Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Woman the Hunter? But Not Predominantly?

An Artistic Rendering of an Ancient Female Hunter Using an Atlatl to Hunt Vacunas in the Andean Highlands of Peru (Based on an Archaeological Discovery by Randall Haas and His Colleagues)

The cover article for the November issue of Scientific American is "Woman the Hunter" by Cara Ocobock and Sarah Lacy.  This article briefly summarizes the argument and evidence that Ocobock and Lacy have recently elaborated in two articles for American Anthropologist.  Much of the research that they cite in these articles has come up in some of my previous posts on this "Woman the Hunter" thesis.

Ocobock and Lacy frame their argument as a refutation of the book Man the Hunter, edited by Richard Lee and Irven DeVore, and first published in 1968.  This collection of papers was the first extensive survey of the hunter-gatherer way of life that was considered the first stage of human evolutionary development.  One of the central themes of the book was the sexual division of labor in the foraging for food, in which men were predominantly the hunters of wild animals, and women were predominantly the gatherers of wild plants.

Contrary to what Ocobock and Lacy repeatedly assert, the authors in Man the Hunter did not say that "only men hunted" or that "women were excluded from hunting" (see Ocobock and Lacy 2023a: 24; Lacy and Ocobock 2023: 2-3, 5-6, 9).  The claim of the "Man the Hunter" hypothesis was that while some women in foraging societies sometimes hunted, men were predominantly the hunters.  So, when Ocobock and Lacy present evidence that some foraging women hunted, and thus refute the idea that only men hunted, they are attacking a straw man (or straw woman).

Ocobock and Lacy offer three kinds of evidence for "Woman the Hunter"--ethnographic, archaeological, and physiological.  While this evidence does show that some foraging women hunted and that modern women today still have the mental and physical capacities required for hunting, this does not deny the fact that in foraging societies, hunting (and particularly the hunting of big mammals) has been mostly a male activity.  

Moreover, what they say about the comparative athletic physiology of men and women confirms that men have a power activity advantage, while women have an endurance activity advantage.  This explains why someone like Caster Semenya--a chromosomal (XY) male with some external female features--has an unfair male advantage in competing with women in an 800-meter race but not in a 5,000-meter race.


In their Scientific American article, Ocobock and Lacy report:

". . . A recent study of ethnographic data spanning the past 100 years--much of which was ignored by Man the Hunter contributors--found that women from a wide range of cultures hunt animals for food.  Abigail Anderson and Cara Wall-Scheffler of Seattle Pacific University and their colleagues report that 79 percent of the 63 foraging societies with clear descriptions of their hunting strategies feature women hunters. . . ." (29).

What Ocobock and Lacy fail to make clear for their readers, however, is that this study found that in these 50 foraging societies, some women sometimes engage in hunting.  This was said to refute "the traditional paradigm that women exclusively gather, and men exclusively hunt" (Anderson et al. 2023: 7).  

As I pointed out in my post on this article, the authors do a good job in refuting the idea that men are exclusively the hunters and women exclusively the gatherers.  James Woodburn expressed this idea in the original Man the Hunter volume when he said:  "Hunting is done exclusively by men and boys" (Woodburn 1968, 51).  But this one sentence is the only place in the book where this claim is made.  No one else said this.  The other authors explained that while hunting is "predominantly men's work," some women do sometimes hunt:  "women's hunting activities are confined to small animal hunts, communal hunts in which they take part in driving, and, very rarely, individual hunts of larger animals" (Lee and DeVore 1968: 74, 187). They would have agreed with Robert Kelly (2013, 218-24) that while hunting is not done exclusively by men, it is predominantly done by men, particularly the hunting of big game.  So, the difference between men and women is a matter of degree rather than kind.

None of the evidence in Anderson et al.'s article shows that women are the same as men in the regular hunting of large game.  Consider, for example, three societies where they see women hunting large game—the !Kung San, the Hadza, and the Bakola.  According to their authority for the !Kung San, although there are a few cases of women hunting small game, "basically they leave hunting to the men" (Lee 1979, 235).
According to their authority for the Hadza, although "the common view that males only hunt and females only gather is not true," it is nevertheless true that women mostly hunt small animals, and there is "a marked division of foraging labor" between men and women (Marlowe 2010, 269).
According to their authority for the Bakola, although the women participate in hunting, gathering "is reserved mostly for women and children" (Ngima 2006, 58); women participate in net hunting, but only as beaters and not as hunters (51, 57, 65-67); and women are excluded from ceremonial net hunting (66).
They cannot point to any evidence for a hunter-gatherer society where the hunting of big game is predominantly by women, or at least equally with men.

Anderson and her colleagues also cite the example of the Agta people of the Philippines.  Ocobock and Lacy repeat this claim: "Agta women hunt while menstruating, pregnant, and breastfeeding, and they have the same hunting success as Agta men" (Ocobock and Lacy 2023a: 29).  But they fail to point out that very few Agta women hunt (fewer than 100 in a population of 9,000), while all Agta men do hunt; and the most serious female Agta hunters are those who are sterile, those with children old enough to care for themselves, or those beyond their childbearing years (Kelly 2013: 218-22).


In their paper on the archaeological evidence for "Woman the Hunter," Ocobock and Lacy present some indirect evidence that men and women in the Paleolithic might have been engaged in similar activities.  But that there might be evidence that women were engaged in hunting big game animals just as much as men is suggested in only one sentence: "In some cases, the grave goods and paleopathology agree in demonstrating women were well-practiced projectile hunters, such as at the Peruvian Early Holocene site of Wilamaya Pratxa (Haas et al. 2020)" (Lucy and Ocobock 2023: 7).

As I indicated in my post on the article cited here by Ocobock and Lucy, Richard Haas and his colleagues have provided us what looks like one clear case of an ancient female hunter.  In 2018, Haas's team excavated an archaeological site called Wilamaya Patjxa in the Andean highlands of southern Peru at an elevation of 12,877 feet. They found five human burial pits with six individuals.  Two of these individuals were associated with projectile points from the Early Holocene (beginning around 12,000 to 11,500 years ago).  

