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Costly Signaling and the Origin of Religion

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Costly signaling theories of religion contend that religious belief and behaviors function as costly signals of cooperative intent. Such signals are evolvable because they allow likely cooperators to find one another, while excluding potential cheats or free riders that would be unwilling (or unable) to pay the price associated with sending the signal. As a result, under the right conditions, religious costly signaling can emerge as an evolutionary stable strategy. However, reliability certifying costly signaling can evolve and stabilize only when certain necessary conditions are satisfied. In this paper we argue that current versions of the theory do not adequately demonstrate that these conditions are met.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, Franklin and Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Philosophy, Franklin and Marshall College, P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604, USA


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