13 May 2010 (Chamashee/Teruah)|
Day #59, 5934 AM
Saved by VMAT2
Or My Genes Made Me Do It!
I suppose it had to be claimed sometime - after all, they have claimed that there are genes for homosexual behaviour, genes for alcoholism, genes for smoking, and genes for every other disposition under the sun. So when geneticist Dean Hamer claimed that they had found the gene which causes people to believe in God, I wasn't really too surprised. They have baptised this incredible gene "VMAT2".
Actually, he claims that 'God' is found in many genes but with VMAT2 appearing in those who were 'very religious'. No, I have no doubt that VMAT2 alters monoamine levels as Hamer claims because that is something that can be tested. What Hamar is not, of course, saying is that we have a 'God gene' - if you have it, you believe, if you don't, you don't. That would mean that faith was irresistable and unchangeable during your life. Yet people come to faith and lose it, and vice versa. No, what Hamar and others are claiming is that VMAT2 produces chemicals which are associated with mystical experiences and physiologist Robert Cloninger claims that it is now possible to quanitify it chemically.
Not all scientists agree. VMAT2 is, in fact, just a pump that moves monoamine neurotransmitters across brain synapses. Carl Zimmer takes a more realistic and scientific view when he suggested Hamar retitle his book on the subject, A Gene That Accounts for Less Than One Percent of the Variance Found in Scores of Psychological Questionnaires Designed to Measure a Factor Called Self-Transcendance, Which Can Signify Everything from Belonging to the Green Party to Believeing in ESP, According to One Unpublished, Unreplicated Study.
And that about sums it up. In truth, everything we do and feel produces a physiological and biochemical reactions. This was designed by the Creator to allow our spirits to function in physical space and time in physical bodies. The physical body is but a vehicle, not the cause of everything we experience. Yes, the physical body has also inherited the carnal nature, but whether this is passed on genetically or by some other means is not at all clear. What is clear is that the body is complex but does not make our moral choices for us - we are not the slaves of genes we have no control over in the moral, ethical and spiritual sphere. We do not sin because a gene or set of genes tells us to - we sin because we choose to. And we do not seek God because a gene predisposes us to - the need for Yahweh is a spiritual condition, not a biochemical illusion to allow us to to cling on to something transcendant in the struggle to survive in Darwin's world.
Anglican minister John Polkinghome and member of the Royal Society and Canonon Theologian at Liverpool Cathederal sums up this fuss about nothing adroitly:
Yahweh designed my genes to enable me to function in this dimension, and a wonderful job He did too. Yes, we are born with handicaps and limitations but nothing that prevents us from making the choices we need to make to both be saved and to retain that salvation until we are called home both to give account as well as to receive our rewards. I thank Him for my free-will and that I am not a slave to any genes!
"The idea of a God gene goes against all my personal theological convictions. You can't cut faith down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking."