2019 ISSR Summer Conference:

Religion, Evolution


Social Bonding

The conference has now concluded. Please stay tuned for post-conference materials and details.


About the Conference

This conference, which took place from 21-24 July at Eynsham Hall Hotel outside of Oxford, was open to all evolutionary approaches to religion, but focused particularly on themes relating to the current ISSR research project — Religion and the Social Brain. Conference themes included the following:

·     How religion gradually evolved, and when it really became ‘religion.’

·     The interplay of social, biological and cognitive factors in the evolution of religion.

·     The particular contribution of religion to social bonding and group size.

·     The positive contribution that religion made to human evolution more generally.

·     Evolutionary perspectives on contemporary religion.

·     The theological and philosophical significance of the evolution of religion

Plenary speakers included:

  • Robin Dunbar 

  • Celia Deane-Drummond

  • Emmanuelle Honoré 

  • James W Jones

  • Richard Sosis

Presentations by members of the Religion and the Social Brain research team included:

  • Miguel Farias

  • Léon Turner

  • Joseph Watts

  • Fraser Watts

  • Simon Dein


About the Religion and Social Brain Project

This project, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, is developing an approach to the evolution of religion drawing on the Social Brain hypothesis of Professor Robin Dunbar. There is a particular focus on the synchronous rhythmic movement of trance dancing, and the effects of that on the endorphin system, and on social bonding and group size. The research includes:

·      Phylogenetic analyses of religion in Hunter-gatherer societies

·      Empirical studies of contemporary religion inspired by Social Brain theory

·      Explorations of the philosophical and theological significance of the Social Brain approach to religion.


For more about the project, please click the picture below:

Religion and the Social Brain

by Fraser Watts