The God Gene : How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes
by Dean H. Hamer
From Publishers Weekly
This book’s title is more rhetorical effect than factual accuracy: Hamer, who discovered the controversial “gay gene” in the 1990s, reports that he has now found a gene that may correlate in some people with their level of spirituality—not with belief in a being we would call God or with the performance of traditional religious practices, but with what psychiatrist Robert Cloninger called “self-transcendence.” This trait is a capacity to feel at one with all life and with the universe as a whole, and Cloninger measured it with personality testing. The so-called “God gene” is a particular location in the human genome known as VMAT2, which affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. Hamer admits that the gene probably accounts for less than 1% of the total variance in human spirituality. The book’s later chapters become still more speculative, as Hamer, a molecular biologist at the National Cancer Institute, considers the scanty evidence of health benefits of spirituality, which would make faith an adaptive evolutionary trait. Hamer emphasizes that the existence of a “God gene” would neither prove nor disprove the reality of God. However, this gracefully written book may intrigue people of all faiths—or no faith—who wonder about the ultimate connection between science and religion.