Sunday, March 02, 2008

The God Gene - a book by Dean Hamer

Sometimes I run the risk of offending my regular readers with my rants against religion. Offense is never intended but I do adhere to the belief that religion is responsible for much evil in the world.

I always wonder why highly intelligent, knowledgeable people, even scientist for example are capable of believing in God.To me, a self proclaimed rationalist/materialist/atheist, it doesn't make sense. I have nothing against spiritualists, but I do have total contempt for organized religion. I'm perplexed that any person is capable of simultaneously having rational thoughts as well as irrational beliefs.

So, it is appropriate and timely that I review a book that attempts to grasp this mystery of the human brain.
Somebody actually has a theory to explain this mystery. Although it's only a theory it's at least a step in a positive direction.
For the evolutionists here is a tasty morsel from the book...from a biological point of view, spirituality does serve a purpose, it gives us optimism and optimism is essential for the survival of the individual. Anyway, that's jumping ahead in the book that I want to review.

A theory by Dean Hamer titled The God Gene.
The question is not whether science can prove or disprove the existence of God but whether science can prove that there is a gene responsible for human spirituality and the belief in God.
The author shows how psychological tests can in fact measure spirituality. He refers to the research of Robert Cloninger, a psychiatrist at Washington University Medical School in St Louis. The first behavioral scientist to have tried to quantify spirituality.

Spirituality defined as level one consciousness instead of level two consciousness. Another description is individuals that can transcend the self and feel at one with the universe.
That is going beyond the self-awareness mode and feeling at one with the universe. Something like the state achieved through transcendental meditation. In fact brain scans have been done to show which areas of the brain are active/inactive during that period of meditation.
The God Spot. Michael Persinger, a professor of psychology at Laurentian University, Canada, using transcranial magnetic stimulation claims to have discovered the biological basis of all spiritual and mystical experience.
The next step is to identify a gene that is responsible for that spirituality. Although a gene has been identified as having a connection to spirituality, it isn't exclusive. Well, it's a start isn't it?

The book concludes with the premise that spirituality in inherited and part of our genetic make-up whereas religion is something we learn to accept.

I find this point extremely significant because of the current onslaught of the atheists who feel it is only necessary to expose the myths and fallacies behind the foundation of religions, will be enough to open people's eyes and have them abandon their misconceived faith in God. If only it was that simple. This book has given me a better understanding of the significance of spirituality to people and how it is important in their lives.
Destroying the credibility of religions is one thing but destroying people's need to believe in spirituality is nigh impossible.

Dean Hamer
The God Gene
ISBN 0-385-50058-0


Jeannie said...

For many of us, our faith really is because of having an "other worldly" experience. Frankly, I've always had a problem with organized religion. Christianity today bears absolutely no resemblance to the early church in the bible. Unfortunately, religions are peopled with people - some of which follow by rote and wish to lead for power. I know many athiests like to believe that they are smarter than those who follow religion but I don't think so. I have tested at near genius levels and was athiest until I had an "experience" and a good many more since. If it were not for those experiences, and the hope they give me, I probably would have ended my life years ago out of despair and hopelessness - and the pointlessness of living if there is only pain. Yes, religion has caused a great deal of suffering in the world but there is a HUGE difference between religion and faith in God.

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, as you would know by now, I try to understand even if I don't believe.

BEAJ said...

You should check out the God Part of the Brain as well.
The main point is that early man became self-aware of mortality and had to deal with it by inventing supernatural causes, the same could be said of how they dealt with lightning. Science was pretty non existent 150-200,000 year ago, so to stop from going berserk and then going extinct, the humans who were best at inventing the supernatural were best at survival.
In other words, we've evolved the susceptibility to believe in God and the supernatural.