RETRACTED: Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history

Nature Vol/Iss. 567(7748) Springer Nature Publishing AG Published In Pages: 226-229
By Whitehouse, Harvey, François, Pieter, Savage, Patrick E., Curie, Thomas E., Feeney, Kevin C., Cioni, Enrico, Purcell, Rosalind, Moss, Robert M., Larson, Jennifer, Baines, John, ter Haar, Barend, Covey, Alan, Turchin, Peter


RETRACTED: There is an association between moral gods and social complexity (227).


The authors maintained this hypothesis in their reanalysis since the results did not significantly change: The construction of the overall social complexity measure comes from 51 variables falling under various categories. Variables of money include articles, tokens, precious metals, foreign coins, indigenous coins, and paper currency. Text variables are the calendar, sacred texts, religious literature, practical literature, history, philosophy, scientific literature, and fiction. Variables from the information system category are mnemonic devices, nonwritten records, written records, script, no-phonetic writing, phonetic alphabetic writing, list tables, and classifications. Variables in the government group are professional military officers, professional soldiers, professional priesthood, full-time bureaucrats, examination system, merit promotion, specialized government buildings, courts, formal legal code, judges, and professional lawyers. The hierarchical complexity group includes administrative levels, military levels, religious levels, and settlement hierarchy. Lastly, there are three groups with the same name as their category: the population of the largest settlement, polity territory, and polity population. There was then an aggregation of the 51 variables into nine using principal component analysis and finally into overall social complexity. Moral gods were present if high gods and other gods were present, active, and supportive of human morality; otherwise, they were absent.


Test NameSupportSignificanceCoefficientTail
Logistic RegressionSupportedp < 0.001UNKNOWNUNKNOWN