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Archive for the '2005' Category

Originally written in Spring of 2005 for a class on biotechnological communication.
GodPersinger, Michael. 1987. “It may be called Allah, God, Cosmic Consciousness, or even some idiosyncratic label. Slightly deviant forms include references to intellectual abstracts such as ‘mathematical balance,’ ‘consciousness of time,’ or ‘extraterrestrial intrusions.’” In Neuropsychological Bases of God Beliefs (New York: Praeger), pp. 1-2 has a problem. Specifically, s/heFor the purpose of this essay, the spiritual Being referred to by Persinger, Hamer, etc will be referred to as God, for simplicity, and s/he to respect as many beliefs as possible. has suffered a reductionist downsizing of massive proportions, going from an omniscient, everywhere being to a genetic predisposition, a singular regulatory gene. In the reductionist, geneticized view of God commonly referred to as “the God Gene”, after a book of the same name, God occurs in a particular gene, VMAT2, and is an expression of monoamines designed to make us feel better about life, stress, and death. The singular gene theory is also a fallacy that not even the author of the problematic title, Dean Hamer, subscribes to. And if it is such a fallacy that not even the author believes it, then why was it published? What point is it trying to prove, or serve?

In The God Gene, Hamer builds on the work of several scientists who have been studying spirituality, religion and the brain, including (and leaning heavily on) Michael Persinger, who studies the construction of the temporal lobe and how its construction affects one’s God experience. Hamer takes the idea of God in the brain a step further, looking for and finding a single gene he believes controls how spiritual we are. This, the aforementioned VMAT2 gene, and is involved in how the brain uses monoamines, a class of neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. In simple terms, VMAT2 makes a protein that packages all of the different monoamines into secretory vehicles – the biological packages that the brain uses to store its signal molecules.Hamer, Dean. 2004. Hamer spends several chapters describing the role of VMAT2 on serotonin, dopamine, and how that combination would create perceptions of Persinger’s universal God-feeling. In The God Gene (New York: Doubleday), pp 56-69. Hamer and his team focused on finding a gene that would control both dopamine and serotonin functionality in the brain. Dopamine has been associated with a sense of self-transcendence and good will, while serotonin is well known to affect emotions, particularly negative ones such as depression an anxiety. He found this combination in VMAT2.

Sunday night, sitting here along with my beer and thoughts, wind howling outside, occasionally gusting snow against the window with some vengeance. Light comedy on the television, but I wonder if something more sober, or at least darker, might not be more appropriate. It’s not that I’m feeling particularly bad, or even dark and twisty, […]

Kelly Hills 2006-08-09 It’s a hot afternoon in Washington, D.C. and a young boy buys a pickle from an ice cream and hot dog vendor, expecting cool relief from the sweet vegetable. Instead, a flood of PCP and ecstasy floods his system, causing him to go into convulsions. By the time EMTs arrive, the boy […]

Kelly Hills 2006-07-19 Death by lethal injection was dealt a blow last month when a U.S. district judge ruled the process may cause extreme pain and suffering before death. In the United States, death comes in a three-drug cocktail. First, a drug is administered to cause unconsciousness. Another causes paralysis and a third stops the […]

The Right to Life 2006-07-05 So here’s a question for you to mull over: When were you old enough to make your own decisions? Chances are you were pretty young when you figured out you didn’t like the taste of broccoli. And you probably weren’t old enough the first time getting drunk sounded like a […]

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