Human behavioral ecology (HBE) began as an attempt to explain human economic, reproductive, and social behavior using neodarwinian theory in concert with theory from ecology and economics, and ethnographic methods. HBE has addressed subsistence decision-making, cooperation, life history trade-offs, parental investment, mate choice, and marriage strategies among hunter-gatherers, herders, peasants, and wage earners in rural and urban settings throughout the world. Despite our rich insights into human behavior, HBE has very rarely been used as a (...) tool to help the people with whom we work. This article introduces a special issue of Human Nature which explores the application of HBE to significant world issues through the design and critique of public policy and international development projects. The articles by Tucker, Shenk, Leonetti et al., and Neil were presented at the 104th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Washington, D.C., in December 2005, in the first organized session of the nascent Evolutionary Anthropology Section (EAS). We conclude this introduction by summarizing some theoretical challenges to applying HBE, and ways in which evolutionary anthropologists can contribute to solving tough world issues. (shrink)
This work introduces the reader to the central issues and theories in Western environmental ethics, and against this background develops a Buddhist environmental philosophy and ethics. Drawing material from original sources, there is a lucid exposition of Buddhist environmentalism, its ethics, economics and Buddhist perspectives for environmental education. The work is focused on a diagnosis of the contemporary environmental crisis and a Buddhist contribution for positive solutions. Replete with stories and illustrations from original Buddhist sources, it is both informative and (...) engaging. (shrink)
A comprehensive collection of classic texts, contemporary interpretations, guidelines for activists, issue-specific information, and materials for environmentally-oriented religious practice. Sources and contributors include Basho, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Gary Snyder, Chogyam Trungpa, Gretel Ehrlich, Peter Mathiessen, Helen Tworkov (editor of Tricycle ), and Philip Glass.
Are the robots coming? Is the singularity near? Will we be dominated by technology? The usual response to ethical issues raised by pervasive and ubiquitous technologies assumes a philosophical anthropology centered on existential autonomy and agency, a dualistic ontology separating humans from technology and the natural from the artificial, and a post-monotheistic dualist and creational spirituality. This paper explores an alternative, less modern vision of the “technological” future based on different assumptions: a “deep relational” view of human being and (...) self, an ecological view of human–technology relations, and “ubiquitous” spirituality. Moving beyond an ethics of fear and control, it is argued that technology is part of a lived and active whole that is at the same time human, technological, social, and spiritual. Influenced by ecological and Eastern thinking, it is concluded that an ethics of technology understood as a relational ethics of life asks us to adapt and grow within this multi-faced ecology, which is currently—but not necessarily—pervaded by hyper-individualist modernity and its ego-boosting technologies of the self. This growth is only possible by relating to, and learning from, other cultures and from their specific way of pervading and being pervaded. (shrink)
Introducción: Se presenta un análisis cualitativo del acompañamiento psicosocial a jóvenes en condiciones de vulnerabilidad desde la ecología humana durante 12 meses entre 2010 a 2011; utilizando técnicas pedagógicas evaluativas participativas. Éstas, son una alternativa para crear espacios reflexivos con el propósito de potenciar la resiliencia en las relaciones comunicativas y formar en el respeto. Objetivo: Generar bienestar, prevenir la farmacodependencia y contribuir a la promoción de la salud. Material y Métodos: Se revisaron los antecedentes temáticos, fueron seleccionados 100 estudiantes (...) entre 11 y 19 años de dos instituciones educativas públicas en condiciones vulnerables;se desarrollaron cuatro talleres reflexivos y cuatro prácticas lúdicas y se realizaron tres grupos focales con estudiantes, profesores y padres de familia. Resultados y Discusión: El contexto social de la población intervenida, revela problemas de abuso sexual, violencia intrafamiliar y eventos violentos en el vecindario por grupos armados ilegales, entre otros, que constituyen factores de riesgo importantes para la farmacodependencia. Conclusión: Se infiere que lo psicosocial incide en la farmacodependencia, afectando la convivencia de la población estudiada por múltiples causas del orden psicoafectivo, sociocultural, económico y político que van desde el consumo cultural hasta la seguridad alimentaria. Introduction: A qualitative analysis of the psycho-social support to young people in situations of vulnerability from humanecology is presented for 12 months between 2010 to 2011; using participatory evaluative pedagogical techniques. These are an alternative to create reflective spaces with the purpose of enhancing resilience in communicative relationships and working in respect. Objective: to generate well-being, prevent drug abuse and contribute to the health promotion. Material aids and methods: the thematic background was reviewed, 100 students between 11 and 19 years of two public schools in vulnerable conditionswere selected; four reflective workshops and four playful practices were developed and three focus groups with students, teachers and parentswere conducted. Results and discussion: the social context of the manipulated population reveals sexual abuse problems, domestic violence and violent events in the neighborhood by illegal armed groups, among others, which constitutemajor risk factors for drug abuse. Conclusion: It can be inferred that the psychosocial factors impact on drug dependence, affecting the coexistence of the population studied by multiple causes of the psychological, socio-cultural, economic and political order, ranging from cultural consumption to food security. (shrink)
