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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into…
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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes

by Dean H. Hamer

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    Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human by Matt Ridley (waltzmn)
    waltzmn: The God Gene was a controversial book, since it starts from something known with effective certainty (that much of behavior is genetically determined) to one that is more controversial although statistically fairly strong (that religious feeling is genetic) to something truly speculative (that particular genes influence faith). This is a topic which, although of great importance, needs much more study -- and Ridley's book supplies a good overview of the problems of the field.… (more)
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This book proved to be very interesting and worthwhile. At its beginning, I was hard pressed to believe in such a thing as a "God gene". However, as the author explains, the ability to experience spirituality is part of our DNA. He went on to cite how research has proven this. In understanding this, though, it's important to differentiate between spirituality and religion. The author gives examples of both. A most amazing confluence of religion, spirituality and cultures comes through in the examination of the DNA of the Jews, specifically the Y-chromosome as it has been traced from Jewish priests (Cohanim) of biblical times.

The book itself is easy to read. It doesn't get too far into genetics...only a bit in order to explain how the research on spirituality was done.

My personal belief is that science, spirituality, and religion can go hand in hand. I'd love to do further reading about this topic. Whatever your view on science versus religion is, this book should be on your reading list in order to broaden your understanding of this topic. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Sep 7, 2014 |
Dean Hamer is a renowned Harvard graduate and American geneticist. In his 2004 book, The God Gene, Hamer introduces a new, exciting topic for those interested in both religion and science: a theory of a spirituality trait in humans. Through research findings, personal anecdotes, and historical details, Hamer weaves together an interesting framework for his theory involving how humans can experience the divine at a biological level.

This book was interesting! I thought his scientific details and research findings were oversimplified, and he made several sweeping statements that I found to be too generalized. The findings are nowhere near conclusive. My other issue was the title: there is not one gene for spirituality because this is far too simple. I like to think that the title was most likely an editor's or publicist's attempt at providing the shock factor, but why call it The God Gene if within the first chapter the audience is reminded that the debate is much more complex?

Other than that, I like the basis of his argument. He included cultural and environmental ramifications if such a conglomeration of genes exists, and he also wove his findings into a brief explanation regarding the evolutionary implications of his work. If you have an interest in seeing how spirituality and science can be interwoven, then The God Gene is recommended. Note: this one includes lots of complicated (for me) scientific jargon, so be warned! ( )
  thewindowseatreader | Jan 27, 2011 |
It’s hard to review this book without launching into my own personal philosophy about the subject, because after all, when we read, we often bring the baggage of our own points of view in order to digest the material.

I picked up The God Gene for a variety of reasons (it’s always a variety that causes these pick-ups): the first, and most obvious, is that I believed the book would relate to certain aspects of my novel. In the end, I’m not sure it has, but it’s given me plenty to think about, especially in terms of human behavior and spirituality, and that will always be beneficial.

But the other reason I picked up the book is my fascination of both science and faith. The television show “Lost” loves exploring these two subjects, and so did “The X-Files”. And because I’m a person that’s more likely to take the middle ground between two extremes, I couldn’t resist this book. A scientific way to explain faith? Bring it on, because whether or not I agree, I’ll be amused to no end.

The God Gene stresses several points, and they’re good points to remember while reading, especially depending where you fall in religious category. People who don’t believe in God may find this theory preposterous, believing that looking for a genetic link to spirituality is a waste of time because it doesn’t exist; people who do believe in God may find this theory completely blasphemous: how dare anyone try to reduce God to a gene, or to science?

Well, here’s the kicker:

1) The term “God gene” is really a catch-all: when exploring the genetic properties of spirituality, the author admits to using the term “God” to encompass everything and anything spiritual/unexplained: this would include beliefs in the supernatural, or to put a lighter twist on it: mystical.

2) The book does not set out to prove whether or not God or a higher power exists. It does, however, seek to explain why people seek out God, or the spiritual life, and whether or not there is a genetic cause for it.

3) Lastly, the book stresses that there is a difference between spirituality and religion. Granted, religion can lead to an interest in one’s own spirituality, but religion is often a vehicle. Furthermore, the book sets out to prove that spirituality can be inherited (genes), whereas religion is something that is learned (memes).

