Saturday, April 23, 2005

Is God in Our Genes?

A summary of an interesting Time (Nov 8, 2004 Aus. ed.) article:

A molecular biologist called Dean Hamer believes that human spirituality is an adaptive trait and claims to have located a gene that is partly responsible. The way the Time article put it is that “Our most profound feeling of spirituality…may be due to little more than an occasional shot of intoxicating brain chemicals governed by our DNA”

He is quoted as saying, “I’m a believer that every thought we think and every feeling we feel is the result of activity in the brain. I think we follow the basic laws of nature which is that we’re a bunch of chemical reactions running around in a bag.”

Another guy they quoted, Michael Persinger, professor of behavioural neuroscience at Laurentian Uni, says “anticipation of out own demise is the price we pay for a highly developed frontal lobe. In many ways, [a God experience is] a brilliant adaptation. It’s a built-in pacifier.”

According to Paul Davies, a professor of Natural Philosophy from Macquarie University in Sydney, “religions represent an attempt to harness innate spirituality for organisational purposes” i.e. a social mortar bringing groups together and enforcing social order.

Some theologians were ‘rankled’ by the implication that faith in God is nothing but a product of natural selection, but as Harmer says “[the] findings are agnostic on the existence of God. If there’s a God, there’s a God. Just knowing what brain chemicals are involved in acknowledging that is not going to change that fact.”

Then the article asks why, if spirituality is an adaptive trait, it is being used to organise ‘armed camps’. Robert Cloninger, a psychiatrist from University of Washington says that “while spiritual contemplation is intuitive religion is dogmatic; dogma in the wrong hands has always been a risky thing.”

It ends with a discussion on why some people are more religiously motivated than others and a discussion of environmental factors

1 comment:

Testimony said...

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