Life as an Extreme Sport

God in the Gene (or, The God Problem)

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.

Continue reading

trust bound

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, but I am feeling introspective. It’s been a very long week, a week of chaos, and mistakes on my part. I knew the chaos was coming, and mistakes were inevitable, but I still don’t like either…well, the mistakes, anyhow. I suspect I actually might thrive on chaos. I’ve been called out on some personality traits, and it was a fair calling out, but it’s still an uncomfortable thing. I realized, talking to Jen earlier today, that it’s been a while since anyone has gotten in my face (nicely or otherwise) and thrown me back at

Continue reading

[The Daily 08-09-2006] The Road Continues

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 has stopped respiration. While they are able to restore his breathing, and the hospital stabilizes him further, he does not wake up. Two of the three neurologists to examine him are certain he is completely and totally brain dead. The third sees some electrical activity, and cannot say whether there is total brain death, but agrees that the child will never wake up. Doctors wish to take the boy off life support; In their eyes, he is dead. He cannot survive without a ventilator and his heart needs assistance to beat. But the boy’s parents

Continue reading

[The Daily 07-19-2006] Death Made Pretty

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 heart. The objection is that it’s possible for someone not to be fully unconscious after being given the first drug, and feel both the paralysis and the burn of potassium that will stop the heart, causing significant fear and pain. The court ruled fatal drugs couldn’t be administered without certified medical personnel there to ensure the prisoner is first unconscious before administering further drugs. Since no medical personnel can be found who are willing to violate the American Medical Association ruling that it would be unethical to participate in involuntary death, there have been no

Continue reading

[The Daily] – The Right to Life

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 good idea. Now ask yourself this: At what age were you old enough to make your own medical decisions? You were probably old enough to know what you wanted or didn’t want, medically speaking, before you turned 18. Probably even before 16 or 14, although it gets murkier the younger you go. Some kids are a lot more capable of that sort of thinking than others. I doubt anyone thinks they were young children when they were able to make their own medical decisions. Since the concept requires speech, infants are ruled out. This means

Continue reading