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Judaism: Human Sacrifice, Costly Signaling and Cooperation

Rick Goldberg and Hadassah Head discuss the role of sacrifice in Judaism.

Judaism: Human Sacrifice, Costly Signaling and Cooperation
Hadassah Head interviews Rick Goldberg. Rick Goldberg is an independent scholar, he is the founder of Binah Yitzrit Foundation. BYF develops and funds scholarly work exploring religion, especially Judaism, from an evolutionary perspective. He is the editor of the book Judaism from a Biological Perspective .


John Jacob Lyons | September 30 9:17 am

Hadassah’s last question related to the heritability of the ‘costly signalling’ trait. Rick Goldberg suggested, in my view correctly, that such a trait and its consequent positive effect on prestige would tend to extend to offspring. He implies, again in my view correctly, that increased prestige may also tend to provide reproductive success. I would point out that all these comments relate to cultural rather than genetic processes. In fact, he doesn’t say whether or not there would be any impact on the gene-pool.

If he is suggesting that there would be no genetic effect at all - and to my mind this would be wrong - his claim that costly-signalling is a trait that is subject to Darwinian Natural/ Sexual Selection (DNSS) assumes that cultural evolution itself comes within the DNSS domain. This conflation would be unfortunate; cultural and genetic evolution contain different processes and need to be examined both separately and as co-evolutionary domains.

Is there in fact a genetic effect? Since costly signalling would be an ‘acquired characteristic’ we would head into the Lamarckian Fallacy to suggest that any genetic effect is a direct one. However, I suggest that there may well be an indirect one.



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