaboration between CSSC researchers and BBC filmmakers to produce the first ever television documentary series on human rituals, broadcast in a primetime Friday evening slot on BBC2 in the summer of 2018. Harvey Whitehouse, who served as Chief Consultant on the series, wrote two very short articles ‘from behind the scenes’ on the making of these documentaries, available here on the BBC website.