Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kristof on The God Gene

Also in today's Times is is this column from Nicholas Kristof. He discusses Dean Hamer's book The God Gene. It's pretty familiar stuff, but one paragraph caught my eye:

Of course, none of that answers the question whether God exists. The faithful can believe that God wired us to appreciate divinity. And atheists can argue that God may simply be a figment of our VMAT2 gene.

Now, I have no opinion on whether Hamer is right about a proclivity for religious belief having a genetic component. The idea currently resides somewhere between “not ridiculous” and “not proved” in my opinion.

But if Hamer is correct then it would be hard for religious people to argue that such a gene is simply God's way of making us appreciate divinity. Presumably some people would have, and others would lack, such a gene. Would we conclude that God arranged things so that people lacking the gene would find it difficult to appreciate divinity?

The discovery of such a gene would be harmful to religion in another way. One of the main reasons evolution is viewed as a threat to religion is that it robs the argument from design of most of its force. Confirmation of Hamer's hypothesis would rob religion of another of its key arguments: that the widespread belief in the supernatural reflects the reality of something beyond nature. If that widespread belief could be attributed to genetics, then this argument would have no impact.

Whatever. A question of more immediate import is how the people who defended Larry Summers will respond to this column. Do you think they will praise Kristof's courage for raising a potentially disturbing hypothesis in a public forum? Don't hold your breath.


At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'god gene' hypothesis would interfere with the argument that evil is required because of human free will. On the other hand, it would make all the preordination fans happy. "I don't believe in God." "That's because our loving God wants you to burn in Hell for all eternity and didn't give you the righteous allele!"

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Marc said...

Yeah, but see Calvinism.

Many Christians have had no trouble at all with the idea that God decides who gets saved and who doesn't.

Somehow the inconsistency with the whole "sin" thing never seemed to bother them.

All Xtian faiths (afaik) teach that grace is a gift, and grace is what saves you.

So yeah -- he does decide who gets the gene.


At 2:02 PM, Blogger klatu said...

The 'God Gene' hypothesis now has a literal and testable proof. Revolutionary stuff for those who can handle it? Quoting from a review of the Final Freedoms:

"Using a synthesis of scriptural material from the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha , The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Nag Hammadi Library, and some of the worlds great poetry, it describes and teaches a single moral LAW, a single moral principle, and offers the promise of its own proof; one in which the reality of God responds directly to an act of perfect faith with a individual intervention into the natural world; correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries. Intended to be understood metaphorically, where 'death' is ignorance and 'Life' is knowledge, this experience, personal encounter of transcendent power and moral purpose is the 'Resurrection', and justification for faith."

"Here then is the first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged. This new teaching delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition, that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable and 'extraordinary evidence' based truth embodied in action. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must now measure for itself, the reality of a new moral tenet, offering access by faith, to absolute proof for its belief."

Complete manuscript is a free pdf download at:


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