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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Dean H. Hamer

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Kurzbeschreibung

13. September 2005
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.

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“Fascinating. . . . A compelling case that spirituality very well may be part and parcel of our genetic structure.” –Los Angeles Times“Hamer ably narrates his quest to identify a gene that strongly correlates with self-transcendence. . . . Persuasive.” –The Washington Post Book World “Hamer weaves a fascinating fabric of mysticism, culture, consciousness, and biochemistry . . . rife with history and multidisciplinary tidbits. . . . Enlightening.” –Seed“Challenges some basic assumptions we may have and certainly goads us into reflection about human nature.” – The News & Observer

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

DR. DEAN HAMER is a preeminent geneticist and author of The Science of Desire, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Living with Our Genes. Together with his scientific collaborators at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, he has authored more than one hundred articles for popular and academic science journals. His television appearances include Good Morning America, Dateline, Oprah, the national news shows, and documentaries for HBO, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. Dr. Hamer received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ariens Kappers Award for Neurobiology.

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Amazon.com: 3.4 von 5 Sternen  41 Rezensionen
35 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Is "spirituality" an instinct? 26. Juli 2005
Von Dennis Littrell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Perhaps this book should be called "The Faith Gene" instead of "The God Gene." Geneticist Dean Hamer himself admits that "The God Gene is in fact a gross oversimplification...There are probably many different genes involved..." (p. 8) Later on he writes, "I believe our genetic predisposition for faith [notice: not "God"] is no accident. It provides us with a sense of purpose beyond ourselves and keeps us from being incapacitated by our dread of mortality." (p. 143) Note also that the book's subtitle declares that "Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes" while on page 211, Hamer declares that we are "Softwired for God."

Hamer's problem with definitions and usage arises because he is trying to take an abstraction such as "spirituality" or "transcendence" or "faith" or a belief in "God" and measure this abstraction with personality tests or by observing broader forms of human behavior. Furthermore he wants to make a useful distinction between religiousness and spirituality, between the extrinsic and intrinsic expression, the former being mostly public, such as church attendance, and the latter mostly private, such as prayer or meditation. Having done this he then wants to find a gene or some genes that code for spirituality. This is like trying to catch the ether in a hairnet.

Nonetheless it goes almost without saying that however ill-defined such abstractions may be, they do in fact refer to something real. A belief in an afterlife, in souls and inherited karma, in gods and poltergeists, heavens and hells, in things mystical and extrasensory, in a reality beyond a purely material and animal existence is universal to all human societies, past and present, and would seem to be as necessary as the very air we breathe. (Gurus, churches and religions exploit this human necessity.)

Consequently it is not so far-fetched to look for the predisposition for such beliefs in our genetic code, genes that have been selected by the evolutionary process. The question remains however, exactly what behavior is it that is selected and found adaptive in an evolutionary sense? Hamer thinks it is some sort of personal transcendence--that is, spirituality as opposed to religion as such (see page 215). However I think there is reason to believe that what is selected is the more profane aspects of religion and spirituality. To put it bluntly, what the genes (interacting with the environment of course) code for are tribalisms such as following a leader and being willing to die for the good of the tribe, and in general following the authority of tribal ways and means, believing what the shaman says, what the priest says, what the ayatollah tells us, and what the documents of the tribe declare as true.

Edward O. Wilson in his book, On Human Nature (1978)--highly recommended, by the way--argued that the ability of the individual to conform to the group dynamics of religion was in itself adaptive. He added, "When the gods are served, the Darwinian fitness of the members of the tribe is the ultimate if unrecognized beneficiary." (opus cited, p. 184)

Still there is a sense in which it is possible to see the genetic predisposition toward faith and religion in a more morally positive sense. Hamer believes that "God genes...provide human beings with an innate sense of optimism." (p. 12) Clearly life must be worth living, and faith provides us with any number of compensations for a hard life: promise of an afterlife, a rebirth to a better station, karmic comeuppance for transgressors, and karmic reward for our perceived good behavior, punishment for sin, etc., are artifacts of faith and are the main tenets of many religions.

