Is Judaism a Spandrel of Evolution?

There is a common and spreading meme that has given rise to a new discipline that we have preferred to call "evolutionary theology or e-theology."

By that we mean the writings of evolutionary scientists (generally atheists or agnostics) that seek to impute some positive evolutionary function to the pervasive human belief in God and to the universal practice of religions.

We first came across a core etheological idea in the work of Richard Dawkins. We thought it was a real chiddush, a novel insight of major cleverness. His logic is that religion is a byproduct of evolution through natural selection. Humans who have a belief in God are "fitter" versions of the species. Religion enables greater social cohesion, solace in times of loss, stimulation to cohere in battle, in short all the positive benefits that sociologists have identified in religions over the past century.

This e-theological principal is one of  the most ironic ideas that we ever encountered because its purveyors assert that God does not exist, creation stories in the bible are a fantasy, humans evolved through natural selection, and the fittest of the species believe in religion!

It's such a delicious concept, that one book after another has taken up explaining how it allows atheists to write moral theology based on cultural evolution.

Here is where the concept of spandrel comes into play for some of those thinkers. A spandrel is, per Wikipedia, "...a term used in evolutionary biology to describe a phenotypic characteristic that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other character, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection." Scientists have been using the term for 30 years - and we see it as just a fancy way to say "byproduct". (Its original usage was in architeture as a descriptor of that which appears in the space between two arches or between an arch opening and its rectangular enclosure, as in the graphic above.)

In the theory at hand, it seems that evolution to a higher form of social and psychological fitness is the central product. It turns out that religious belief and practice are byproducts in the evolutionary development of humankind.

So the answer then to this post's title question is, yes, according to many evolutionary scientists, it makes perfectly good sense to say that all religion, including Judaism, is a spandrel of evolution.

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