Environment is essentially in the category of culture and environmental research should be based on human value and culture. The study of the relationship between humans and their natural environment should also refer to human relations. Since the operational logic of social capital is the root of ecological crisis, the ultimate solution to this problem lies in human’s correct thinking, institutional, political and behavioral patterns in dealing with nature. Re-establishing humanecology therefore provides a cultural (...) basis for the harmony between human and nature and realistic basis for the psycho-physical harmony and spiritualization of humans. (shrink)
How far do cultures affect the future of the planet? Can the debate on the environment and global warming be influenced by the cultures of East and West understanding each other better? In this consistently provocative dialogue, two of the most influential thinkers of recent times propose that only a 'human revolution' - a shift in the hearts and minds of individuals - can stimulate a revolution in humanity's relationship with the planet. Such a planetary revolution first requires a (...) transformation of moral and political leadership, and an orientation towards the future rather than a preoccupation with the short-termist policies of the present. Responding to humanity's ills from the Buddhist perspective, and with all the accumulated wisdom of the eastern philosophical tradition, Daisaku Ikeda calls for politicians to take as their mainstays a respect for the dignity of life and an eloquence to inspire in people a sense of community and courage. Correspondingly, renowned western economist and scholar of education Ricardo Diez-Hochleitner stresses the importance of proper educational planning and development in addressing the challenges posed by poverty, inequality and climate change. While acknowledging the scale of the task that lies ahead, both men offer an inspiring and hopeful vision for the future. (shrink)
Bringing together some of the most eminent thinkers in the field, this book celebrates the seminal contribution of Ted Benton to such pressing themes as: realism, naturalism and the philosophy of the social sciences, the continuing relevance of Marxism, philosophical anthropology and human needs, and ecology, society and natural limits.
What sets Naess's deep ecology apart from most inquiries into environmental philosophy is that it does not seek a radical shift in fundamental values. Naess offered a utopian, life-affirming grand narrative, a new Weltanschauung that shifted the focus of inquiry to coupling values, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to behavior. The core of Naess's approach is that sustainability hinges on developing more thoroughly reasoned and consistent views, policies, and actions, which are tied back to wide-identifying ultimate norms and a rich, (...) well-informed understanding of the state of the planet. But humans can have multiple ultimate norms and these norms sometimes conflict; our neurobiology may not be well-structured for accommodating consequences that are spatially and temporally separated and uncertain; we are governed by bounded rationality; much of human learning results from the passive modeling of unsustainable activities; and our cultures can be maladaptive, creating hurdles and perverse incentives/disincentives that likely demand more than consistent reasoning from wide-identifying ultimate premises. After keenly demonstrating how problem characterization and formulation shape both solution strategies and outcomes, Naess may conceptualize the process of change too narrowly. In the end, deep ecology helps us to shine a brighter searchlight on the gap between our attitudes and our generally unsustainable actions and policies. In doing so it expands the frontier of the unknown, opening more questions. This is its allure, frustration, and promise. (shrink)
In light of such basic Buddhist teachings as karma and interdependence, the conceptions of "rights" and "human being" presupposed by the dominant currents in contemporary human rights discourse are critically evaluated here. The negative recusiveness of such a discourse and its promotion of minimum standards for secure coexistence is examined, and a Buddhist perspective on human rights forwarded in which realizing our dramatic interdependence and social virtuosity are held paramount.
I address the problem of reconciling environmental holism with the intrinsic value of individual beings. Drawing upon Madhyamaka (“middle way”) Buddhism, the later philosophy of Martin Heidegger, and deep ecology, I present a distinctly holistic conception of nature that, nevertheless, retains a commitment to the intrinsic worth of individual beings. I conclude with an examination of the practical implications of this “thing-centered holism” for environmental ethics.
