Saturday, November 13, 2004

But Could Stem-Cell Research Offer Hope for a Cure? 

From the Telegraph (courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.), a report suggesting that a predisposition to religious belief may be in large measure a function of genetics:
After comparing more than 2,000 DNA samples, an American molecular geneticist has concluded that a person's capacity to believe in God is linked to brain chemicals.

His findings were criticised last night by leading clerics, who challenge the existence of a "god gene" and say that the research undermines a fundamental tenet of faith - that spiritual enlightenment is achieved through divine transformation rather than the brain's electrical impulses.

Dr Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit at the National Cancer Institute in America, asked volunteers 226 questions in order to determine how spiritually connected they felt to the universe. The higher their score, the greater a person's ability to believe in a greater spiritual force and, Dr Hamer found, the more likely they were to share the gene, VMAT2.

Studies on twins showed that those with this gene, a vesicular monoamine transporter that regulates the flow of mood-altering chemicals in the brain, were more likely to develop a spiritual belief.

Growing up in a religious environment was said to have little effect on belief. Dr Hamer, who in 1993 claimed to have identified a DNA sequence linked to male homosexuality, said the existence of the "god gene" explained why some people had more aptitude for spirituality than others.

"Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus all shared a series of mystical experiences or alterations in consciousness and thus probably carried the gene," he said. "This means that the tendency to be spiritual is part of genetic make-up. This is not a thing that is strictly handed down from parents to children. It could skip a generation - it's like intelligence" . . . .

Dr Hamer insisted, however, that his research was not antithetical to a belief in God. He pointed out: "Religious believers can point to the existence of god genes as one more sign of the creator's ingenuity - a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence."
By the way, if you've ever wondered why a gene linked to homosexuality wouldn't just disappear after a few generations -- since the bearers are obviously less likely to reproduce -- check out the latest findings here.

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