So the following articles are a few years old and perhaps many of you have already heard and read up on the issue, but it's all somewhat new to me. The issue: The God Gene which is discussed further in the book by the same name by Dean Hamer and even went on to be a covered in Time Magazine (pictured). The idea is simple, certain people are predisposed evolutionarily to believe in a higher being based on them having the VMAT2 gene. While the gene does not conclusively decide that the people with the gene will believe in God, the gene does "handle one type of brain chemical, monoamines, that have a lot to do with emotional sensitivity." In essence people with this gene can create the emotional stimulants necessary to believe in God, and then have encounters with this higher being.
This is all well and proper, but if this discovery were true, one would expect more publicity on the issue, even for the issue to be popular today. However, the reason the issue has become a dead issue is because Hamer's findings are without proper scientific criticism. Hamer even released his book without proper testing. This was not the first time Hamer released controversial findings without solid foundation: In 1993, Hamer claimed to have found a gay gene, but was also not accepted into the scientific community. One can read a brief critical piece of Hamer's poor scientific work on the God Gene from famous scientist, Carl Zimmer, here. There is another critical piece here that handles the issue from more of a theological perspective.
So the issue is dead. But as for my two cents, while I do reject the idea of a God gene theologically, I think there is something to be said about someone's ability to produce emotional and euphoric highs based on chemical reactions in the brain. I have not read up on the issue as properly as I should (but this is a blog, not a scientific quarterly article), but....
I have observed some Christians able to just go head over heels emotionally over God in church ("power worship")...and to me these individuals appear to be on a completely different plane spiritually and emotionally than myself. I have tried time and time again to work myself or to attempt to allow God to alter my consciousness through his Spirit to such a point emotionally that I reflect the "holy rollers" and "ceiling jumpers" we see in church, and I just can't do it.
It's not that I am intimated by those observers around me, because that is the last of my worries, nor do I find myself anxious when praising God, it's just that I cannot find myself at such an emotional plain that I can do the things of those apparently more spiritual than I. And as the man interested in cognitive science, I do wholly admit the possibility that I am faulting genetics too much when my lack of inclination to "power worship" is fully a spiritual fault of my own....but I am just suggesting that is it possible that some of us are more predisposed than others towards acts of "power worship"? What are your thoughts?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Posted by Joel Riley at 12:05 PM