How religion evolved and why it endures

March 19, 2024DR Koncerthuset Copenhagen
Scienceandcocktails many people worshiping a big statue of budd 24855af3 19aa 4408 be12 768543c58c16
Doors open: 19:00
Start programme: 20:00
DR Koncerthuset
Ørestads Blvd. 13

Science & Cocktails is proud to present an episode with Robin Dunbar, world-renowned evolutionary psychologist working at the social and evolutionary neuroscience group at the University of Oxford. He has made foundational contributions to the understanding of bonding in primates and humans which led to the notion of a “social brain” and “social neuroscience”. He has written books on the evolution of human beings, the evolution of language and the evolution of religion. All this comes after Rhinestone Valley fills up the room with country and western music.

Why are humans the only species to have religions? Does religion provide genuine evolutionary benefits? Why are humans uniquely susceptible to the “mystical stance”? When did religion first evolve? Why do religions keep reinventing themselves?

Religion is the one thing that clearly differentiates humans from all other animals. That in itself raises a whole series of questions: Why did religion evolve? When did the capacity for religion first evolve? What cognitive abilities allow humans to be religious but apes not? Is religion at all beneficial?

In this episode Robin Dunbar will argue that religion evolved to help bond our unusually large social groups, and became especially important after we started living in increasingly large villages and towns from around 8000 years ago. He will suggest that religion built on very ancient psychological traits that, while playing a crucial role in creating both friendships and bonded communities, can, under certain circumstances, give rise to what he calls “the mystical stance” – a capacity that, through trance states, allows us to feel that we engage directly with mysterious forces that control the universe. Leaving us with one tantalizing question: did the Neanderthals die out because they weren’t religious?

Event held in English.


  • 20:00–   20:45
    Rhinestone Valley– 
  • 21:15–   22:15
    Robin Dunbar– 
  • 22:15–   23:15
    Ms. Jekel– 

Talk by

Robin Dunbar

Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of Magdalen College, and an elected Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Finnish Academy of Science & Letters and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His principal research interests focus on the evolution of sociality (with particular reference to primates and humans). He is best known for the social brain hypothesis, the gossip theory of language evolution and Dunbar’s Number (the limit on the number of manageable relationships we can have). His publications include 34 authored and edited books and more than 500 journal articles and book chapters. His popular science books include The Trouble With Science; Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language; The Science of Love and Betrayal; Human Evolution; Evolution: What Everyone Needs To Know; Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships; How Religion Evolved; and The Social Brain: The Psychology of Successful Groups.


Music by

Rhinestone Valley

The Copenhagen based Country & Western/Americana duo Rhinestone Valley tells vivid stories set to swaying rhythms, mixing swampy vibes with a touch of twang. Their music captures the essence of the anti-hero’s everyday struggles in a world that's both simple and complex. No subject is too trivial, nor too grand - as reflected in a sonic landscape ranging from gentle acoustic tunes to cinematic guitar sounds backed by a band that just won’t quit.

Rhinestone Pic

Live act by

Ms. Jekel

An avid collector of french retromusic on vinyl for the past 20 years, she has made her mark as a regular DJ in the Copenhagen scene playing her vast and eclectic record collection! At Science and Cocktails she will tour de france with a variety of genres from old school chanson over mod-jazz and rare 60's yé-yé pop. She'll mix it up with some lounge music and a bit of groovy soul that goes hand in hand with a good glass of wine.

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