Whether or not you as a reader agree with these “controls” doesn’t matter: these are the limits in which the writer is discussing his theory and experiments. And the experiments and discussions are quite interesting. Do I believe in all of it? I can’t say: it amuses the hell out of me though, and it’s fun to consider. The idea is, at best, popular science, and we’re obviously getting results from a certain point of view. But Dean Hamer does his best to be objective, recording failings where they exist, pointing out limitations where they exist. But anyone who compares the spiritual experience to that of a drug-induced experience gets an A+ in my book: not because it reduces spirituality, but because the same chemicals are at work in the brain in both experiences.

Is it worth the read? If you have any interest at all in spirituality, science, or even want to explore the possibilities as to why (keyword: why) you believe what you do, I definitely recommend this book. For me, it reinforced some things I already intuitively knew: that there’s a reason some people are more spiritual than others, and you can “spiritual” without being religious. There’s a bit of scientific jargon to deal with, don’t get me wrong, but not so much it weighs down the book. ( )
1 vote devilwrites | Aug 24, 2007 |
The basic concept of this book is that people who have a certain version of a specific gene consistently test higher on subjective scales of self-transcendence than people who don’t. I find this idea thought provoking, as it sheds a scientific perspective on a subject that is so often clouded in myth. Hamer’s book is far from perfect, however; I got bogged down in his detailed descriptions of his original studies, and no further studies I am aware of have yet confirmed or expanded on his findings. But the book asks some interesting questions and points to the possibility of even more interesting answers that hopefully other scientists will continue to explore. ( )
  Lenaphoenix | Aug 9, 2007 |
Why do people believe in God? Why are so many people religious? This fascinating book explores the connection between genetics and the human thirst for spirituality and meaning in life. Although the book does a nice job describing the research that has been done so far, I'll reserve judgment until more research has been conducted. On the other hand, the topic fits well with my recent interest in the role of nature vs. nurture. Actually the part of the book I found most interesting was the character trait of "self-transcendence" which goes with my interest in positive psychology. ( )
  eduscapes | Nov 27, 2006 |
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To Donald and David, my spiritual guides
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The first thing I noticed about Tenkai was his smile.
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But there are certain cultural oddities of the Lemba: Like practicing Jews, they strictly observe a Sabbath day, they circumcise their little boys, and they do not eat any shellfish, pork, or porklike meats such as hippopotamus.
It has been argued that the Aztecs practiced cannibalism to increase their protein intake, but their own explanation was more religious. They believed that the victims took on the nature of a god when they were sacrificed; by eating their flesh, that power would transfer to those who ate them. It was an extreme case of "you are what you eat."
Spirituality is based in consciousness, religion in cognition. Spirituality is universal, whereas cultures have their won forms of religion. I would argue that the most important contrast is that spirituality is genetic, while religion is based on culture, traditions, beliefs, and ideas. It is, in other words, mimetic.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385720319, Paperback)

The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God; this conviction has existed since the beginning of recorded time and is shared by billions around the world. In The God Gene, Dr. Dean Hamer reveals that this inclination towards religious faith is in good measure due to our genes and may even offer an evolutionary advantage by helping us get through difficulties, reducing stress, preventing disease, and extending life. Popular science at its best, The God Gene is an in-depth, fully accessible inquiry into cutting-edge research that can change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Written with balance, integrity, and admirable scientific objectivity, this is a book for readers of science and religion alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:27 -0400)

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"In The God Gene, Dr. Dean Hamer reveals that the inclination toward religious faith is no accident; it is in good measure due to our genes. In fact, he argues, spiritual belief may offer an evolutionary advantage by providing humans with a sense of purpose and the courage and will to overcome hardship and loss. And, as a growing body of evidence suggests, belief also increases our chances of reproductive survival by helping to reduce stress, prevent disease, and extend life. Hamer shows that new discoveries in behavioral genetics and neurobiology indicate that humans inherit a set of predispositions that make their brains ready and eager to embrace a higher power. By analyzing the genetic makeup of over a thousand people of different ages and backgrounds, and comparing their DNA samples against a scale that measures spirituality, Hamer has actually identified a specific "God gene" that appears to influence spirituality."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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