Why We Believe

Evolution and the Human Way of Being

Agustin Fuentes

This title is copublished with Yale University Press as part of the Foundational Questions in Science series. It is only available for purchase through Yale University Press or your favorite bookstore. 

Why are so many humans religious? Why do we daydream, imagine, and hope? Philosophers, theologians, social scientists, and historians have offered explanations for centuries, but their accounts often ignore or even avoid human evolution. Evolutionary scientists answer with proposals for why ritual, religion, and faith make sense as adaptations to past challenges or as by-products of our hyper-complex cognitive capacities.

But what if the focus on religion is too narrow? Renowned anthropologist Agustín Fuentes argues that the capacity to be religious is actually a small part of a larger and deeper human capacity to believe. Why believe in religion, economies, love? A fascinating intervention into some of the most common misconceptions about human nature, this book employs evolutionary, neurobiological, and anthropological evidence to argue that belief—the ability to commit passionately and wholeheartedly to an idea—is central to the human way of being in the world.

"A wholly impressive look at how our capacity for belief evolved, with fresh insights, especially about early Homo sapiens. I found Fuentes’ case studies on religion, economics, and love fascinating."

Barbara J. King, author of Evolving God