The God Gene

I listened eagerly to author Dean Hamer today on the radio, who argued that religiosity and faithfulness are directly inherited in our DNA. Mr. Hamer’s new book, The God Gene : How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes, sounds absolutely fascinating, even though Publisher’s Weekly and others have panned him, in part because he is the scientist behind the “gay gene.”
Mr. Hamer is going out on an evolutionary limb with this hypothesis that, buried deep within our system, is a genetic code that, to varying degrees, provides transmissable expressions, feelings, and assumptions about spirituality, the afterlife, and our place in the world. Mr. Hamer, perhaps most provocatively, makes the case that this can be scientifically proven. I want to believe him that my own faith in some kind of godhead inheres within my physical being and is not a pure result of cultural modifcation and socialization. I’d like to believe, too, that all animals have some correlary to this gene, that their connectedness to us and us to them is physically enabled. And I’d like to believe that my own, particularly Jewish, faith is connected to 4000+ years of historical inheritance.
Of course, I haven’t read this yet. But for the longest time, I’ve felt that the interconnectedness of the world could be both physically and spiritually based, that circumstance and superstition are a subset of reality, and that ecstatic love and passionate prayer are intimated in our primordial and unconscious lives. Pushing this further, I wonder if ultimately these are the same things, the physical and the intangible, for which we’ve created artificial divides, much thanks to the Ancients.
This is from the inside flap of the book: “Popular science at its best, The God Gene is an in-depth, fully accessible inquiry into the cutting-edge research that is changing the way we think about ourselves, our world, and our culture. Written with balance and integrity, without seeking to confirm or deny the existence of God, The God Gene brilliantly illuminates the mechanism by which belief itself is biologically fostered.

3 thoughts on “The God Gene”

  1. Gay gene = Faith gene = lame.
    Next thing, you’ll be reporting on those Tim LaHaye ‘Left Behind’ novels.
    There are other writers with whom you can spend more productive time. Sy Hersh is currently on a tear. Check him out sometime…
    And your site never seems to save any of my personal data…

  2. Andrew,
    The science behind the gay gene has never, to my knowledge, been accepted by the scientific community. This doesn’t make it wrong, necessarily; plenty of correct theories have been rejected by the scientific community, and in fact Thomas Kuhn has argued that this sort of rejection is part of the process of paradigmatic shifts in science. Nonetheless, knowing next to nothing of genetic science, I find it preposterous to think that a single gene would control something as complex as gayness or religious feeling. I do know that this is not how the brain is said to work. That is, gayness is not something that has a specific location in the brain (nor does straightness, by the way). It way more messy and complex than that. And my non-scientific sense is that our genes are equally, if not more, messy and complex. If I am wrong, it is probably because I inherented the dreaded “talk out of your ass” gene.

  3. Michael and Victor,
    While I agree that I, too, may have the “talk out of your ass” gene, having never read any of the books by this author (who noted on the radio show that his boss told him not to write this book until he was retired — so perhaps he has the same gene as us) — I do think there’s something to genetics and heredity playing a role in just about everything we do, perhaps in ways that we’ll not know.
    I doubt that the author speaks of a single gene (granted, his book title is misleading then), but rather I think the idea is that biological diversity and evolution has allowed for us believe more deeply in things than we would normally allow. I don’t doubt that other sentient animals have this same gene (or whatever it is). As far as gayness goes, there must be something similar at work, no?

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