The transfer of food among group members is a ubiquitous feature of small-scale forager and forager-agricultural populations. The uniqueness of pervasive sharing among humans, especially among unrelated individuals, has led researchers to evaluate numerous hypotheses about the adaptive functions and patterns of sharing in different ecologies. This article attempts to organize available cross-cultural evidence pertaining to several contentious evolutionary models: kin selection, reciprocal altruism, tolerated scrounging, and costly signaling. Debates about the relevance of these models focus primarily on the extent (...) to which individuals exert control over the distribution of foods they acquire, and the extent to which donors receive food or other fitness-enhancing benefits in return for shares given away. Each model can explain some of the variance in sharing patterns within groups, and so generalizations that ignore or deny the importance of any one model may be misleading. Careful multivariate analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of food transfer patterns are therefore necessary tools for assessing aspects of the sexual division of labor, human life history evolution, and the evolution of the family. This article also introduces a framework for better understanding variation in sharing behavior across small-scale traditional societies. I discuss the importance of resource ecology and the degree of coordination in acquisition activities as a key feature that influences sharing behavior. Key Words: behavioral ecology; cooperation; costly signaling; food sharing; foragers; reciprocal altruism. (shrink)
I attempt to complement my earlier critiques of human sociobiology, by offering an account of how evolutionary ideas might legitimately be employed in the study of human social behavior. The main emphasis of the paper is the need to integrate studies of proximate mechanisms and their ontogenesis with functional/evolutionary research. Human psychological complexity makes it impossible to focus simply on specific types of human behavior and ask for their functional significance. For any of the kinds of (...) behavior patterns that have occupied human sociobiologists, the underlying proximate mechanisms are very likely to be linked to a broad spectrum of types of behavior, and we cannot expect that natural selection will have acted directly on any individual element from this spectrum. I illustrate this general point with a specific example, considering the traditional sociobiological account of human incest-avoidance and outlining an alternative approach to the phenomena. The example is intended to show the possibility of a more rigorous and sophisticated successor to human sociobiology, which I call "human behavioral ecology". (shrink)
The basic philosophical question underlying the Asian values debates is whether human rights represent a universal moral concern applicable to humans in every culture or whether they are simply another form of Western imperialism. While most of the philosophical work on this issue has focused on Confucian and Marxist elements, there is a growing interest in tackling the topic from a Buddhist perspective. This paper evaluates Jay Garfield’s attempt to reconcile Buddhist ethics with Western-style human rights. Garfield endeavors (...) to situate rights in a character-based normative theory of ethics grounded in the Buddhist sentiment ofcompassion. After locating Garfield’s account within the general confines of Buddhism, the paper assesses the resulting nature of the rights themselves. Unfortunately, Garfield’s version of rights does not retain the protective character of individual rights, the unique feature which largely explains their ever-increasing employment in the ethical, legal, and political discourse of modern societies. (shrink)
Nowadays the real threat has appeared: "thinking man" will disappear from the planet, and his place will be taken by "information consuming man." The rapidly evolving spiritually dependent consumer will turn into a completely controlled human being. A value orientation that we did not create will entirely determine all our choices and dominate our attention. Both the values and the products of mass culture are being spread among consumers as extensively as possible by mechanisms of culture manufacture, in accord (...) with the technological opportunities of the modern culture industry, connected in many ways with the mass media, and are being consumed on the same level as other products offered in the modern market. It becomes clear that the ecology of consciousness, along with the ecology of human life, is the most urgent and the most current problem of contemporary society.The main tasks of a global ecology of consciousness are to understand the conditional character of the external system of values and the radical reorientation that is appropriate to it; to create a culture of life as the realization of the original boundlessly disclosing free spirit, manifested in the encounter of man and world; and to return from captivity to imaginary things to life as dialogue with the world. First of all it is necessary to advance to a deep ecological understanding of the world—an understanding of nature, completed in the "noosphere," as the unique and perfect home of human consciousness. When a human being recognizes "the internal eco-crisis" and discovers the chaos and senselessness behind the imaginary clarity, he inevitably realizes the necessity for radical changes. His activity is initiated by the deepest satisfaction accompanying the expansion of the bounds of perception. We are speaking about the integral human being, personifying in himself both nature and civilization at the point of their intersection, removing the contradictions between the physical and the spiritual, between naturalness and technological progress. (shrink)
