Sir Edward Burnett Tylor

Sir Edward Tylor was responsible for forming t...
Sir Edward Tylor was responsible for forming the definition of animism currently accepted in anthropology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) was an English anthropologist who developed a theory of animism to try to explain the origins of religion. Tylor believed that so-called primitive man developed a belief in spirits existing in nature from the actual experience of sleep, dreams and breathing. Like many researchers who think they know better than the people they are researching, it was probably too much of a stretch for him to take the idea on its own terms.

Generally regarded as the founder of social anthropology, Tylor believed that social systems gradually evolve from the simpler and ruder to the complex and sophisticated. For Tylor, the belief in God is nothing more than a primitive, somewhat outmoded survival mechanism. He also believed that science could explain what were once religious issues.

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