However as to the specific gene that Hamer comes to identify, the VMAT2 gene, which influences the flow of monoamines in the brain, it could be said that this gene is not so much the "God gene" as the "dope gene," the gene that helps us to get high. On page 77 he allows that "There might be another 50 genes or more of similar strength."

In addition to Hamer's central argument, there are aspects of this book that are interesting and valuable in themselves. The chapter on "The DNA of the Jews" is absolutely fascinating and gives us a good idea of what is possible by using the changes in either the "y" or "x" chromosomes to trace human migrations and intermarriages.

I also like the distinction that Hamer makes between spirituality and religion. We all know people who are spiritual, but don't go to church (or temple or mosque, etc). And we all know people who attend church regularly but are about as spiritual as hyenas. (I won't mention any White House occupants, past or present!) And it is clear that there are agnostic scientists who are very spiritual persons indeed.

However, the weakest part of the book involves Hamer's attempt to adequately define spirituality and to distinguish it from religion. He calls in the psychology and psychiatric establishments to help out. I don't think they help much. It is a daunting task to even define "God" adequately. In the final analysis he goes with the idea of transcendence. However what we humans want to transcend is our animal nature (and sometimes the evidence of our senses and our experience!). Part of the reason we wear clothes and otherwise cover up while imagining that we have souls and are made in the image of God is to make our animal nature less obvious. For human beings it is not sufficient to be just animals. We are (or should be) spirit as well. Hamer actually declares that "Spirituality...is, in fact, an instinct." (p. 6)

Finally, faith does not require a god. Taoism has "the way," and the Buddha famously turned aside questions about God as being beside the point, while the ineffable God of the Vedas is nothing that a believer in a personal god would recognize at all.
49 von 56 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A gateway to the gods? 14. September 2004
Von Stephen A. Haines - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
When an author admits within the first ten pages of the book his title's misleading, readers have a right to be sceptical. There's much in this book to be sceptical about. Hamer's thesis is of immense importance and must be addressed - is there a biological basis for "spiritual" experiences? How much influence do our cultures impose in how we view the supernatural? Hamer declares he has the answer - which, he confesses, is hardly "a gene" as implied by the title. While other authors have equated the spiritual and the biological, Hamer is the first to pinpoint a likely trigger for these experiences. In this very readable account, he explains why he thinks there's a link between genetics and "faith".

Hamer is an avid speculator - he would make a Wall Street broker blench. He proposed a "gay gene" in his previous book - a thesis that fell on sterile ground. In this book, he proposes that a gene acting as a gateway for hormonal activity is the likely precursor for "spiritual experience". Combining his own research studies and that of others, Hamer developed a test series for spirituality. Spirituality is difficult to define, but he adapts the term "self-actualisation" devised by Abraham Maslow. Self-actualisation is applied to those declaring, for example, that they're "at one with the universe". Although students of the various forms of transcendental meditation more often use that phrase, even adherents of mainstream faiths make similar statements. Why, Hamer asks, are such declarations so universal among cultures? And why do more women than men make them?

Hamer was introduced to the VMAT2 gene by a colleague. VMAT2 sits on chromosome 10 and may vary by a single nucleotide. That variation, according to Hamer, is reflected by the ability of certain individuals to experience self-transcendence. He calls the variation the "spiritual allele". He can use that appellation since further testing showed no relationship of VMAT2 to intelligence or neurotic behaviour. VMAT2 is a "regulator" that appears to control the amount of "monamines" present in the brain. Monamines are the "emotion" chemicals - serotonin, dopamine and other compounds that regulate some brain activities. While many of the details of their impact remain obscure, Hamer postulates that, in the proper environment, these chemicals can give feelings of well-being, anxiety and the other emotions we are familiar with. He thus equates individual experiences of spirituality with activity from the VMAT2 gene. The type of experience, he continues, is likely related to the cultural framework of the individual. It seems clear, but remains to be proven, that the gender difference derives from how VMAT2 relates to genes in the X [female] and Y [male] chromosomes.