Governments and non-govermental organizations (NGOs) that plan projects to conserve the environment and alleviate poverty often attempt to modify rural livelihoods by halting activities they judge to be destructive or inefficient and encouraging alternatives. Project planners typically do so without understanding how rural people themselves judge the value of their activities. When the alternatives planners recommend do not replace the value of banned activities, alternatives are unlikely to be adopted, and local people will refuse to participate. Human behavioral (...) class='Hi'>ecology and behavioral economics may provide useful tools for generating and evaluating hypotheses for how people value economic activities in their portfolios and potential alternatives. This is demonstrated with a case example from southwestern Madagascar, where plans to create a Mikea Forest National Park began with the elimination of slash-and-burn maize agriculture and the encouragement to plant labor-intensive manioc instead. Future park plans could restrict access to wild tuber patches, hunting small game, and fishing. The value of these activities is considered using observational data informed by optimal foraging theory, and experimental data describing people’s time preference and covariation perception. Analyses suggest that manioc is not a suitable replacement for maize for many Mikea because the two crops differ in terms of labor requirements, delay-to-reward, and covariation with rainfall. Park planners should promote wild tuber foraging and stewardship of tuber patches and the anthropogenic landscapes in which they are found. To conserve small game, planners must provide alternative sources of protein and cash. Little effort should be spent protecting lemurs, as they are rarely eaten and never sold. (shrink)
Two models of human perfection proposed by Nietzsche and the Buddha are investigated. Both the overman and the arahant need practice and individual effort as key to their realization, and they share roughly the same conception of the self as a construction. However, there are also a number of salient differences. Though realizing it to be constructed, the overman does proclaim himself through his assertion of the will to power. The realization of the true nature of the self does (...) not lead the overman to seek the way to be released from sa?sara as does the arahant. On the contrary, he rejoices in the eternally recurring situation. The arahant, however, has totally relinquished any attachment to the self, constructed or otherwise. The arahant does not care about the Eternal Recurrence, as he only focuses on the present moment. Finally, they are both beyond good and evil, but in a substantively different way. (shrink)
Buddhists call Buddhism the Buddha Dharma: the Dharma, a collection of methods for getting enlightened, taught by a Buddha, a Fully Enlightened One. Buddhists refer to themselves as people who have taken refuge with the Three Jewels: 1) the Buddhas or Fully Enlightened Ones, 2) the Dharma or methods taught for reaching enlightenment, 3) and the Sangha or community of Buddhist monks and nuns, called Bhikshus and Bhikshunis. In formally becoming a Buddhist one becomes a disciple of a Buddhist (...) master, a fully ordained Bhikshu, who administers the Three Refuges: "I take refuge with the Buddhas; I take refuge with the Dharma; I take refuge with the Sangha.". (shrink)
I argue that three recent studies (Imagining the Life Course, by Nancy Eberhardt; Sensory Biographies, by Robert Desjarlais; and How to Behave, by Anne Hansen) advance the field of Buddhist Ethics in the direction of the empirical study of morality. I situate their work within a larger context of moral anthropology, that is, the study of human nature in its limits and capacities for moral agency. Each of these books offers a finely grained account of particular and local Buddhist (...) ways of interpreting human life and morality, and each explores complex conceptions of moral agency. I suggest that these three studies share similar interests in moral psychology, the human being across time, the intersubjective dimensions of moral experience, and what life within a karmic framework looks like. I propose that their contributions offer some of the most refreshing and interesting work generated in Buddhist ethics in the last decade. (shrink)
Buddhism has not only produced an influence upon the ancient world culture but is also playing an important role in world affairs today. This article analyzes several important problems in the world today: world peace, disarmament, economic justice, human rights, environmental protection, and universal cooperation in world problem solving. The writer holds that, to solve these problems, we should study Buddhist theory and get some helpful ideas from it.
