The “God Gene” – Is Spirituality Hardwired Into Our Genes? Geneticist Explains

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We have always been fascinated by ourselves ad used every resource at our disposal to make sense of our being and figure out our purpose in this universe. One of the things that have brought science the most answers is studying our genes.

A gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity that make up our DNA. However, even genetistis admit that genes can’t explain everything because human beings are too complex. The factors of our environment also influence us. But what about spirituality? Is it learned or are we born with it in our genes?

A geneticist-author wrote a provocative book in which he asks “Why is spirituality such a powerful and universal force? Why do so many people believe in things they cannot see, smell, taste, hear or touch?” Here are his answers.

Is Spirituality Universal?

Human behavior is usually understood through a mix of genetics and factors from the environment. However human behavior is complex and even scientists admit that there are fundamentals to the human being that they still have to understand.

hand reaches out for light halo
Jonas Ferlin / Pexels
Jonas Ferlin / Pexels

While we have learned a lot of the secrets of human genes in molecular detail, we have been far less successful in our studies of the traits and genes that are vastly more important from the medical, economic, social, and intellectual perspectives. One of those traits is the “God gene” which is the idea that human spirituality has an innate genetic component

The Ability To See Beyond

The “Human Gene” idea was proposed by geneticist Dean Hamein his 2004 book The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired Into Our Genes. He claims that the inclination towards faith is not by accident. He says that instead, the human genes act by influencing the brain’s capability for various types and forms of consciousness, which become the basis for spiritual experiences.”

close up of blue eye wth yellow specles
Michael Morse / Pexels
Michael Morse / Pexels

Hamer created a spirituality scale of ‘self-transcendence’, which represents the ability to see beyond ourselves. This scale “provides a numerical measure of people’s capacity to reach out beyond themselves — to see everything in the world as part of one great totality, “he writes.

Spirituality Vs Religion

Hamer makes a distinction between spirituality and religion. This is important to understand his theory because he explains that spirituality is a personality trait that we all have a degree of, while religion is an expression of that trait of spirituality that is culturally passed on.

selective-focus-photography-of-monk-during-meditation
Prince Kumar/ Pexels
Prince Kumar/ Pexels

In his own words, he explains: “Spirituality is based in consciousness, religion in cognition. Spirituality is universal, whereas cultures have their own forms of religion. I would argue that the most important contrast is that spirituality is genetic, while religion is based on cultures, traditions, beliefs, and ideas. It is, in other words, mimetic.”

Spirituality In Evolution

It’s possible to spirituality dates all the way to the beginning of humanity and has been passed on through our genes. According to evolution, we tend to pass on genes that are improved from generation to generation for our survival.

woman-wearing-black-head-scarf eyes closed praying
Deden Dicky Ramdhani / Pexels
Deden Dicky Ramdhani / Pexels

The spirituality gene could have been favored during human evolution because spirituality has some positive effect on our abilities. After all spirituality has many known biological, psychological and neurological effects and often reflects positive values.

Who Has The God Gene?

Let’s make one thing clear, having A God Gene, doesn’t make us a God, but just predisposes us towards spiritual beliefs, experiences and interpretations.

man-wearing-blue- shirt praying in church
Luis Quintero / Pexels
Luis Quintero / Pexels

Spirituality can’t be traced down to just one gene because it’s so complex, so it’s linked to many genes. Those genes influence brain chemicals. The “God gene” influences spirituality by altering consciousness. This has been now studied by DNA samples from volunteers, and we are trying to figure out why some have it more than others.

Why Does This Matter?

So what difference does this make for us? Well if spirituality really is genetic, then it must be there for a purpose. Figuring that out could unleash more of our potential and unlock more of the answers around why we’re in this universe.

purple cells on blackbackground
National Cancer Institute / Unsplash
National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Hamer adds: “The fact that spirituality has a genetic component implies that it evolved for a purpose. Although the question of why spirituality might have an evolutionary advantage is an important one, I haven’t yet given in to the notion that every base pair of my DNA has some higher purpose.”

Science Vs Faith

Naturally, this theory has been received with mixed reviews. Another geneticist was quoted speculating:: “A God gene? That’s got to be nonsense. Have you replicated it?” Theologians are also wary of this theory, which Hamer interprets as: “Theologians often see science as irrelevant, incomprehensible, or even destructive,” Dr. Hamer said.

floating man over mountain with arms open
Karina Carvalho / Unsplash
Karina Carvalho / Unsplash

Science and faith have always been in conflict, so to combine the two, could be groundbreaking. Hames concludes that the fact that spirituality has a genetic component implies that it has evolved for a purpose. “

There is now reasonable evidence that spirituality is in fact beneficial to our physical as well as mental health. Faith may not only make people feel better, it may actually make them better people.”

Understanding Ourselves

Spirituality and religion are often topics that are brushed aside because of the way they sometimes divide humans. We could benefit from understanding the role of genetics in spirituality and get closer to being on the same page. It could promote respect and understanding among each other while shining a light on our true purpose.

man and woman close up on eyes with their faces touching
Andriyko Podilnyk / Unsplash
Andriyko Podilnyk / Unsplash

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]