This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Open Access 10 July 2023
Access Nature and 54 other Nature Portfolio journals
Get Nature+, our best-value online-access subscription
$29.99 / 30 days
cancel any time
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Supplementary data are available at https://github.com/babeheim/moralizing-gods-reanalysis. All software is freely available under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Source materials are available at http://seshatdatabank.info.
Re-analysis code is available at https://github.com/babeheim/moralizing-gods-reanalysis. All software is freely available under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Whitehouse, H., et al. Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history. Nature 568, 226–229 (2019).
Seshat: The Global History Databank (Evolution Institute & Seshat Project, 2015); http://seshatdatabank.info/
Watts, J. et al. Broad supernatural punishment but not moralizing high gods precede the evolution of political complexity in Austronesia. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 282, 20142556 (2015).
Little, R. J. A. & Rubin, D. B. Statistical Analysis with Missing Data (John Wiley & Sons, 2014).
McElreath, R. Statistical Rethinking: A Bayesian Course with Examples in R and Stan (Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2020).
Gelman, A. & Hill, J. Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/hierarchical Models. (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
Wheatley, P. The Pivot of the Four Quarters: A Preliminary Enquiry into the Origins and Character of the Ancient Chinese City (Edinburgh University Press, 1971)
We thank H. Whitehouse and co-authors for responding to our request for clarification and to our early notification of our intent to submit this report, and for making their code, source material, and data public. We thank three anonymous reviewers as well as the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, H. Colleran, J. C. Jackson, R. McElreath, E. Ready and J. Watts for feedback, and A. Ashtari, A. Barnett and T. Hwang for research and administrative support.
R.D.G., J.H., M.M., M.W.M., E.S. and R.S. are involved in the Database of Religious History (DRH) project, another freely available online historical database.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Extended data figures and tables
The solid line indicates when writing and moralizing gods (MGs) are first recorded in the same century, and the dashed lines show when writing appeared 100 years before moralizing gods and when moralizing gods appeared 100 years before writing. NGAs are coloured by whether social complexity data are available both before and after the appearance of moralizing gods or not. Only natural geographic areas with social complexity data available both before and after the appearance of moralizing gods were included in the analysis (and only these natural geographic areas are shown in Fig. 1). It must be noted that while writing first appears at 2500 bc in the Kachi Plain, it is absent for the subsequent two polities in the dataset, and does not reappear until 300 bc —the same time as the first appearance of moralizing gods.
Before statistical analyses were performed in Whitehouse, et al.1, all ‘unknown’ or ‘suspected unknown’ (NA) cases were treated as moralizing gods ‘absent’ (0) without explicit description in the manuscript. In box plots centre line shows median, box limits indicate upper and lower quartiles and whiskers span 1.5× interquartile range). N = 801 observations.
Dots represent mean social complexity as calculated by Whitehouse, et al.1 (a combination of population and territory size, infrastructure, hierarchy, and other factors, standardized between 0 and 1) collapsed across natural geographical area. Data are mean ± s.e.m. The shading of lines connecting the dots in a reflects the weight that the difference (d1,..., d7; on d1 and d2 are shown) between the social complexity at time point n and time point 0 in the t-test analysis performed by Whitehouse, et al.1 (that is, differences in social complexity are highest around time 0, hence driving the forward bias). Note that the increase in social complexity from time point −100 to 0 is coded as pre-moralizing gods, while the complexity often arrives via conquest or mission together with moralizing gods. a, The ‘first appearance’ of moralizing gods (MGs) in the archaeo-historical records follows a sharp increase (39%) in social complexity in the 12 geographical areas. b, The sharp increase in social complexity just before the appearance of moralizing gods is partially caused by ascribing properties of conquerors to the conquered regions in the Deccan, Kachi Plain and Sogdiana regions. c, Similarly, regions receiving moralizing gods via mission (Kansai, Niger Inland Delta and Orkhon Valley) experience a sharp increase in social complexity. d, The remaining six natural geographical areas where moralizing gods were not first recorded through conquest by a larger empire or through mission show a steady rise in social complexity.
About this article
Cite this article
Beheim, B., Atkinson, Q.D., Bulbulia, J. et al. Treatment of missing data determined conclusions regarding moralizing gods. Nature 595, E29–E34 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03655-4
This article is cited by
Nature Human Behaviour (2023)
Empirical Software Engineering (2023)
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (2023)