Plusieurs théories existent pour expliquer cette étrange particularité humaine. Il y a d'abord celle-ci, qui soupçonne que la "détection d'agent" (la tendance des animaux et des humains à présumer l'intervention réfléchie d'un agent conscient ou intelligent dans des situations qui peuvent ou non en impliquer) est originalement la grande responsable:
In short, HADD is the mechanism that lets humans perceive that many things have "agency," or the ability to act of their own accord. This understanding of how the world worked facilitated the rapid decision-making process that humans had to go through when they heard a rustling in the grass. (Lions act of their own accord. Better run.)
But in addition to helping humans make rational decisions, HADD may have planted the seeds for religious thought. In addition to attributing agency to lions, for example, humans started attributing agency to things that really didn't have agency at all.
(...) And then humans took things to a whole new level. They started attributing meaning to the actions of things that weren't really acting of their own accord. For example, they thought raindrops were "acting for a purpose," Clark said.
Acting for a purpose is the basis for what evolutionary scientists call the Theory of Mind (ToM) (...) By attributing intention or purpose to the actions of beings that did have agency, like other people, humans stopped simply reacting as quickly as possible to the world around them — they started anticipating what other beings' actions might be and planning their own actions accordingly. (...)
ToM was very helpful to early humans. It enabled them to discern other people's positive and negative intentions (e.g., "Does that person want to mate with me or kill me and steal my food?"), thereby increasing their own chances of survival.
But when people started attributing purpose to the actions of nonactors, like raindrops, ToM took a turn toward the supernatural.
"The roaring threat of a thunderstorm or the devastation of a flood is widely seen across cultures as the product of a dangerous personal agent in the sky or river, respectively," said Allen Kerkeslager (...)"Likewise, the movements of the sun, moon and stars are widely explained as the movements of personal agents with extraordinary powers" (...)
This tendency to explain the natural world through the existence of beings with supernatural powers — things like gods, ancestral spirits, goblins and fairies — formed the basis for religious beliefs, according to many cognitive scientists. (...)
In fact, human beings haven't evolved past this way of thinking and making decisions, he added.
"Now, we understand better that the things we thought were agents aren't agents," Clark said. "You can be educated out of some of these beliefs, but you can't be educated out of these cognitive faculties. We all have a hyperactive agency-detecting device. We all have a theory of mind."
Une autre théorie stipule plutôt que la religion pourrait avoir été une adaptation qui aurait favoriser la survie de nos ancêtres primates ainsi que la cohésion des groupes au sein desquels ils vivaient:
Some scientists see religion as more of an adaptation — a trait that stuck around because the people who possessed it were better able to survive and pass on their genes.
(...) Humans may have developed religion as a way to promote cooperation in social groups, Dunbar said. He noted that primates tend to live in groups because doing so benefits them in certain ways. For instance, hunting in groups is more effective than hunting alone. But living in groups also has drawbacks. Namely, some individuals take advantage of the system. Dunbar calls these people "freeriders."
"Freeriding is disruptive because it loads the costs of the social contract onto some individuals, while others get away with paying significantly less," Dunbar wrote (...) "As a result, those who have been exploited become less willing to support the social contract. In the absence of sufficient benefit to outweigh these costs, individuals will leave in order to be in smaller groups that incur fewer costs."
But if the group can figure out a way to get everyone to behave in an unselfish way, individual members of the group are less likely to storm off, and the group is more likely to remain cohesive.
Qu'en pensez-vous? Personnellement, la première explication me semble plus satisfaisante et plausible...
Et si vous préféreriez une troisième explication plus amusante, essayez celle-ci!