What is the god gene?
Well, the god gene hypothesis proposes that a specific gene (vesicular mono amine transporter 2) predisposes humans towards spiritual or mystic experiences.
My question is do you think this can be the answer to WHY people are religious? I strongly believe it is.
Please tell me why you think people are religious, or feel inclined to believe in something supernatural.
There's mountains of scientific criticism of the notion. Here's just one example. It's patently absurd to suggest that a single gene could ever be responsible for so complex a behavior as religion. The main proponent of the notion is Dean Hamer; Hamer, who stupidly suggested that homosexuality is caused by a single gene as well. That notion was flatly douched by other scientists too.
If you want an explanation for why people tend to fall into religious thinking you have to look to cognitive psychology.
Pascal Boyer- Religion Explained
Scott Atran- In Gods We Trust
Justin Barrett- Why Would Anyone Believe in God?
J. Anderson Thomson- Why We Believe in God(s)
Michael Shermer- Why We Believe Weird Things
Todd Tremlin- Minds and Gods
The Boyer book is the only one of these I have had an opportunity to read. It debunks a lot of the popular thought on why religion is so pervasive. The root causes are much deeper than mere fear of death or deliverance from mortality issues. Those aspects are even irrelevant in some belief systems.
Not really, and I would say the hypothesis fits within the larger nature vs. nurture debate. Since a lot of behavior has recently been attributed to biology, it seems that a lot is thrown towards the nature wall just to see if it sticks.
My approach is that the general rule is perhaps that nature predisposes and nurture reaffirms. While religion isn't genetic, the probability that someone becomes religious may be influenced by genetic predispositions towards i.e. suggestibility and intelligence, with the assumption that a higher degree of suggestibility leads to it being easier to believe a religious message and that lower intelligence means less critical thought.
The reasons people are religious is perhaps equal to the number of religious people, but to generalize a few I could include fear of death, social needs, following authority ("beta behavior"), and indoctrination.
What about converts and deconverts? Does their religious gene turn on and off then? What triggers these changes?
I have a shamefully poor level of aquaintance with biology but I am inclinded to be skeptical about this claim.
But what is the cure? Of course it is genetic, but is is likely a gene we all carry, and probably more than one. I do not think it is a single gene that causes "mystic/spiritual" experiences though. Maybe a single gene or only a few genes responsible for religious extremism. It would be great if there was a cure for the latter.
After reading a bit about the VMAT 2 gene, it seems to be a critical gene for many different brain functions, and not specific to religious experience or inclinations. Maybe it would be worth investigating a "skeptic" gene instead.
Although I agree absolutely about religion and supernatural belief being a neurological disorder (especially in adults). The difference between a adult, who is a believer, and a child is you can tell the child there is no Santa and they will come to grips with that fact. The believer on the other hand will remain "faithful" regardless of the evidence given which contradicts their belief.
As with many genes discovered recently, if the gene is present it could be inactive. Some genes such as the psychopath gene can make someone more incline to be a criminal with a violent upbringing, while many psychopaths are high functioning law abiding citizens. So if a "religious gene" is found, we may discover similarities in this type of variation.