One of these two individuals--the Wilamayo Patjxa individual 6 (WMP6)--was identified as a 17-19 year old woman, which was determined by studies of her bones and tooth enamel protein. She was associated with stones that were identified as an integrated toolkit for hunting.  There were stone projectile points that could have been used to kill big game.  There were other stones that could have been used for dressing the game and red ochre nodules for tanning hides.  There were some mammal bone fragments that could have been from one of the species endemic to the Andean highlands--vicuna (a relative of llamas) or taruca (a species of deer).  As depicted in their artistic rendering of WMP6 hunting, Haas's team speculated that she used an atlatl made from a camelid radioulna bone to throw a spear at a vicuna.  However, there is nothing that looks like an atlatl at the burial site.  (I have a post on the evolution of the atlatl.)

And yet, even if one agrees that this is good evidence for identifying WMP6 as a female hunter of big game animals, one must then ask whether this is only one isolated case or part of a general behavioral pattern.  To find the evidence for a general pattern of female hunting, Haas's team reviewed the reports of Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene burials in the Americas.  They identified 429 individuals from 107 sites.  They found 27 individuals from 18 sites who were associated with big-game hunting tools.  Of theses, 11 of the individuals from 10 sites were identified as female, and 16 individuals from 15 sites were identified as male.  They see this distribution--11 female hunters and 16 male hunters--as "statistical parity" between males and females in hunting behavior, which supports "the hypothesis of non-gendered big-game hunting among early populations."

This step in their argument has been identified by their critics as the weakest part of their reasoning.  Notice that Haas and his colleagues have to assume that in ancient burials, "the objects that accompany people in death tend to be those that accompany them in life" (Haas et al. 2020, 5).  So, if individuals are buried with hunting tools, that proves that they were hunters.  Robert Kelly, Ben Potter, and others challenge this assumption: that individuals were buried with hunting tools does not directly prove that they were hunters.  Burial goods are symbolic offerings from the living to the dead, and the interpretations of their meaning are often ambiguous.

This problem is particularly clear in the case of the two female individuals buried at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska (dated to around 11,500 years ago), which has been studied by Potter and his colleagues (2014).  One individual was estimated to have died a few weeks after birth, and the other was identified as a late-term fetus.  Four antler rods, two large dart points, and a third biface lithic tool were found associated with these two individuals.  Potter's team observes: "The presence of the hafted points may reflect the importance of hunting implements in the burial ceremony at USR and within the population as a whole" (17064).  Potter's team does not see this as evidence that females were hunters in this ancient population of hunter-gatherers.  But Haas and his colleagues, in their online Supplement to their article, write: "The Upward Sun River females are both infants and thus were not hunters per se, although they appear to have been gendered in a way that recognized females as being associated with big game hunting."  So although these infants were not hunters, burying them with hunting tools was a symbolic ritual statement that they could have become hunters if they had lived to adulthood!  Potter disagrees.  In an email message to me, he wrote: "I think the most parsimonious and plausible interpretation of the hunting implements in the infants' grave is that they represent symbolic 'sacrifices' of perfectly usable hunting weapons by the father(s)."

There is another closely related problem here that Haas's team makes clear in their online Supplement but not in their article.  In determining whether females were buried with big-game hunting tools, they distinguish "secure" evidence and "tentative" evidence.  They also distinguish between "securely associated with big game hunting tools" and "securely identified as a big-game hunter burial."  There are "secure cases in which context, sex, and date estimates are each determined to be secure," and there are "tentative associations" where the evidence for context, sex, and dating is not so secure.

The WMP6 burial and the two Upward Sun River burials are the only female burials securely associated with big game hunting tools.  But the two Upward Sun River burials are not securely identified as big game hunter burials.  Consequently, in their Supplement, Haas's team concludes: "the WMP6 burial is the only burial securely identified as a big-game hunter burial in the entire sample of late Pleistocene and early Holocene burials in the Americas.  Under the most conservative criteria, we identify one female hunter burial and no male hunter burials."  

Remarkably, this statement is hidden away in the Supplement, and it does not appear in the article.  In effect, this concedes the point made by the critics--that Haas and his colleagues have at best found only one case of a female hunter burial, which suggests that while some individual females in hunter-gatherer societies will become hunters, there is still generally a sexual division of labor in which men hunt and women gather.

The 8 cases where Haas's team think they see "tentative" evidence for the burial of a female big-game hunter are actually quite dubious.  Consider this example, which they report: "Ashworth Shelter is a rockshelter site in Kentucky . . . .  The following summary is based on Walthall's review (46).  A primary inhumation identified as an adult female had a Kirk style projectile embedded in a vertebra and a second point located near the left patella."

Haas's team here is relying on an article by John Walthall (1999), in which he reports the findings of Philip DiBlasi (1981) in a Master's Thesis at the University of Louisville, which is available online.  In describing "burial #4" in the Ashworth Shelter, DiBlasi writes:

"As mentioned above, a projectile point was found imbedded in the body of the third thoracic vertebra.  This projectile entered from the left rear of the individual splitting the neural arch between the left superior and inferior articulating surfaces and the spinous process.  The extreme distal portion (tip) of the projectile entered the dorsal surface of the body of the vertebra with sufficient force to split the vertebra in half.  The left superior articular surface of the fourth vertebra was also damaged."

"A wound of this type would have caused death almost immediately.  The most apparent cause of death would have been hypotensive shock resulting from the direct reflex shock to the central nervous system caused by the impact and resulting rebound of the spinal cord. .  . Paralysis of intercostal muscles would make breathing impossible, again causing death within a short period of time" (1981, 74-75).

Neither DiBlasi nor Walthall identify this as evidence that this individual had been a female hunter. After all, how can the fact that she was killed by a projectile point thrust into her back with sufficient force to split her spine in half be even "tentative" evidence that she was a big-game hunter?

The careful reader might well conclude that the most important sentence in the writing of Haas and his colleagues is not in their published article but in the online Supplement to the article: "Thus the WMP6 burial is the only burial securely identified as a big-game hunter burial in the entire sample of late Pleistocene and early Holocene burials in the Americas."

