Is God in Our Genes?
"Natural selection and a spiritual gene can no more explain a belief in God and religion than they can say why we find a sunset beautiful."
Your article on molecular biologist Dean Hamer's discovery of a gene for spirituality, the so-called God gene, put too much emphasis on the religious aspect of spirituality [Oct. 25]. While such a gene may very well cause those who carry it to experience self-transcendence and to have a feeling of connectedness to a larger universe, that does not always translate into religious beliefs. I tend to get caught up in an experience, have fleeting revelations and insights and feel connected to the world outside me, all of which, according to your article, are indications of spirituality. Having those traits should make me a nun. But I am an atheist. A spiritual gene alone does not cause people to spread their arms, look up at the sky and declare, "Hallelujah! There is a God!"
When I was a teenager, TIME published a cover asking "Is God Dead?" [April 6, 1966]. I believed this was the case and became a molecular geneticist. I thought I had found the Holy Grail in DNA. Maybe Hamer has found the gene in humans that is responsible for the continual creation of God in man's image, but the truth is a different matter altogether. It sets people free.
Your story was another pathetic attempt to explain away the existence of God, our Creator. The complexity of DNA and the genetic code points toward an intelligent designer, not the haphazard coincidences of evolutionary theory. Evolution does not hold up under the scrutiny of critical thinking. It is a fraud being passed along as scientific fact!
WILLIAM E. BELL
Santa Fe, Tenn.
Man has always turned to a God to explain the unexplainable. Because of religion's ubiquity, it does seem as if there is a God gene in many human beings. Organized religion, however, is now similar to a political bureaucracy that pulls out all the stops to perpetuate itself. The clergy has become a ruling class that arbitrarily makes decrees significantly affecting people's lives. Church leaders rule with fear as well as love. Small children are indoctrinated mercilessly. So I wonder whether, in the fundamentalist denominations, religious belief is caused by the God gene or just good old-fashioned coercion.
I wonder when they will discover a gene for believing in Santa Claus.
ARNOLD A. LAZARUS
New Brunswick, N.J.
If God is a spirit and we are made in his image, why wouldn't our genes contain God's spirit? Faith in things that are not seen and the idea of free will are both compatible with the concept of a gene that gives us spirituality. Healers and miracle workers are able to call upon this force, sometimes without even understanding how it works.
ROBERT C. LILLIE
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Why should we care about the existence of God, with all the evidence that our interest is not reciprocated?
Arlington Heights, Ill.