Thursday, December 7, 2006

Religion Gene

This is not news but it is true that geneticists have identified a "religion gene". Apparently, somewhere in the human DNA there is a precoded gene that tells us that we have to believe in something! I was wondering what the use for such a gene would be...

If we follow Darwin's theory of evolution, it is possible to hypothesize that humans that do possess this gene and do therefore have the belief that there is some sort of a deity out there protecting them, fared better and survived long enough at least to bear progeny and pass this gene along. I suppose that means that people that did not possess the "religion gene" and therefore did not believe in protection from above, did not survive as long. This is not so strange. After all, if you believe that you will miraculously survive, chances are that you are also trying your best to do so and a strong belief does bring favorable results.

There is another school of thought, which bears consideration, however. It is the idea that the body is simply the biomechanical expression of the soul. In this scenario, the human body possesses every single mechanism necessary to attain the desires of the "higher self". If it is in the interests of the higher self then to believe in one or more deities, the gene is placed there to make it easier.

Both arguments have merit and can be debated with relative ease.

Yet, the most important lesson we learn from the discovery of the "religion gene" is that purported agnostics and atheists are either lying about their lack of faith, they have substituted denial in lieu of a deity as a reaction to social pressure, or, quite possibly, they are the exception to the rule and simply do not possess this "religion gene".

Whatever the case may be, there is no denying that for most people there is a sense of comfort and safety, perhaps due to an increase in endopherines, that arise from observing even simple acts of faith, such as crossing oneself or lighting a candle or whatever practice their own religion dictates. Such feelings are useful to humans and to society as a whole because they are intimately connected with a sense of peace and happiness, the human conscience and finally to a reverence for things that are greater than oneself.


Sean said...

I would like to add to your comment about agnostics and atheists. It is entirely possible that through learning and obtaining knowledge, we are able to overcome this gene, rather than be in denial or be an "exception". I will use a simple example to clarify: There are genes inside of us that tell us to love our mothers and fathers, but if a mother/father beats you religiously and abandons you, you will likely no longer feel love for that parent. Memories, trauma, emotion, reason, and knowledge all give way to the ability to overcome what is naturally written in our code, and this applies directly to this situation as well.

This is merely an idea, I could be completely off, but it seems to make sense to me. I lack sufficient understanding of genetics and their direct correlation with our psyche.

Andrew said...

"After all, if you believe that you will miraculously survive, chances are that you are also trying your best to do so and a strong belief does bring favorable results."

Seems to me that if you believe you will miraculously survive anything you wont bother trying at all. Whereas, if you're not counting on a miracle, you're more likely to make an effort on your own behalf.

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