The archaeological evidence for "Woman the Hunter" seems very skimpy indeed.

In my next post, I will take up Ocobock and Lacy's physiological evidence for female versus male athletic advantages, which they offer as evidence that women have the physiological capacity for hunting, particularly hunting that requires endurance running.


Anderson, Abigail, Sophia Chilczuk, Kaylie Nelson, Roxanne Ruther, and Cara Wall-Scheffler. 2023. "The Myth of Man the Hunter: Women's Contribution to the Hunt Across Ethnographic Contexts."  PLoS ONE 18(6): e0287101.

DiBlasi, Philip. 1981. "A New Assessment of the Archaeological Significance of the Ashworth Site (15Bu236)." A Master's Thesis. University of Louisville

Haas, Randall, et al. 2020. "Female Hunters of the Early Americas." Science Advances 6: 1-10.

Kelly, Robert L. 2013. The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lacy, Sarah, and Cara Ocobock. 2023. "Woman the Hunter: The Archaeological Evidence." American Anthropologist, 1-13.  DOI: 10.1111/aman.13914

Lee, Richard B. 1979. The !Kung San: Men, Women, and Work in a Foraging Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, Richard B., and Irven DeVore, eds.  1968.  Man the Hunter.  Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.

Marlowe, Frank W. 2010. The Hadza: Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ngima Mawoung, Godefroy.  2006.  "Perception of Hunting, Gathering, and Fishing Techniques of the Bakola of the Coastal Region, Southern Cameroon." African Study Monographs, Suppl. 33: 49-69.

Ocobock, Cara, and Sarah Lacy.  2023a.  "Woman the Hunter."  Scientific American.  November: 23-29.

Ocobock, Cara, and Sarah Lacy.  2023b.  "Woman the Hunter: The Physiological Evidence."  American Anthropologist, 1-12.  DOI: 10.1111/aman.13915.

Potter, Ben A., et al. 2014. "New Insights into Eastern Beringian Mortuary Behavior: A Terminal Pleistocene Double Infant Burial at Upward Sun River." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111, no. 48: 17060-17065.

Walthall, John. 1999. "Mortuary Behavior and Early Holocene Land Use in the North American Midcontinent." North American Archaeologist 20: 1-30.

Woodburn, James. 1968. "An Introduction to Hadza Ecology." In Lee and DeVore, 49-55.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Captain Preston's Popular Lockeanism

David Armitage repeatedly identifies the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence as a statement of "abstractions" that had nothing to do with the practical reality of declaring independence and fighting a revolutionary war.  But if Locke was right about the emergence of natural liberty in the state of nature as the environment of evolutionary adaptation in which human nature was shaped, then that liberty is not a philosophical abstraction but a practical expression of a natural human instinct and popular human folkways.

Consider this story that has often been told by historian David Hackett Fischer (Liberty and Freedom [2005], 1-2):

In the year 1843, a bright young scholar named Mellen Chamberlain [21 years old] was collecting evidence on the origins of the American Revolution.  He interviewed Captain Levi Preston, ninety-one years old, a cantankerous Yankee who had fought on the day of Lexington and Concord.

"Captain Preston," the historian began, "what made you go to the Concord fight?"  The old soldier bristled at the idea that anyone had made him fight.

"What did I go for?" he replied.  The scholar missed his meaning and tried again.

"Were you oppressed by the Stamp Act?"

"I never saw any stamps," Captain Preston answered, "and I always understood that none were ever sold."

"Well, what about the tea tax?"

"Tea tax?  I never drank a drop of the stuff.  The boys threw it all overboard."

"But I suppose you had been reading Harrington, Sidney, and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?"

"I never heard of these men," Captain Preston said.  "The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts' Psalms, and hymns and the almanacs."

"Well, then, what was the matter?"

"Young man," Captain Preston replied, "what we meant in going for those Redcoats was this:  we always had been free, and we meant to be free always.  They didn't mean we should."

Captain Preston did not need to read Locke to want Lockean freedom.  Wanting to be "free always" was rooted in his ordinary experience of life.  As historian T. H. Breen has observed, even without ever reading Locke, Captain Preston and the other American insurgents were "popular Lockeans"--people whose desire to be free was part of their nature and their way of life.

The Lockean Liberal Evolution of Symbolic Niche Construction in the Declaration of Independence: A Declaration of "Free and Independent States"

The Lockean social contract theory of morality and politics rests on the idea that human beings mentally create social institutions through collective recognition of those institutions as symbolic realities, which Locke identified as the language of "mixed modes."  While other animals can mentally create cultural traditions, only human beings have the evolved cognitive capacity to create collective symbolic traditions, because human beings are unique in having 16 billion neurons in their cerebral cortex, which probably gives them the capacity for collective symbolism.

The human capacity for language and symbolism enables us to create a reality by representing that reality in our minds as existing and agreeing among ourselves to accept that reality as existing, which allows us to create a social and institutional reality out of language, symbolism, and collective intentionality.

If Lockean social contract reasoning can be understood as symbolic evolution and niche construction, then Lockean liberalism can be understood as the symbolic niche construction of liberal institutions.  We can see this manifested in the Declaration of Independence, particularly in its famous second paragraph that echoes Locke's Second Treatise ("We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .).

The Declaration of Independence is what John Searle calls a Declaration of Status Function, which has the form "X counts as Y in C."  So, for example, a twenty-dollar bill has monetary value as long as we recognize that a twenty-dollar bill (X) counts as currency (Y) in the monetary system of the United States (C).  Similarly, the American Revolutionaries declared that "these United Colonies [X] are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States [Y]" in the European system of states [C].  The success of that Declaration depended on whether in their "decent respect to the opinions of mankind," they could persuade world opinion to recognize their status as "Free and Independent States."  

Their success depended on both the intellectual persuasiveness of their reasoning in the Declaration and the forceful persuasiveness of their winning the Revolutionary War.  Of those people both inside and outside the American colonies who were not persuaded by the intellectual argument of the Declaration, many were persuaded to accept it once the Americans had won the war.  Going to war to settle the dispute was what Locke called the "Appeal to Heaven"--the appeal to the "God of Battles."

