Religious fanatic? Blame it on ‘god gene’

[World News]: London, Nov 15 : “God genes” are responsible for creating religious fanatics, says new scientific research – much to the chagrin of church representatives.

The findings of Dean Hamer, director of the US National Cancer Institute’s Gene Structure and Regulation Unit, also claim that Jesus, the Buddha and Prophet Mohammed are likely to have carried the gene.

The research has, however, been strongly criticised by members of the church, reported the Scotsman newspaper published from Edinburgh. They said the idea of people having a predisposition to faith simply displays a failure to understand it.

Hamer, who attracted controversy in 1993 when he claimed to have found a DNA sequence linked to male homosexuality, now says the presence of the gene VMAT2, or the “god gene”, explains why some people are more spiritual than others.

The findings based on a study of 2,000 DNA samples and interviews with volunteers, who answered 226 questions aimed at finding out how spiritually in-tune they felt, have been published in a book named “The God Gene: How Faith is Hard-Wired into our Genes”.

According to it, the greater the volunteer’s ability to believe in a higher spiritual being, the more likely they are to have the VMAT2 gene. The research also claims that being brought up in a devout environment has little effect on belief.

“Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus all shared a series of mystical experiences or alterations in consciousness, and thus probably carried the gene,” Hamer 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.”

But Donald Bruce, director of the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religious and Technology Project, Sunday called the research findings a “publicity stunt”.

“I regard his claims as scientifically ridiculous. There is absolutely no such thing as a god gene. The whole point is that god makes himself available to all equally.”

According to him, Hamer had admitted this to him a year ago. “We were both on the advisory board at the conference and I asked him if he thought the book’s title was irresponsible. Hamer agreed the words ‘god gene’ as well as the book’s title were misleading.”

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: “Religion is not specifically restricted to one era, race or continent, and the fact that it is so all-encompassing and widespread tends to suggest it is not specifically related to our physical make-up.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Indo-Asian News Service, India
Nov. 15, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday November 15, 2004.
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