In "The Law of Peoples", John Rawls proposes a set of principles for international relations, his "Law of Peoples." He calls this Law a "realistic utopia," and invites consideration of this Law from the perspectives of non-Western cultures. This paper considers Rawls's Law from the perspective of Engaged Buddhism, the contemporary form of socially and politically activist Buddhism. We find that Engaged Buddhists would be largely in sympathy with Rawls's proposals. There are differences, however: Rawls builds his view (...) from the idea of independent nation--states, while the Buddhists see the world more in terms of a single humankind, the members being highly interdependent with one another, and also with the physical world. The Buddhists would also push harder than Rawls for global structures building multilateralism, restrict more severely justifications for war and behavior in war, stress economic justice more heavily, and insist on all the human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (shrink)
Our civilization is changing and so is our science. Human beings in endeavors from education to economics need a framework for understanding which integrates the maelstrom of insights into a useable form. That, in essence, is what the study of Dynamic Evolution provides. Dynamic Evolution (also called Cosmic or General Evolution) is a synthesis of insights, ancient and cutting edge, which radically revamps our understanding of how organizations arise and how change takes place as a result of intertwined forces (...) in a co?evolving whole. What has become clear in recent years is that the two key elements in this evolutionary march are energy flow and interdependent dynamics. New understandings of how these two key features work have mushroomed in the last 30 years. Popularized under such names as chaos, complexity, self?organization theory, Gaia and the new biology, these new insights provide an increasingly clear new understanding of the world and an increasingly coherent path through the confusion of our times. This article provides a brief overview of how rules of energy?driven organization can change our picture of what we must do to build a resilient, sustainable civilization. (shrink)
The concept of sustainable development is here revised in the light of a brief historical analysis, followed by a semantic analysis of the expressions development and sustainability. The authors criticize the common use of this concept in a loose way or in wide generalizations, to conclude, based on the principles of humanecology, that it is only possible to make it operational in limited spans of time and in limited spatial units.
Although Darwinian concepts have largely been banned from the social sciences of the last century, they have recently seen a revival in several disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, or economics. Most of the current proponents of evolutionary theorizing in the social sciences avoid references to the older literature on social evolution. On that background, this article presents a contribution to Darwinist thinking in early American sociology that has mainly been overlooked in the literature. As the leading figure of the (...) class='Hi'>HumanEcology Approach, which was established during the 1920s and 1930s, Robert Ezra Park drew heavily on evolutionary concepts to explain human evolution. A systematic presentation of these concepts in the light of the modern discussion on sociocultural evolution is given, followed by a conclusion about what can be learned from Park today. (shrink)
Here we attempt to define a specifically humanecology within which male reproductive strategies are formulated. By treating the domestic and public spheres of social life as "ecological niches" that men have been forced to compete within or to avoid as best they can, we generate a typology of four "social modes" of human male behavior. We then attempt to explain the broad distribution of social modes within and between human groups based on the relative intensity (...) of scramble and contest competition. (shrink)
Presents a provocatively anthropocentric analysis of the way forward for green politics and environmental movements, exposing the deficiencies and contradictions of green approaches to post-modern politics and deep ecology. This title available in eBook format. Click here for more information . Visit our eBookstore at: www.ebookstore.tandf.co.uk.
Virtuous Bodies breaks new ground in the field of Buddhist ethics by investigating the diverse roles bodies play in ethical development. Traditionally, Buddhists assumed a close connection between body and morality. Thus Buddhist literature contains descriptions of living beings that stink with sin, are disfigured by vices, or are perfumed and adorned with virtues. Taking an influential early medieval Indian Mahayana Buddhist text-Santideva's Compendium of Training (Siksasamuccaya)-as a case study, Susanne Mrozik demonstrates that Buddhists regarded ethical development as a process (...) of physical and moral transformation. Mrozik chooses The Compendium of Training because it quotes from over one hundred Buddhist scriptures, allowing her to reveal a broader Buddhist interest in the ethical significance of bodies. The text is a training manual for bodhisattvas, especially monastic bodhisattvas. In it, bodies function as markers of, and conditions for, one's own ethical development. Most strikingly, bodies also function as instruments for the ethical development of others. When living beings come into contact with the virtuous bodies of bodhisattvas, they are transformed physically and morally for the better. Virtuous Bodies explores both the centrality of bodies to the bodhisattva ideal and the corporeal specificity of that ideal. Arguing that the bodhisattva ideal is an embodied ethical ideal, Mrozik poses an array of fascinating questions: What does virtue look like? What kinds of physical features constitute virtuous bodies? What kinds of bodies have virtuous effects on others? Drawing on a range of contemporary theorists, this book engages in a feminist hermeneutics of recovery and suspicion in order to explore the ethical resources Buddhism offers to scholars and religious practitioners interested in the embodied nature of ethical ideals. (shrink)
This essay examines and compares two paradigms of technology, nature, and social life, and their associated environmental impacts. I explore moving from technocratic paradigms to the emerging ecological paradigms of planetary person ecosophies. The dominant technocratic philosophy's guiding policy and technological power is mechanistic. It conceptualizes nature as a resource to be controlled for human ends. Its global practices are drastically altering the integrity of the planet's ecosystems. In contrast, the organic, planetary person approaches respect the intrinsic values of (...) all beings. Deep ecology movement principles give priority to community and ecosystem integrity. These deep ecology movement principles guide the design and applications of technology by principles following from ecological understanding. I describe this shift in philosophical paradigms and how it affects our perceptions, values, and actions. (shrink)
Between the body and the breathing earth : on the phenomenology of depth perception -- To praise again : phenomenology and the project of ecopsychology -- Postphenomenology and the lifeworld : interconnections, relationships, and environmental wholes : a phenomenological ecology of natural and built worlds.
