Dunbar supports his theory by stating that humans needed something to stop them from killing and hurting each other and religion provided the necessary logic by presenting the idea that all humans were part of one family.
The evolutionary psychology professor, who teaches at Oxford University, had previously earned fame for his research on animal social networks. He found each species of primate was able to form and hold a social bond with other members of its own species. He also found the larger the brain of a certain primate species, the more social networks this species formed. For example, apes were better at forming social bonds compared to monkeys.
Similarly, Dunbar discovered humans were the most capable in terms of maintaining social relationships. In fact, he is the founder of “Dunbar’s number,” a construct which is used in reference to the consistent number of social ties a human being can maintain. According to Dunbar’s n umber, the average human can maintain ties with 5 intimate friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, and 1,500 acquaintances.
In his recent quest to determine why the numbers were so significantly high for humans, he believes to have found his answer in religion. According to Dunbar, most of his observations pointed to religion in one form or the other.
This is in line with what neuroscientists have recently begun stating – that religion is natural. Now, with Dunbar’s hypothesis, it would make sense why most people are religious. After all, it could have laid the foundation for all of society’s most important functions.
Dunbar has conducted other studies where he found laughter and singing to be the two other key components involved in the development of social relationships. Religion is the third component that the scientist is trying to unravel.
Dunbar states that all three components trigger what is known as an endorphin release within the body, which leads to bonding.
However, the role of religion will be explored further only in April. The scientist expects to see conclusive results within a period of three years. The study will rely on an “evolutionary tree of religion” to determine when religious traditions came about and how they became connected with each other.