Pulotu: Database of Austronesian Supernatural Beliefs and Practices

  title={Pulotu: Database of Austronesian Supernatural Beliefs and Practices},
  author={Joseph Watts and Oliver Sheehan and Simon J. Greenhill and Stephanie Gomes-Ng and Quentin D. Atkinson and Joseph A. Bulbulia and Russell David Gray},
  journal={PLoS ONE},
Scholars have debated naturalistic theories of religion for thousands of years, but only recently have scientists begun to test predictions empirically. Existing databases contain few variables on religion, and are subject to Galton’s Problem because they do not sufficiently account for the non-independence of cultures or systematically differentiate the traditional states of cultures from their contemporary states. Here we present Pulotu: the first quantitative cross-cultural database purpose… Expand

Paper Mentions

The cultural evolution of shamanism
  • Manvir Singh
  • Sociology, Medicine
  • Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • 2017
A cultural evolutionary theory is proposed to explain why shamanism consistently develops and why shamanic traditions exhibit recurrent features around the world and how shifting social conditions affect the form or existence of shamanism. Expand
Christianity spread faster in small, politically structured societies
It is found that conversion to Christianity typically took less than 30 years, and societies with political leadership and smaller populations were fastest to convert, indicating that Christianity’s success in the Pacific is not due to its egalitarian doctrine empowering social underclasses. Expand
Who’s Afraid of the S-word? Deviants’ Burials and Human Sacrifice
Over the last couple of decades, archaeologists interested in studies of ritualized violence have continued to debate the possibility, extent, and possible evidence for human sacrifice in much of theExpand
Ritual human sacrifice promoted and sustained the evolution of stratified societies
The results reveal a darker link between religion and the evolution of modern hierarchical societies, and strong support for models in which human sacrifice stabilizes social stratification once stratification has arisen, and promotes a shift to strictly inherited class systems. Expand
Small gods, rituals, and cooperation: The Mentawai water spirit Sikameinan
Abstract Cognitive and evolutionary research has focused on the powerful deities of large-scale societies, yet little work has examined the smaller gods of animist traditions. In a study of the waterExpand
The Evolution of Gods’ Minds in the Tyva Republic
As appeals to what gods know and care about often motivate and rationalize human behavior, understanding shared models of gods’ minds is crucial for understanding religion’s contributions to humanExpand
What drives afterlife variation?
In God is Watching You, Dominic Johnson emphasizes the extent to which supernatural punishment beliefs are found in our species, and also suggests tentative explanations as to how and why suchExpand
Evolutionary, Cognitive, and Contextual Approaches to the Study of Religious Systems
The explanatory gap between the life sciences and the humanities that is present in the study of human phenomena impedes productive interdisciplinary examination that such a complex subject requires.Expand
Coding culture: challenges and recommendations for comparative cultural databases
Here, some major challenges to progress in the construction of large comparative databases of cultural history are described, including recognising the critical role of theory, selecting appropriate units of analysis, data gathering and sampling strategies, winning expert buy-in, achieving reliability and reproducibility in coding, and ensuring interoperability and sustainability of the resulting databases. Expand
Cultural macroevolution matters
It is argued that the growing availability of large cross-cultural datasets facilitates the use of computational methods derived from evolutionary biology to answer broad-scale questions about the major transitions in human social organization. Expand


Austronesian culture history: Some linguistic inferences and their relations to the archaeological record
Abstract Although subject to limitations of its own, historical linguistics can illuminate fragments of the human cultural past that are often irrecoverable from the archaeological record. Where bothExpand
Early Austronesians: into and out of Taiwan.
Bayesian phylogenetic analysis allows us to reconstruct a history of early Austronesians arriving in Taiwan in the north, spreading rapidly to the south, and leaving Taiwan ~4,000 years ago to spread throughout Island Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and Oceania. Expand
Broad supernatural punishment but not moralizing high gods precede the evolution of political complexity in Austronesia
Evidence that broad supernatural punishment drives political complexity, whereas MHGs follow political complexity is found, suggesting that the concept of MHGs diffused as part of a suite of traits arising from cultural exchange between complex societies. Expand
The Comparative Method in Anthropology [and Comments and Reply]
Cross-cultural comparison is a common method of testing hypotheses regarding the co-evolution of elements of cultures or of the adaptiveness of a cultural practice to some aspect of the environment.Expand
Cultural evolution of religion
Religion may be one factor that enabled large-scale complex human societies to evolve. Utilizing a cultural evolutionary approach, this chapter seeks explanations for patterns of complexity andExpand
Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society
One of the great intellectual battles of modern times is between evolution and religion. Until now, they have been considered completely irreconcilable theories of origin and existence. David SloanExpand
The Development of a New Religion in Kalimantan, Central Borneo
For the last forty-five years religious manifestations in Indonesian Borneo have been intensely studied, described and explained by foreign observers and indigenous participants alike. To understandExpand
Evolutionary accounts of belief in supernatural punishment: a critical review
Although largely unaddressed by evolutionary theory for more than a century after Darwin, over the last decade a wide range of adaptationist, byproduct, and memetic explanations have emerged forExpand
The ecology of religious beliefs
It is shown that the spatial prevalence of human societies that believe in moralizing high gods can be predicted with a high level of accuracy (91%) from historical, social, and ecological data, and the relative importance of different potential mechanisms by which this spatial pattern may have arisen is estimated. Expand
How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai'i
In "How Chiefs Became Kings", Patrick Vinton Kirch addresses a central problem in anthropological archaeology: the emergence of "archaic states" whose distinctive feature was divine kingship. KirchExpand