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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired Into Our Genesby Dean Hamer
Synopses & Reviews
The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God, expressing a conviction that has existed since the beginning of recorded time and is shared by billions around the world. In The God Gene, Dean H. Hamer reveals that this inclination toward religious faith is no accident; it is hardwired into the genes. In fact, he argues, spiritual belief offers an indisputable evolutionary advantage, providing humans with a sense of purpose and the courage and will to overcome hardship and loss. And, as a growing body of evidence suggests, belief also increases our chances of reproductive survival by helping to reduce stress, prevent disease, and extend life.
Hamer shows that new discoveries in behavioral genetics and neurobiology indicate that humans inherit a set of predispositions that make their brains ready and eager to embrace a higher power. By analyzing the genetic makeup of over a thousand people of different ages and backgrounds, and comparing their DNA samples against a scale that measures spirituality, Hamer actually identified a specific gene that the most spiritual of us share. And in his book, the identity of this "God gene" is revealed for the first time.
Popular science at its best, The God Gene is an in-depth, fully accessible inquiry into the cutting-edge research that is changing the way we think about ourselves, our world, and our culture. Written with balance and integrity, without seeking to confirm or deny the existence of God, The God Gene brilliantly illuminates the mechanism by which belief itself is biologically fostered. It's a book that bridges the gap between science and religion, and one that will appeal to the readers of Genesis and GENOME alike.
"This book's title is more rhetorical effect than factual accuracy: Hamer, who discovered the controversial 'gay gene' in the 1990s, reports that he has now found a gene that may correlate in some people with their level of spirituality — not with belief in a being we would call God or with the performance of traditional religious practices, but with what psychiatrist Robert Cloninger called 'self-transcendence.' This trait is a capacity to feel at one with all life and with the universe as a whole, and Cloninger measured it with personality testing. The so-called 'God gene' is a particular location in the human genome known as VMAT2, which affects the brain's neurotransmitters. Hamer admits that the gene probably accounts for less than 1% of the total variance in human spirituality. The book's later chapters become still more speculative, as Hamer, a molecular biologist at the National Cancer Institute, considers the scanty evidence of health benefits of spirituality, which would make faith an adaptive evolutionary trait. Hamer emphasizes that the existence of a 'God gene' would neither prove nor disprove the reality of God. However, this gracefully written book may intrigue people of all faiths — or no faith — who wonder about the ultimate connection between science and religion. (On sale Sept. 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Notes toward an understanding of human spirituality: vigorous, fascinating, and open to interpretation, not least by Hamer himself." Kirkus Reviews
"[Hamer] ends with another caveat: distinguish between beliefs and the act of believing — and the war between science and religion just might be resolved." Booklist
Hamer, one of America's leading geneticists, presents stunning scientific evidence of the existence of a genetic component that fosters religious faith, in a fascinating book that is bound to stir controversy--and applause--in religious, and scientific circles.
About the Author
Dean Hamer, Chief of Gene Structure at the National Cancer Institute, is the author of The Science of Desire and Living with Our Genes and more than one hundred scientific articles. He has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Dateline, the national news shows, and documentaries that aired on HBO, PBS, and the Discovery Channel. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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