In March of 1776, the Continental Congress asked for prayers "that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude."  In the following October, King George III issued a Proclamation "putting Our Trust in Almighty God, that he will vouchsafe a Special Blessing on Our Arms, both by Sea and Land" (Shain 2014: 407-408).  This is the same as what Abraham Lincoln saw in the Civil War: "Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other" (Second Inaugural Addess).  The "God of Armies" will decide.

The first major victory for the Americans was in the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.  When French King Louis XVI saw this, he agreed to a formal Franco-American alliance.  This proved to be a turning point in the war (Weddle 2021).  If the British had won that battle, that might have been enough to refute the Declaration of Independence.  As I have argued in previous posts, there is a sense in which might does make right.

The Continental Congress was a practical demonstration of the truth of the Lockean principles of the Declaration of Independence.  Acting in a state of nature, the Congress exercised the Lockean executive power of the law of nature in punishing Great Britain for violating that natural law, in establishing the Continental Army to settle the dispute by force of arms, and in instituting a new government to secure their natural rights.

There are many good objections to my Lockean and Darwinian reading of the Declaration of Independence.  And over the years, I have responded to most of them.  

But I haven't yet answered in full an objection suggested by David Armitage in his important book--The Declaration of Independence: A Global History.  2026 will be the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  As its subtitle indicates, Armitage's book is a global history of the Declaration from 1776 to the end of the twentieth century, concentrating mostly on its implications for international law, particularly as expressed in the many "Declarations of Independence" from Vermont in 1777 to Eritrea in 1993.  The American Declaration of Independence was the first of over one hundred such declarations over the past 250 years.

Armitage claims that the primary purpose of the Declaration of Independence is prominently stated in the opening and closing sentences of the Declaration.  It begins with one long sentence:

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

It concludes:

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do."

This shows, Armitage observes, that this was a "document of state-making" declaring that these previously dependent colonies in the British Empire were now free and independent states in the international system of states.  "The rest of the Declaration," he explains, "provided only a statement of the abstract principles upon which the assertion of such standing within the international order rested, and an accounting of the grievances that had compelled the United States to assume their independent station among 'the Powers of the Earth'" (17, 66).  Therefore, the abstract principles in the second paragraph (about the rights to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness") were "strictly subordinate to these claims regarding the rights of states, and were taken to be so by contemporaries, when they deigned to notice the assertions of individual rights at all" (17). 

But notice that in the first sentence, it's "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" that "entitle" this "one people" to claim a "separate and equal station" among "the Powers of the Earth."  And so, the immediately following paragraph ("We hold these truths . . .") explains exactly how the Laws of Nature and Nature's God "entitle" them to become free and independent states.  Even Armitage says that their claims to independent statehood "rest upon" these principles, which provide the foundation for their claims.  This denies his attempt to denigrate the second paragraph as unimportant or dispensable, because this paragraph constitutes the indispensable ground for entitling them to independence as states.

At the end of the Declaration, the Continental Congress claimed to act "in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies" to declare that the colonies are "Free and Independent States."  But the Congress had no legal authority under British law to do this.  Their authority came from the Laws of Nature and Nature's God, as stated in the second paragraph, that entitled them to secure the "unalienable Rights" of men by exercising the "Right of the People" to "alter or abolish" a government that fails to secure their natural rights and "to institute new Government . . . as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

As I have argued, not only the second paragraph but the whole of the Declaration of Independence echoes the language and principles of Locke's Second Treatise of Government.  This is certainly true for the Declaration's claims about "free and independent states."  In the state of nature, men are "by Nature, all free, equal, and independent," and no one can be subjected to the political power of another without his consent (ST, 95).  But while once people have formed political societies by consent, they have left the state of nature, the governments they have formed are in themselves in a state of nature:  "all Princes and Rulers of Independent Governments all through the World, are in a State of Nature" (ST, 14).  These governments can enter into international agreements by mutual consent, but as long as they are politically independent of one another, they are in an international state of nature, and each government is naturally equal and independent.

This Lockean understanding of the law of nature in the international state of nature was elaborated in Emer de Vattel's Law of Nations in 1758:

"Nations being composed of men naturally free and independent, and who, before the establishment of civil societies, lived together in the state of nature,--nations or sovereign states are to be considered as so many free persons living together in the state of nature."

"It is a settled point with writers on the natural law, that al men inherit from nature a perfect liberty and independence, of which they cannot be deprived without their own consent.  In a state, the individual citizens do not enjoy them fully and absolutely, because they have made a partial surrender of them to the sovereign.  But the body of the nation, the state, remains absolutely free and independent with respect to all other men, all other nations, as long as it has not voluntarily submitted to them" (Vattel 2008: 68).

Armitage recognizes Vattel's book as "the standard text on the subject in Europe and the Americas for more than half a century," and thus the best guide to the American understanding of how people can claim the rights and powers of "free and independent states" as rooted in the law of nature.  But he does not recognize how this contradicts his argument that the appeal to the law of nature in the Declaration's second paragraph is unnecessary for the primary purpose of the Declaration in declaring independence for the United States in the international system of states.

Armitage also argues that the many declarations of independence after 1776 show the unimportance of the second paragraph of the Declaration in the global history of the document:  "The earliest imitations of the Declaration in Europe and beyond set the pattern for most later documents by taking the Declaration's opening and closing sentences as their template while overlooking the self-evident truths of the second paragraph" (113).  Surveying the more than one hundred such documents, he says that "relatively few . . . contained a declaration of individual rights that paralleled the second paragraph of the American Declaration" (104).

But Armitage's reader should notice that of the ten declarations that he reproduces in his book, seven contain passages that echo the language of the second paragraph (187, 199, 205, 211-12, 217-18, 227-29, 231, 239-40).  For example, the Manifesto of the Province of Flanders (January 4, 1790) opens by saying; "Since it has pleased Divine Providence to restore our natural rights of liberty and independence  by severing the bonds that once fastened us to a Prince and House whose domination was ever harmful to the interests of Flanders, we feel obliged to recount for present and future generations the events which inspired and accomplished this happy Revolution" (187).  The Declaration of Independence by the People of Texas (March 2, 1836) appeals to "the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable right of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right toward themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their welfare and happiness" (212).

