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Friday, August 07, 2009

Genetics and popular culture: Another claim that genes "explain" religion

In "NPR religion reporter dusts off fingerprints of God," (Salt Lake Tribune, July 30, 2009) Peggy Fletcher Stack reports on Barbara Bradley Hagerty's new book, Fingerprints of God:
“After interviews with Dean Hamer, researcher at the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute and author of The God Gene , Francis Collins, former head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Pat McNamara of Boston University as well as several skeptics, Hagerty concludes that genes do seem to play a role as a "sort of tipping point for spiritual experience."

"It's a little bit like automatic air-conditioning," she writes. "For some people, a relatively modest rise in temperature ... can flip on the cooler system. Those people are genetically inclined to be spiritual. Others may sweat it out to 90, 95, 100 degrees; only then will their God switch flip on. And some would rather die of heat than turn to 'God.' "
Why should I think this is good news? It implies that no one on the other end is really listening, just an automated system.

I don;'t believe any of it. People with the widest variety of genetic backgrounds have spiritual experiences and there is no "switch." There is a line, of course, 24/7.

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