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Religious celibacy brings inclusive fitness benefits

Authors
  • Micheletti, Alberto J. C.
  • Ge, Erhao
  • Zhou, Liqiong
  • Chen, Yuan
  • Zhang, Hanzhi
  • Du, Juan
  • Mace, Ruth
Type
Published Article
Journal
Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
Publisher
The Royal Society
Publication Date
Jun 22, 2022
Volume
289
Issue
1977
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.0965
PMID: 35730152
PMCID: PMC9233928
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research Articles
License
Unknown

Abstract

The influence of inclusive fitness interests on the evolution of human institutions remains unclear. Religious celibacy constitutes an especially puzzling institution, often deemed maladaptive. Here, we present sociodemographic data from an agropastoralist Buddhist population in western China, where parents sometimes sent a son to the monastery. We find that men with a monk brother father more children, and grandparents with a monk son have more grandchildren, suggesting that the practice is adaptive. We develop a model of celibacy to elucidate the inclusive fitness costs and benefits associated with this behaviour. We show that a minority of sons being celibate can be favoured if this increases their brothers' reproductive success, but only if the decision is under parental, rather than individual, control. These conditions apply to monks in our study site. Inclusive fitness considerations appear to play a key role in shaping parental preferences to adopt this cultural practice.

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