Hamer builds his case on some highly speculative, but interesting studies. He cites the SPECT scans of monks and nuns, Persinger's magnetic stimulation of the temporal lobes, and other research in support of his thesis. He is as methodical as the current information allows. Various cultural environments are examined, in particular the now-famous "Aaron's DNA" tracing of Jewish lineages. While these are solid bricks in the edifice, the structure requires much reinforcement. The book's presentation rambles into various interesting asides, which might well be relevant. Hamer fails to draw them together beyond making generalised references to the universality of "spiritual experience". His pandering to his US audience in the title would be forgivable, did he not continue to refer the "God" gene in the text instead of some less absolute term. His conclusion nearly topples the entire edifice by evading the deity issue altogether. We are left wondering how evolution provided humans with a "god module" while leaving the rest of evolution bereft. Hamer deserves credit for raising the issue of the supernatural as a biological behaviour trait in a comprehensive framework. However, much work remains to be done. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
24 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Refreshing 5. Oktober 2004
Von James W. Hall - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Enough with the religious types, the atheists, and even the political wannabes who are abusing this space to promote their own ideas. I mean really - how did a rant against John Kerry get into a review of "The God Gene"?

I actually read this book and found it refreshing. Hamer starts out with a question - why is religion still such a big part of peoples' lives? - and tries to answer it the way scientists do - looking at data. The chapters on twins and siblings were especially interesting. Some of the material on brain chemicals and genes were hard going, but every once in a while the good Doctor lightens things up with a zinger, like the one about Monica Lewinsky.

The one complaint I have is the title. This book really isn't about God at all. It's about us humans and how we work.
32 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen The "Me Too" Gene. 27. August 2005
Von Tiger Wolf - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
First there was Persinger, a voice in the wilderness who pioneered the study of the neurobiological basis of religious experience. Then there was Joseph, who devoted a lengthy chapter to spirituality, evolution, genetics, and the brain, in the 2nd edition of his 1996 neuroscience textbook. Persinger and Joseph basically stood alone--true pioneers, visionaries. And then came the "Me too" crowd of pretenders, and now we have Hamer whose book, for the most part, is simply a rehash of Persinger, Joseph, Alper, and others. Another reviewer accused Hamer of having a "Plagerism gene." That's much too harsh since he did take the effort to rewrite the words and ideas of these other authors--but without citation (naughty naughty!) And he did manage to get so much wrong! The thalamus, for example is not part of the "limbic system." Proteins and hormones are not synonymous. Catecholamines are neurotransmitters, and the Catecholamines include (are you paying attention Mr. Hamer?) norepinephrine and epinephrine. Serotonin causes "negative emotions"?? Hello? Is this guy a scientist? Does he even know anything about religion? Confuscius
was a religious leader? What? Confuscianism is a religion? Wrong, wrong, wrong! That's the problem with pretenders. If you really want to understand the neurobiology and genetics of religious and spiritual experience, read Persinger, or the edited textbook, NeuroTheology.
19 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen self transcendence not "god" gene 7. November 2004
Von Brian Asalone - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Entitled The God Gene Hamer's book is actually about genetic markers for neurotransmitter variability and their subjective effect. Obviously it is more interesting and salable to call the feeling of self transcendence (losing oneself)spirituality and relate this to religion. The book is good in that it traces some of the acheivements in molecular genetics and the tie-ins with human behavior. Hamer does this in a relatively entertaining manner. It is very interesting to see, for example, that the PET scans of monks practicing TM show specific areas of brain activity and attenuation. Later in his book Hamer moves to the concept of memes, organized religion. Unfortunately toward the end, he becomes less the detached observer and leans toward a personal perspective on these topics. (An example of which occurs when Hamer attacks the logic of a particular atheist.)

As an entertaining introduction to some of the relations between feelings and genetic hardwiring, this book is good. However, calling this the "god" gene and relating the feeling of self transcendence to spirituality is the author's extrapolation--not just hyperbole, but a bit disingenuous.
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