Finding Faith in DNA

By Kandil, Caitlin Yoshiko | Moment, July-August 2012 | Go to article overview

Finding Faith in DNA


Kandil, Caitlin Yoshiko, Moment


Why do some people believe in God, while others don't? Is it a person's choice, the result of upbringing or simply divine will? Theologians have grappled with this question for centuries, but over the last few years, scientists have jumped into the age-old debate to offer an entirely new explanation: genes.

One of the most attention-grabbing efforts to link spirituality and genetics was put forth by geneticist Dean Hamer in his 2004 book, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes. According to Hamer's hypothesis, spirituality is a "biological mechanism" that is imprinted on our DNA. "We have a genetic predisposition for spiritual belief that is expressed in response to, and shaped by, personal experience and the cultural environment," writes Hamer, who years earlier claimed to find the genetic basis of male homosexuality. Although other scientists have put forth this idea in the past, Hamer became the first to identify the gene where God may reside--VMAT2, an acronym for vesicular monoamine transporter 2.

The idea of a God gene echoes long-standing religious debates about whether a person's level of faith is determined by free will or destiny. In Judaism, discussions about hashgachah pratit, or divine providence, are the subject of rabbinic literature and Jewish philosophy, and ask to what extent God interferes in the details of a person's life. In other words, is a person's religious behavior guided by her own choices, or by some immutable force, be it God or DNA?

The Bible also alludes to this in Genesis, when God promises Abraham that his descendants would always have a special relationship with Him by virtue of their bloodline. Rather than a gene, however, God says that a "seed" will be passed "throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant." This pact gave birth to the idea of the "chosen people," a group whose progeny would have a preordained--and inherited--closeness to God. But Moshe Tendler, an Orthodox rabbi and professor of biology and medical ethics at Yeshiva University, dismisses the notion that God is in the genes. "I attribute religiosity to the working mind of man searching to answer the mystery of life," he says.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The God gene has also come under scrutiny within the scientific community. Hamer's study has yet to be replicated (true of much research in the field of behavioral genetics) and has not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Although he coined the phrase "the God gene," Hamer himself admits the term is problematic. VMAT2, he explains, only accounts for one percent of all genetic variance. "That means that most of the inherited effects on self-transcendence can't be explained by VMAT2," he writes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Finding Faith in DNA
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.