A Jewish introduction to the human sciences -- Responsive thinking: cultural studies and Jewish historiography -- Seasons and lifetimes -- Toward an anthropology of the twentieth century -- Tropes of home -- A moment of danger, a taste of death -- Extinction and difference.
- How can anthropology improve our understanding of the interrelationship between nature and culture? - What can anthropology contribute to practical debates which depend on particular definitions of nature, such as that concerning sustainable development? Humankind has evolved over several million years by living in and utilizing 'nature' and by assimilating it into 'culture'. Indeed, the technological and cultural advancement of the species has been widely acknowledged to rest upon human domination and control of nature. Yet, by the 1960s, (...) the idea of culture in confrontation with nature was being challenged by science, philosophy and the environmental movement. Anthropology is increasingly concerned with such issues as they become more urgent for humankind as a whole. This important book reviews the current state of the concepts of 'nature' we use, both as scientific devices and ideological constructs, and is organised around three themes: - nature as a cultural construction; - the cultural management of the environment; and - relations between plants, animals and humans. (shrink)
Ecology, Community and Lifestyle is a revised and expanded translation of Naess' book Okologi, Samfunn og Livsstil, which sets out the author's thinking on the relevance of philosophy to the problems of environmental degradation and the rethinking of the relationship between mankind and nature. The text has been thoroughly updated by Naess and revised and translated by David Rothenberg.
A radical approach to the environment which argues that by harnessing the power of science for human benefit, we can have a healthier planet As a prizewinning theoretical physicist and an outspoken advocate for scientific literacy, James Trefil has long been the public's guide to a better understanding of the world. In this provocative book, Trefil looks squarely at our environmental future and finds-contrary to popular wisdom-reason to celebrate. For too long, Trefil argues, humans have treated nature as something (...) separate from themselves-pristine wilderness to be saved or material resources to be exploited. What we need instead is a scientific approach to the environment that embraces the human transformation of nature for our benefit. In Human Nature , Trefil exposes the benefits of genetically modified species, uncovers vital facts about droughts and global warming, and points to examples of environmental management where catering to humans reaps greater rewards than sheltering other species. By taking advantage of explosive advances in the sciences, we can fruitfully manage the planet, if we rise to the challenge. Like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb, Human Nature promises to fundamentally alter the way we perceive our relationship to the Earth-but with optimism rather than alarm. (shrink)
The existence of superstition and religious beliefs in most, if not all, human societies is puzzling for behavioral ecology. These phenomena bring about various fitness costs ranging from burial objects to celibacy, and these costs are not outweighed by any obvious benefits. In an attempt to resolve this problem, we present a verbal model describing how humans and other organisms learn from the observation of coincidence (associative learning). As in statistical analysis, learning organisms need rules to distinguish between (...) real patterns and randomness. These rules, which we argue are equivalent to setting the level of α for rejection of the null hypothesis in statistics, are governed by risk management as well as by comparison to previous experiences. Risk management means that the cost of a possible type I error (superstition) has to be traded off against the cost of a possible type II error (ignorance). This trade-off implies that the occurrence of superstitious beliefs is an inevitable consequence of an organism’s ability to learn from observation of coincidence. Comparison with previous experiences (as in Bayesian statistics) improves the chances of making the right decision. While this Bayesian approach is found in most learning organisms, humans have evolved a unique ability to judge from experiences whether a candidate subject has the power to mechanistically cause the observed effect. Such “strong” causal thinking evolved because it allowed humans to understand and manipulate their environment. Strong causal thinking, however, involves the generation of hypotheses about underlying mechanisms (i.e., beliefs). Assuming that natural selection has favored individuals that learn quicker and more successfully than others owing to (1) active search to detect patterns and (2) the desire to explain these patterns mechanistically, we suggest that superstition has evolved as a by-product of the first, and that belief has evolved as a by-product of the second. (shrink)