Even those declarations that do not explicitly speak of the "natural rights of liberty and independence" do implicitly assume the natural right to government by consent of the governed and the right to overthrow governments that do not secure the natural rights of the people.  After all, any group of people who declare their independence from an established government and their right to establish a new government are engaged in an extralegal act that can only be justified by an implicit appeal to a natural right beyond positive law.


Armitage, David. 2007. The Declaration of Independence: A Global History.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shain, Barry Alan, ed.  2014.  The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, and Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congress.  Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Vattel, Emer de.  2008.  The Law of Nations.  Eds. Bela Kapossy and Richard Whatmore.  Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Weddle, Kevin J.  2021.  The Compleat Victory: Saratoga and the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press.

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Lockean Evolutionary State of Nature in the First Continental Congress: A Response to Barry Alan Shain

In John Adams' Notes on the Debates in the Continental Congress, September 6, 1774, Patrick Henry Declares: "We are in a State of Nature, Sir."

I have said that the American Revolution began when some of the delegates to the First and Second Continental Congresses saw that they were in a state of nature, and that they could exercise the natural right of the people to establish a new government to secure their rights.  This Lockean liberal understanding of what they were doing was then eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, particularly in its famous second sentence ("We hold these truths . . .").

And yet, many scholarly interpreters of the American Revolution claim that this account of the debates that led to the Declaration of Independence is deeply mistaken.  For example, Barry Alan Shain has argued this in his edited book--The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context (Liberty Fund, 2014)--which is a massive collection of material related to the first three national congresses: the Stamp Act Congress (October 7-25, 1765), the First Continental Congress (September 5-October 26, 1774), and the Second Continental Congress (May 10, 1775, to March 1, 1781).

In his Introduction to this book, Shain explains that in the scholarly study of the thinking that led to the Declaration of Independence, there are at least seven different schools of interpretation.  Of these seven, Shain suggests that what he calls "the Imperial school" interpretation is strongly confirmed by the documents he has collected in his book.  According to the Imperial school, the debates that led to the American Revolution were part of a unique historical situation--the British Imperial Crisis (from the Stamp Act Crisis of 1763 to the end of the American Revolution in 1783)--which was a seemingly irresolvable debate over how to protect the British political rights of the American colonists, within the British Empire, while maintaining Parliament's supremacy in Great Britain.  This was not, therefore, Shain argues, a debate about universal natural rights of all human beings (as assumed by Lockean liberals), but rather it was a debate about the civil rights of British citizens under the British Constitution.

If this is true, then the natural rights theorizing of the Declaration of Independence (particularly in the second sentence) is not an accurate expression of colonial political thinking over the preceding twelve years of debate over the rights of the colonists in the British Empire.  Shain agrees with the conclusion of Charles McIlwain (one of the first Imperial school scholars) in his book The American Revolution:

"The Declaration of Independence is a totally different kind of document from any of its predecessors.  For the first time the grievances it voices are grievances against the King, and not against Parliament.  It is addressed to the world, not to Great Britain, and naturally the ground of such a protest will be one understood by a world that knows little of the British constitution and cares less: it will be based on the law of nature instead of the constitution of the British Empire."

Shain asserts: "The readings that follow, I believe, will offer copious and compelling support for McIlwain's conclusion" (8).

Moreover, he believes that the readings he has chosen for his book should have a higher level of interpretive authority than other collections of source materials on the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.  Presumably, the documents for the three continental congresses, with delegates selected to represent all of the colonies, express a broad range of views of continental constituencies, rather than particular individuals, cities, or colonies. 

I am not persuaded, however, that those documents for the continental congresses really do support the conclusion of McIlwain and Shain that prior to the summer of 1776, the majority of the congressional delegates appealed to the legal rights of the colonists under the British Constitution, while refusing to appeal to any supposed natural rights or law of nature.

Consider, for example, the debate in the First Continental Congress over how to understand the rights of the colonies.  There were 56 delegates from 12 colonies.  On the second day that the Congress met, September 6, 1774, after Patrick Henry's declaration that "we are in a state of nature," the Congress resolved to appoint delegates to a committee to examine the colonies' rights and to compile a list of grievances.

In his Diary, John Adams described the debate in this committee: 

"The two Points which laboured the most, were 1. Whether We should recur to the Law of Nature, as well as to the British Constitution and our American Charters and Grants.  Mr. Galloway and Mr. Duane were for excluding the Law of Nature.  I was very strenuous for retaining and insisting on it, as a Resource to which We might be driven, by Parliament much sooner than We were aware.  The other great question was what Authority We should conceed to Parliament: whether We should deny the Authority of Parliament in all Cases: whether We should allow any Authority to it, in our internal Affairs: or whether We should allow it to regulate the Trade of the Empire, with or without any restrictions" (Diary and Autobiography [Harvard University Press, 1961], 3:309).

According to Shain, Adams here joined the "radicals" or "republicans" in the Congress in appealing to the law of nature, while Galloway and Duane were on the side of the "moderates" or "loyalists" in appealing only to the British Constitution.  But while Shain says the loyalists were the majority, I don't see the evidence for that.

In his book, Shain includes Adams' notes of the debate for September 8, 1774, which Shain describes as "one of the most theoretically rich documents in this collection" (Shain, 220-25).  In this debate, only three individuals reject the appeal to the law of nature--John Rutledge of South Carolina, James Duane of New York, and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania--a small minority in the Congress, which had 56 delegates.

Richard Henry Lee begins by claiming: "The Rights are built on a fourfold foundation--on Nature, on the british Constitution, on Charters, and on immemorial Usage."

John Jay agrees: "It is necessary to recur to the Law of Nature, and the british Constitution to ascertain our Rights."  He also says that the colonists had a right to emigrate from England, and "Emigrants have a Right, to erect what Government they please."

But Rutledge disagrees:  "An Emigrant would not have a Right, to erect what Government they please."

Lee responds: "Cant see why We should not lay our Rights upon the broadest Bottom, the Ground of Nature.  Our Ancestors found here no Government."

