Ina Wunn

(Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. phil. habil.) studied Biology and Geology at Philipps-University of Marburg and received her doctorate degree in Palaeontology (Dr. rer. nat.) in 1985. After a three-year stay in Africa she returned to university to study Religious Studies and Philosophy and to do a doctoral degree in Religious Studies in 1999. In 2002, she received her postdoctoral lecture qualification (venia legendi) in Religious Studies from University of Hanover and has been Professor for Religious Studies at the Universities of Bielefeld respectively Hanover since 2007. In her research Prof. Wunn focuses on theory of science, especially scientific approaches in the humanities, as well as theories of the origin of religion and prehistoric religion.

She has written extensively on subjects relating to these topics, inter alia Ancestors, Territoriality, and Gods. A Natural History of Religion (together with Davina Grojnowski), Springer 2016, Goetter, Gene, Genesis – die Biologie der Religionsentstehung (together with Patrick Urban and Constantin Klein), Springer, 2015, Religionen in vorgeschichtlicher Zeit, Kohlhammer, 2005, and Ethology of Religion, in: The Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition, 2005.


From the Selfish Gene through Rituals to Systems. 
Why and how religion emerged

Scientists agree that the ability to cooperate is one, if not the decisive developmental step toward intelligent humans, toward Homo faber.

However, this ability to cooperate has so far been postulated rather than actually derived by the humanities, because Richard Dawkins’ specification of evolutionary theory by his thesis of the selfish gene would at least have to prevent any form of togetherness that goes beyond contact with the mating partner or genetically closely related individuals.

It would have to be – if there were not on the biological side the process of ritualization, which makes togetherness possible and from which finally regular rituals emerged. The reference to ultimate values, which is produced again and again in the ritual, only makes it possible that an individual, according to Dawkins the survival machine of selfish genes, puts aside his egoisms in favor of the common good.

However, rituals have a special property: they give groups a structure including necessary hierarchies with a controlling function. This, however, is nothing else than a third-order system in the sense of system theory. A state is of course such a system, but so is the church. In order for such a system to function, the ultimate values shared by all individuals must again and again be realized in ritual, and this at the same time explains the importance of great state-supporting rituals such as coronations and national holidays, but above all of the ritualized cultus in religious communities.