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Religions as Complex Adaptive Systems

Connor Wood: Religions aren’t just sets of maxims or beliefs about invisible beings. They are are complex systems comprising people, social relationships, behaviors, and beliefs. Our pivotal claim is that, like other complex adaptive systems, religious communities exhibit characteristic adaptive behavior that advances their own perpetuation. While different religions configure themselves in very different ways, the nexus of ritual, authority, belief, and cooperation is universal. Everywhere, we find rituals and social organization entwined with norms and beliefs, flexing against the strains of the world, forming a social whole that, if you didn’t know better, you’d say was trying to survive. Even when the world has different plans.

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