But Rutledge insists: "Our Claims I think are well founded on the british Constitution, and not on the Law of Nature."

Duane agrees:  "Upon the whole for grounding our Rights on the Laws and Constitution of the Country from whence We sprung, and Charters, without recurring to the Law of Nature--because this will be a feeble Support."

Lee appeals to the state of nature:  "Life and Liberty, which is necessary for the Security of Life, cannot be given up when We enter into Society."

Rutledge disagrees:  "The first Emigrants could not be considered as in a State of Nature--they had no Right to elect a new King."

Galloway joins with Rutledge and Duane in rejecting the state of nature:  "I have looked for our Rights in the Laws of Nature--but could not find them in a State of Nature, but always in a State of political Society.  I have looked for them in the Constitution of the English Government, and there found them.  We may draw them from this Source securely."

Notice that while the radicals appeal both to the laws of nature and to the British Constitution, the three loyalists here argue that any appeal to the British Constitution must exclude any appeal to the law of nature.  

As far as I can tell, Galloway, Rutledge, and Duane are the only delegates who here reject any consideration of the law of nature.  But all three contradict themselves within a few weeks by voting for resolutions that invoke the law of nature.

On September 17, the Congress was presented with the "Suffolk Resolves," resolutions approved by delegates from several towns and districts in Suffolk county of Massachusetts bay, the county that included Boston (Shain, 146-51).  They were written by Joseph Warren, with help from Samuel Adams, who were leading radicals in Massachusetts.  The Resolves defended the colonial rights of Massachusetts as "derived from nature, the constitution of Britain, and the privileges warranted to us in the charter of the province," rights to which they are "justly entitled by the laws of nature, the British constitution, and the charter of the province."  On September 18, the Continental Congress approved resolutions endorsing the Suffolk Resolves and asking that they be published in the newspapers.  By approving these resolutions, Galloway, Rutledge, and Duane appeared to implicitly endorse the appeal to the law of nature.

Then, on October 20, the Congress approved a plan for establishing the Continental Association to enforce a colonial boycott of British goods (Shain, 181-86).  Part of that plan was that a committee be chosen by popular election in every county, city, and town, which would identify those people who were violating the boycott so that they could be punished by public shaming and ostracism.  John Adams called this Continental Association "the commencement of the American Union," because this was the first time that the American people had established something like a national governmental authority.  Since the Continental Congress had no legal authority under the British Constitution to do this, the Congress was implicitly exercising the natural right of the people in a state of nature to establish new governmental institutions to secure the public good.  By voting for this, Galloway, Rutledge, and Duane were implicitly appealing to the law of nature in a state of nature.

Shortly before the Congress adjourned on October 26, the Congress approved a "Bill of Rights and List of Grievances," with language that anticipated in many ways the Declaration of Independence.  In this Bill of Rights, they declared "THAT the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters, have the following RIGHTS."  The first in the list of rights was "THAT they are entitled to life, liberty, and property: and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent" (Shain, 212).  In voting for this, Galloway, Rutledge, and Duane recognized those "immutable laws of nature."

Of these three people, Galloway was the only one who ultimately decided to take the loyalist position against the Declaration of Independence and its appeal to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  In the First Continental Congress, he had proposed a "Plan of Union" that would have unified the colonies within the British Empire (Shain, 155-174).  This plan would have established an American legislature for regulating the general affairs of America, while each colonial legislature would continue to regulate its internal affairs.  General regulations could be proposed by either the new American legislature or by the British Parliament, but the enactment of these regulations would require the assent of both.  After debating Galloway's plan, the Congress voted against accepting it; and the record of the plan was expunged from the congressional Journal.

In his speech arguing for his Plan, Galloway warned that if the Plan was rejected, the colonies would remain disunited, without any national government.  "That while they deny the authority of Parliament, they are, in respect to each other, in a perfect state of nature, destitute of any supreme direction or decision whatever, and incompetent to the grant of national aids, or any other general measure whatever, even to the settlement of differences among themselves" (Shain, 168).

But when the Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775, it exercised the natural right of the people in a state of nature to establish a new government, because this Continental Congress acted as a provisional national government that managed the revolutionary war and approved the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation in 1777, which were ratified in 1781.  

In 1775, Galloway quit the Pennsylvania Assembly and refused to serve in the new Continental Congress.  He opposed the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  After the Declaration was signed, he fled to New York to join the British and become a top advisor to William Howe, the commander-in-chief of British forces in North America.  After the British captured Philadelphia in September, 1777, Howe appointed him as one of the administrators over the city.  When the British left Philadelphia in June of 1778, Galloway escaped to England.  For the rest of the war, he was a leader of the loyalist colonists in England.

In contrast to Galloway, Rutledge and Duane both served in the Second Continental Congress, supported the Declaration of Independence, and served in the new national government.  Duane eventually became a federal judge appointed by George Washington.  Rutledge became a Justice (and later Chief Justice) of the United States Supreme Court.

So it seems that Galloway was the member of the Continental Congress who persisted in his loyalist denial that the American colonists had any natural right to declare their independence and "to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Many of the loyalists like Galloway joined the British in fighting the American revolutionaries.  And as I have argued, the debate between the loyalists and the revolutionaries was ultimately decided by what Locke called an "Appeal to Heaven"--an appeal to the God of Battles.  The Second Continental Congress recognized this in their "Second Proclamation for a Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer," of March 16, 1776, where they appealed to "the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and success" (Shain, 407).

Friday, November 03, 2023

The Evolution of Religious Pluralism Refutes Integralist Orthodoxy and Supports Lockean Liberal Christianity

I have long argued that the desire for religious understanding is one of the twenty natural desires of our evolved human nature.  If the good is the desirable, then we can judge the goodness of a social order by how well it secures the conditions for human beings to pursue the satisfaction of those natural desires.  The Catholic integralists will say that a Catholic integralist regime is the best social order because it enforces belief in the one true religion and thus satisfies the natural desire for religious understanding.  But are mistaken because they fail to see that the evolved natural desire for religious understanding is pluralistic in that human beings disagree in what they believe to be the true religious experience of the transcendent world.  

