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self-interest to the interests of the group." Why does religion persist when its primary role, that of providing social cohesion, is now supplied by many other cultural and political institutions? While religion may no longer be socially necessary, it nevertheless fills a strong need for many people, and this may reflect the presence of genetic predisposition. Wilson, for one, believes that religion has a genetic basis, that its sources "are in fact hereditary, urged into birth through biases in mental development encoded in the genes."

Religion, language and reciprocity are three comparatively recent elements of the glue that holds human societies together. All seem to have emerged some 50,000 years ago. But a far more ancient adaptation for social cohesiveness, one that set human societies on a decisively different path from those of apes, was the formation of the pair bond. Much of human nature consists of the behaviors necessary to support the male-female bond and a man's willingness to protect his family in return for a woman's willingness to bear only his children.

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