№ 1, 2019
The article is devoted to the supernatural punishment hypothesis elaborated by Dominic D.P.Johnson, Professor at the Oxford University, and a possibility of applying this hypothesis to Political Science. The essence of the hypothesis is that religion and belief in gods improve human cooperation and form a basis for altruistic behavior. Johnson views people’s ability to believe in the “supernatural agent” who is watching them and who will surely punish them for their sins as the evolutionary meaning of religion. The author provides a detailed analysis of Johnson’s concept and demonstrates its unequivocal scientific importance, but at the same time he pinpoints its weaknesses such as data interpretation and adequacy of using the terms “religion”, “altruism” and “group cooperation”.
The author proposes several alternative explanations of the evolutionary meaning of religion and considers it from the meme theory perspective. According to his conclusion, if altruistic behavior is indeed natural to human beings at the biological level, then an institution of religion can be viewed as its higher form, but not its cause. In order to make both positions in this scientific debate clear, the author invites metaphors of symbiosis and parasitism for describing relationships between a human being and a belief in a supernatural agent (religion). Johnson’s hypothesis deserves close attention and scrutiny as an argument in favor of the “symbiosis” metaphor. However, one must use it with caution, admit its limitations and avoid oversimplification of a highly complicated model of the human sociality that inevitably includes religious consciousness.
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