Precinct 333

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Is Faith Genetic?

Do genetics play a role in religious faith? One American geneticist seems to think so.

Dr. Dean Hamer, of the National Cancer Institute, makes his claim based upon a study of 2000 volunteers.

Dr Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit at the National Cancer Institute in America, asked volunteers 226 questions in order to determine how spiritually connected they felt to the universe. The higher their score, the greater a person's ability to believe in a greater spiritual force and, Dr Hamer found, the more likely they were to share the gene, VMAT2.

Studies on twins showed that those with this gene, a vesicular monoamine transporter that regulates the flow of mood-altering chemicals in the brain, were more likely to develop a spiritual belief. Growing up in a religious environment was said to have little effect on belief. Dr Hamer, who in 1993 claimed to have identified a DNA sequence linked to male homosexuality, said the existence of the "god gene" explained why some people had more aptitude for spirituality than others.
Needless to say, this raises questions. Is the notion of faith undercut if belief is predetermined by genetics? Does it do away with the notion of God?

Dr. Hamer says no. In fact, he claims just the opposite.

"Religious believers can point to the existence of god genes as one more sign of the creator's ingenuity - a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence."
You can read more about the subject in his book, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hard-Wired Into Our Genes.


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