In a new book--All the Kingdoms of the World: On Radical Religious Alternatives to Liberalism--Kevin Vallier has developed this point as the fundamental weakness in integralism:  since religious pluralism is natural to human beings, integralism's attempt to suppress religious pluralism contradicts human nature.  Vallier acknowledges but does not develop Robin Dunbar's evolutionary explanation of this natural religious pluralism.  Neither Vallier nor Dunbar see how this evolutionary science of religious pluralism support's John Locke's liberal theology of Christianity--that since "everyone is orthodox to themselves," there is no set of universal doctrines binding on all Christians; and therefore, there is no orthodoxy strictly speaking that can be properly enforced by government.  

For this reason, a Lockean liberal social order that secures religious liberty is the best regime for promoting the pluralistic pursuit of religious happiness.  It does this by creating a marketplace of religion in which churches compete for customers, and those churches that best satisfy the desire for religious experience increase their share of the market.


Vallier begins by developing what he regards as the two strongest arguments favoring integralism.  But then he counters this with three arguments that refute integralism.  The three arguments against integralism are all rooted in the problem of natural religious pluralism.  Vallier does not see, however, that the problem of pluralism also subverts his two arguments favoring integralism.

The two arguments in support of integralism are the history argument and the symmetry argument.  The history argument is that for many centuries the practice of the Catholic Church has been to strive for a coercive political authority in enforcing Catholic orthodoxy, and the traditional teaching of the Church in authoritative Church documents has supported this practice.  But that history is a history of the Church's attempts to suppress religious pluralism by coercively punishing heretics, apostates, and schismatics.  Far from favoring integralism, this is a history of integralism's failure to achieve any stable agreement on the truth of the Church's view of orthodoxy.

Beginning in the early history of the Christian Church, there have been constant battles with one group of heretics after another.  For example, between AD 150 (with the Marcionist schism) and 1054 (with the Great Schism that separated the Latin Church in the West from the Greek Orthodox Church in the East), there were at least twenty-two major schisms in Christianity.

The Church Councils that met during the first five centuries of Christianity were called to rule against the numerous heresies that sprang up, many of which had to do with how to understand the place of Jesus Christ in the Trinity.  The first Council of Nicaea in 325 ruled against Arianism--the anti-Trinitarianism of Arius, an Alexandrian priest, who believed that while Jesus was the Son of God, he was not equal to God.  The Council of Ephesus in 431 ruled against Nestorianism--the teaching of Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, that the incarnate Christ had two separate natures--one divine and the other human--and that Mary was only the mother of the human Jesus, and thus not the Mother of God.  The Council of Chalcedon in 451 ruled against the view of the Coptic Churches that Christ had only one divine nature (monophysitism) and in favor of the view that Christ had two distinct natures, one divine and one human, but united in one person (dyophysitism).  The Coptic Churches continue today in North Africa, the Near East, and Ethiopia.

This persistence of religious pluralism weakens not only the history argument for integralism but also the symmetry argument.  What Vallier calls the symmetry argument is that governments should promote not only the natural goods of human life but also the supernatural goods such as salvation.  Governments should treat these goods symmetrically.  

But Vallier does not see how religious pluralism denies that these goods are symmetrical, because while human beings can agree on the general character of the natural goods, they cannot agree on the doctrines necessary for securing the supernatural goods.

Vallier does see how religious pluralism sustains his three arguments against integralism--the transition argument, the stability argument, and the justice argument.  The transition argument is that Catholic Integralism is infeasible because there is no realistic way to transform modern liberal societies that are religiously pluralistic into integralist societies that coercively enforce Catholic orthodoxy.

The stability argument is that even if a Catholic integralist order could be established, it would be so unstable because of religious pluralism that it would quickly collapse.

The justice argument is that while the integralists rightly recognize the injustice of forced baptism as a denial of religious liberty, they do not see the injustice of denying the liberty of baptized Christians to dissent from the doctrines of the Catholic Church.  Because of the natural human propensity to religious pluralism, any attempt to enforce Catholic orthodoxy in a large community must engage in unjust coercion. 

Vallier summarizes these three arguments against Catholic integralism in one sentence: "You can't get there, you can't stay there, and it's unfair" (226).

For an integralist social order to be feasible, stable, and just, Vallier suggests, grace would have to limit or overpower pluralism, but there is no reason to believe that could ever happen.  In the New Testament, "grace" is the translation for the Greek word charis, which denotes a divine influence upon the heart or what Vallier calls "God's unmerited aid" or "divine favor"--God's gift of faith through which Christians are guided by the Holy Spirit to see the truth of divine revelation, which could never be understood by natural human reason without the divine inspiration of faith (Vallier 2023:  49, 174).  If all, or at least most, people in a society were divinely infused with a faith that would enlighten their minds to embrace the same set of Catholic doctrines about what is necessary for salvation, this would be an integralist social order that would be feasible, stable, and just.  

This is not attainable, Vallier argues, because grace cannot limit pluralism.  On the contrary, grace promotes pluralism, because "heresy first arises from highly observant Christians who receive God's grace" (Vallier 2023: 188-98).   For example, in 1415, Jan Hus, a Catholic priest who sought to reform the Church, was condemned by the Council of Constance to be burned at the stake for heresy.  He sang hymns as he was burned to death.  Hus was a charismatic priest who inspired his followers in Bohemia to defeat five consecutive papal crusades against them from 1420 to 1431--the Hussite Wars.  Hus and the Hussites were intensely pious Christians.  Similarly, Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformers were all intensely pious.  Thus does the mystical experience of grace--of being divinely inspired with an experience of the transcendent--often move Christians to dissent from Catholic orthodoxy.


