"Is God in Our Genes?"
There is something to be said for brainwashing. I can remember as a child learning bible stories from kind old ladies who would assure us all that, even though we were all bad, God loved us and had worked everything out. Sure there's a Hell with pain and suffering, but why choose that when you could choose Heaven? I never had a choice, not a real choice as a child. When you grow up in a close-nit family whose life is centered around church, choice in whether or not there even is a God isn't an option. What is it that makes someone believe in the unseen? When did all this "believing" start. Why? Jeff Chu, Broward Liston, Maggie Sieger, and Daniel Williams collaborate to bring us some answers, and show us how regardless of the root of belief, just the ability to believe in something has helped with humankinds progress in what in any other part of the natural world is tooth and nail. This is insightful to me because now that I'm older, and I have thought about this a lot, I have lost the ability to believe the unbelievable, and it's sad. It's sad because I would like to think that there is something more than death at the end. It's sad because I feel like I lost something, a hope of seeing my loved ones and all of that other eternal bliss type of thinking. Now, for the first time, I think it may be genetic, it doesn't make me feel any better, though.
Molecular Biologist Dean Hamer believes he has found the gene passed down from one generation to the next that causes the individual with it to be more likely to be spiritually inclined than someone without it. VMAT2, for Vesicular Monoamine Transporter, is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate feelings. The higher the level, the more likely you will it is that you will believe in the supernatural. If you have the right gene, you will be able to produce higher levels of VMAT2, which in turn is known to contribute to the feeling or sense of transcendence. He also has shown that this gene structure is passed down through the generations as a trait. Hamer emphasizes that his findings are Agnostic and are not meant to be used to quantify the existence of a God, or not, but to show how the right combination of genes can maybe cause a person to be more bent towards the spiritual and will be able to produce the right kind of chemicals needed to create the right kind of feeling, a feeling of transcendence (qtd. in Chu,387-388). This idea that maybe a belief in a God or any other supernatural faith is purely as base as a few chemical reactions within your brain greatly upsets more than a few people, Niel Gillman, Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary, is one of them. He exclaims, "God is not something that can be demonstrated logically or rigorously"(qtd. in chu,387). Although Hamer never intended this argument, there are those who feel that you shouldn't try to explain things, at least not make something so important to so many seem like nothing more than a lucky spin of the gene pool roulette wheel. You can't point to something physical and hope to show something spiritual, something felt, can you? People of every faith will tell you that it's not a thing at all, but a feeling. Feelings are real. You feel a sense of being at peace with God, that's a real feeling, let's not mess it up with why it can even happen. The gene passed down itself is not the real root of belief, it just gives someone a push one way or another, whether that's to be more open to spiritual matters than others or not.
Neuroscientist Andrew Newbery explains how the frontal lobe of the human brain is the seat of our concentration and the limbic system is where the powerful feelings are processed. Feelings of rapture, overwhelming senses of every kind, even the sensation of being out of body, are felt here. Newbery has used many different kinds of imaging scanners to see what goes on in our brains when we pray and meditate. He is able to measure the flow of blood, and in this way see exactly what part of the brain is active when different feelings are felt. The