Genes and religious experience

Are we just the product of our genes and our environment or are we really free to believe.

Are we determined by our genes? More and more during the last ten years this idea has been pushed until you find it popping up in practically every press article or television programme. Genes for intelligence, genes for religion, genes athletic ability,  genes for cancer, genes for sexual orientation, genes for everything - so they say and believe.

This however is not entirely the case. The idea of one gene for one characteristic or for one protein died when the completion of the human genome revealed that there were only some 30,000 genes comprising the recipe for the human being.

How many genes in the nematode worm - a microscopic 1000 celled worm that lives at the bottom of the sea - some 17,000. Complexity is not necessarily related to the number of genes at this level. If you want a unique ID for every human being alive on the planet you would need something like 6 billion unique numbers. This could be achieved at a personal level with 36 different counters each with two options. 236 =  approx. 6 billion. So 30,000 genes with a range of possibilities (i.e. more than two) for each one, should give sufficient variation for both complexity and uniqueness.

The Darwinists however, are arguing even more than this. Within the new concepts of evolutionary psychology there is the suggestion that our human nature psychology became fixed during the Pleistocene age, and that development has not taken place since that time. Here problems arise with those who think there is much more to the human being than just his genes. Certainly the last few years of the second millennium saw the beginnings of biosocialism.

So who are the players in the arguments, and where does the perspective of faith fit in. This categoregisation is mine, and does not necessarily reflect how the individual authors think of themselves.

Darwinism Biosocialism Faith
Dawkins, R old style socio-biology Rose, H & S Alas, Poor Darwin Bruce, D & A Engineering Genesis
Ridley, M Genome Dover, G      
Watson, J The Double Helix Gould, S J      

Question to Dr. Matt Ridley at the Newcastle University convocation lecture 10/6/2001

Is there a God gene?

Dr. Ridley said he didn't know, but didn't think so.


Dr. Ridley during the talk used a range of arguments to demonstrate a relationship between genetics and common experience or ability. He said that if we look closely at a the whole range of different societies we find that all smile or frown in similar circumstances even though that is constrained by cultural aspects of their society. This implies that there is a genetic component of smiling and frowning.

Similarly there is a sociological argument for the existence of God. It is simply put, all societies report religious experience and independently of each other form religions.

This is a parallel argument to smiling and frowning. It therefore implies a genetic disposition to religious experience.

Add to this the work of the Oxford Religious Research Unit, which in the 70's determined that 66% of people during their life experience a beneficent external force, which many would call God.

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