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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes, by Dean Hamer, 2004

  1. Dec 25, 2004 #1
    Please forgive my prolificacy, but I have recently come across several good books and am very anxious to share the information:

    The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes, by Dean Hamer (2004)

    Part of Hamer's interest in writing this book is to publicize his work in finding the so-called God-Gene, or VMAT2. This one gene has a significant impact on the degree of self-transcendence, but other genes are yet to be found. What interests me is that we can now screen for this gene and eliminate it.

    Hamer then discusses temporal lobe epilepsy, and shows that this particular form of epilepsy can lead to profound religious experiences in afflicted people. From this, he and others have extrapolated that the temporal lobe must be the seat of all mystical experience (hallucinations) and that even normal people sometimes have temporal lobe misfirings that cause them to experience miraculous events. This is an extreme stretch of logic that needs far more research to connect self-transcendence with a singular area of the brain.

    He does tell us that 60,000 years ago, there is evidence that Neanderthal man had religion.

    Here are some excerpts from the book:

    ""Self-transcendence provides a numerical measure of people's capacity to reach out beyond themselves—to see everything in the world as part of one great totality. If I were to describe it in a single word, it might be 'at-one-ness.'"

    ""Self-transcendence is a term used to describe spiritual feelings that are independent of traditional religiousness. It is not based on belief in any particular God, frequency of prayer, or other orthodox religious doctrines or practices. Instead, it gets to the heart of spiritual belief: the nature of the universe and our place in it. Self-transcendent individuals tend to see everything, including themselves, as part of one great totality. They have a strong sense of 'at-one-ness'—of the connections between people, places, and things. Non-self-transcendent people, on the other hand, tend to have a more self-centered viewpoint. They focus on differences and discrepancies between people, places, and things, rather than similarities and interrelationships."

    "These are some of the questions used to assess the second sub-scale of self-transcendence, known as transpersonal identification. The hallmark of this trait is a feeling of connectedness to the universe and everything in it—animate and inanimate, human and nonhuman, anything and everything that can be seen, heard, smelled, or otherwise sensed. People who score high for transpersonal identification can become deeply, emotionally attached to other people, animals, trees, flowers, streams, or mountains. Sometimes they feel that everything is part of one living organism.

    "Transpersonal identification can lead people to make personal sacrifices to help others—for example, by fighting against war, poverty, or racism. It may inspire people to become environmentalists. Although there are no formal survey data, it is likely that members of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace score above average on this facet of self-transcendence. A drawback of transpersonal identification is that it can lead to fuzzy-headed idealism that actually hinders rather than helps the cause.

    "Individuals who score low on transpersonal identification feel less connected to the universe and therefore feel less responsible for what happens to the world and its inhabitants. They are more concerned about themselves than about others, more inclined to use nature than to appreciate it."

    "[People who score low on mysticism are] more materialistic and objective. They see an unusual loaf of bread or an unexpected parking opportunity as nothing more than coincidence. They don't believe in things that can't be explained scientifically."

    "Based on this experiment and other lines of evidence, Persinger believes that the biological basis of all spiritual and mystical experiences is due to spontaneous firing of the temporoparietal region—highly focal microseizures without any obvious motor effects. He calls such episodes transients and theorizes that they occur in everybody to some extent. Exactly how often and how strongly is determined by a mix of genes, environment, and experience. The main effect of such transients is to increase communication between the right and left temporoparietal areas, leading to a brief confusion between the sense of self and the sense of others. The outcome, he says, is a 'sense of a presence' that people interpret as a God, spirit, or other mystical being."

    ""I believe our genetic predisposition for faith is no accident. It provides us with a sense of purpose beyond ourselves and keeps us from being incapacitated by our dread of mortality. Our faith gives us the optimism to press on regardless of the hardships we face."
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2004
  2. jcsd
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