Vallier points to Robin Dunbar--in his How Religion Evolved--as possibly providing the best explanation for religious pluralism as arising from the evolution of religious experience (Vallier 2023: 1, 176).  Dunbar distinguishes between two broad kinds of religion.  The oldest religions that arose in the human evolutionary prehistoric state of nature of our hunter-gatherer ancestors are what Dunbar calls "shamanic" or "immersive" religions based on mystical experiences of the transcendent and charismatic shamans.  The newer religions that arose over the past 3,000 years are "doctrinal" religions based on formal ritual practices and theological belief systems.  Dunbar argues that in the doctrinal religions, "beneath the surface veneer of doctrinal rectitude lurks an ancient foundation of pagan mystical religion."  And consequently, the doctrinal religions are always threatened by a constant welling up of cults and sects fired by individual mystical experiences and the religious entrepreneurship of charismatic leaders (1-11, 26, 48, 243-44, 261-62).

I have written about the evolution of religion from the earliest animist mysticism to the later doctrinal theistic religions.  Dunbar distinguishes four or five phases in this evolutionary history that correspond to the expanding population of religious groups (256-61).  I have commented on Dunbar's "social brain hypothesis" as he presented it at the Mont Pelerin Society conference on evolution and liberty in the Galapagos in 2013.  In his evolutionary history of religion, Dunbar applies that idea to explain the natural propensity to religious pluralism.  

In the earliest period of human evolution, humans in very small hunter-gatherer bands of 100-200 individuals living in dispersed camps of 35-50 developed informal animistic religions. They did not have any gods as such, but they did imagine the natural world to be animated by spirits; and they believed that this world of spirits could be experienced through trance.  This animistic religion did not enforce any morality, but it did bind people together in their small bands through their shared religious experience of a transcendent spirit world.  These first human beings had larger brains with more neurons in the cerebral cortex than their primate ancestors.  This gave them a uniquely human mental capacity for symbolic imagination that allowed them to imagine spirit beings with minds similar to theirs.

In the second phase of religion, there arose religious specialists who practiced healing and divination through their special access to the spirit world.  Some of these charismatic shamans would attract followers who wanted to benefit from their special ability to intervene with the spirit world.

In the third phase of this evolution of religion, about 10,000 years ago, as human beings settled into permanent agrarian settlements, the size of their communities exceeded 300-400 individuals.  At this point, they had more formal religions with local gods, and formalized rituals with priests and temples, which provided some top-down collective control over communities that had become too large for social coordination through face-to-face relationships of reciprocal exchange.

In the fourth phase, about 4,000 years ago, societies became much larger with the establishment of the first city-states and empires.  Religion became even more formal and professional in the enforcement of formal ritual practices and theological doctrines.  Religious believers had some sense of belonging to the same religious community, but this membership was not based on any personal knowledge of the other members.

Finally, about 2,500 years ago, in what Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age, there arose the first monotheistic religions with "Moralizing High Gods" that enforce a doctrinal moral cosmology; and in some cases, with eternal rewards and punishments in the afterlife.

These modern doctrinal religions--including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism--have become global in scale with many millions of members around the world.  This creates a fundamental problem for the doctrinal religions, Dunbar observes, because if human beings have an evolved psychic disposition to live in small, intimate groups rather than large, impersonal groups, the large doctrinal religions will always have to fight against the religious fragmentation into cults and sects led by charismatic entrepreneurs and animated by personal mystical experience of the transcendent.  All forms of religious integralism have had to try--without much success--to coercively suppress this natural religious pluralism (243-64).


John Locke saw the futility and cruelty of the attempts by both Catholic and Protestant integralists to suppress Christian religious pluralism.  His solution to this problem was to propose a reform of Christian theology that would support religious liberty and toleration of religious pluralism.  To do this, he had to reject the traditional understanding of orthodoxy as a particular set of doctrines that was absolutely necessary for salvation.  Instead of this, Locke argued, "everyone was orthodox to themselves," in that everyone must believe in whatever they decided was necessary for them to believe to be saved, but with the understanding that they might be wrong, and that others must be free to believe other doctrines that seemed orthodox to them.  Recently, John Colman has explained this in his new book--Everyone Orthodox to Themselves: John Locke and His American Students on Religion and Liberal Society.

In The Reasonableness of Christianity, Locke claimed that the preaching of Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament made it clear that salvation required believing in only one doctrine--that Jesus is the Messiah.  This one doctrine was simple and clear enough to be understood by everyone, even the great multitude of uneducated and illiterate people to whom the gospel was directed.  

There are many other doctrines in the Bible that are so hard to understand, perhaps even beyond ordinary human understanding, that there have been endless controversies over their meaning, which has produced conflict among Christians about what set of doctrines should count as orthodoxy.  But once one sees that these disputed doctrines are not absolutely necessary for salvation, then one can say that as long as they believe that Jesus was the Messiah, we can allow Christians to decide for themselves whether they need to believe those other doctrines that have been debated.

This will allow us to say, as Locke did in the opening of his Letter Concerning Toleration, that "toleration is the chief characteristic mark of the true church," and that all Christians should be free to decide what is orthodox for themselves.


This Lockean liberal regime of toleration and religious liberty creates a marketplace of Christianity in which churches compete for members.  Even before the full opening up of that marketplace in the modern liberal regimes, there has always been a somewhat restricted marketplace of religion.  For example, the Protestant Reformation can be seen as a successful penetration of a religious market dominated by a monopoly firm--the Catholic Church.  The Catholic reaction in the Counter-Reformation continued the competitive process with doctrinal and organizational innovations to make the Catholic Church more competitive (Ekelund, Hebert, and Tollison 2006).

Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (2014) have shown how the history of religion in the United States can be understood as a free market economy of religion based on the Lockean principle of religious voluntarism.  Churches in America have competed for adherents by evolving to satisfy the changing demands of religious consumers.

In all of this, we see the cultural evolution of the Christian churches to serve the natural desire for religious understanding in the pluralistic pursuit of religious happiness.


Colman, John. 2023. Everyone Orthodox to Themselves: John Locke and His American Students on Religion and Liberal Society.  Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Dunbar, Robin. 2022. How Religion Evolved, and How It Endures.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Ekelund, Robert B., Jr., Robert F. Hebert, and Robert D. Tollison. 2006.  The Marketplace of Christianity.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Finke, Roger, and Rodney Stark.  2014.  The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy.

Vallier, Kevin.  2023.  All the Kingdoms of the World: On Radical Religious Alternatives to Liberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.