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This ought to be good for a few turns around the dance floor:

http://tinyurl.com/3lkbf

'God gene' discovered by scientist Dr Dean Hamer

By Elizabeth Day

(Filed: 14/11/2004)

Religious belief is determined by a person's genetic make-up according

to a study by a leading scientist.

After comparing more than 2,000 DNA samples, an American molecular

geneticist has concluded that a person's capacity to believe in God is

linked to brain chemicals.

His findings were criticised last night by leading clerics, who

challenge the existence of a "god gene" and say that the research

undermines a fundamental tenet of faith - that spiritual enlightenment

is achieved through divine transformation rather than the brain's

electrical impulses.

Dr Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit

at the National Cancer Institute in America, asked volunteers 226

questions in order to determine how spiritually connected they felt to

the universe. The higher their score, the greater a person's ability to

believe in a greater spiritual force and, Dr Hamer found, the more

likely they were to share the gene, VMAT2.

Studies on twins showed that those with this gene, a vesicular

monoamine transporter that regulates the flow of mood-altering

chemicals in the brain, were more likely to develop a spiritual belief.

Growing up in a religious environment was said to have little effect on

belief. Dr Hamer, who in 1993 claimed to have identified a DNA sequence

linked to male homosexuality, said the existence of the "god gene"

explained why some people had more aptitude for spirituality than

others.

"Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus all shared a series of mystical experiences

or alterations in consciousness and thus probably carried the gene," he

said. "This means that the tendency to be spiritual is part of genetic

make-up. This is not a thing that is strictly handed down from parents

to children. It could skip a generation - it's like intelligence."

His findings, published in a book, The God Gene: How Faith Is

Hard-Wired Into Our Genes, were greeted sceptically by many in the

religious establishment.

The Rev Dr John Polkinghorne, a fellow of the Royal Society and a Canon

Theologian at Liverpool Cathedral, said: "The idea of a god gene goes

against all my personal theological convictions. You can't cut faith

down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the

poverty of reductionist thinking."

The Rev Dr Walter Houston, the chaplain of Mansfield College, Oxford,

and a fellow in theology, said: "Religious belief is not just related

to a person's constitution; it's related to society, tradition,

character - everything's involved. Having a gene that could do all that

seems pretty unlikely to me."

Dr Hamer insisted, however, that his research was not antithetical to a

belief in God. He pointed out: "Religious believers can point to the

existence of god genes as one more sign of the creator's ingenuity - a

clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rich,

For some dumb reason, I thought the main body of this text was written by you! On rereading it, I see that it is the article you copied. (I thought, "Dayaamm, Rich has a new style of writing.") LOLOLOLOLOLOL...

I think this is what caused my delay in getting around to it.

In general, I see nothing wrong with the concept of a gene that causes a propensity to a certain behavior - or is present in those with a behavior propensity. However, there is still a long way to go to prove that such gene is the cause of faith. Apparently, Hamer is the same guy who gave us the gay gene.

From what I gathered, according to a survey, a specific gene, VMAT2, was found to be present in a higher number of people who believed in God and was not present in those who did not.

Without understanding what such "belief in God" entails, I don't yet see much value in this observation. For example, your own identification of a mystical experience as one with definite characteristics that can be measured (like duration of about a half an hour, brain waves, etc.) is a whole lot more precise than "belief in God," which, in the survey, seems to denote anything the person tested proclaimed it means, but according to 226 questions on a questionnaire.

I think it would be a whole lot more interesting and useful to first test and measure those who can achieve the "mystical experience" state, with corroboration by brain wave scan, and then test for the gene. The implications of this could be extremely important and start on the way to further understanding an experience that is common to many - and maybe even help discover how to develop the mind in new directions.

I find the "belief in God" parameter extremely sloppy, even at 226 questions.

Michael

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HAH! If I had written that, I'd be toying with the idea of where to post it...

Yes, it's got a fair amount of spin on it, that's for sure.

I'm interested in the genetic aspect, it would be interesting to see that developed more. There are a number of things you can look at on the biological level, but I never saw much about geneology. I'd be interested in, for instance, comparing stats on people possessing that gene with numbers on epileptic-type conditions.

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  • 6 months later...

CRIMINAL GENES

... well, once a year, I've got a regular routine,

I see the doctor for a checkup, get a flu vaccine...

When I went to see the doctor I was feeling O.K.

But he said "Listen to me closely, I've got something to say"

"I hate to have to tell you you've got criminal genes"

"Look into the microscope- I'll show you what I mean."

So I looked through the lens- and you know what I saw?

Forty-eight chromosomes, breaking the law!

I said "That can't be right, Dr., Not so fast-"

He said "I've studied genealogy and looked into your past!"

"You'd better have a seat because you're in for a shock-"

"You're ancestors got off the boat at Plymouth Rock!"

"I can go back even further, if you so desire,

To a caveman name of Uggh, who discovered fire

Now he didn't need to cook, because he ate it raw-

But instinctively he knew it was against the law!"

"I can even go back farther, if you choose,

To a single celled creature in the primeval ooze,

When by random mutation, there appeared on the scene,

the world's first amoeba with a criminal gene."

"Now I'll have to turn you in- I've really got no choice."

And then I tried to plead, in an anxious voice,

I said "but you know me- I'd never hurt a soul!"

He said "Maybe not now, but when that gene gets control,

Your hormones will rage and your chemicals react-

And you'll be driven to commit some sort of illegal act!

You'll have to be locked up for the safety of us all!"

And he turned his back on me and started walking down the hall...

Well, I thought of me in prison and my kids and wife alone

And I knew I couldn't let the doctor make it to the phone.

I didn't want to kill, but there was no other way.

Of course, it wasn't my fault- it was the DNA.

pete

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  • 3 weeks later...

If we buy into Dragonfly's Classical Physics Deterministic Mind Theory, nothing we do is our fault!

If some people are more susceptible to becoming alcoholics for genetic reasons, I suppose it is not entirely beyond the pale to suppose that maybe some people are more in need of having a god to watch over them. When I was 15, I can remember feeling very close to God and having the feeling of something rather like a runner's high. Since the latter is a mind state of a very different chemistry, I would not be at all surprised to find that people who become very wrapped up in their religious belief are experiencing a rush of soothing and reassuring chemicals.

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  • 11 months later...

"God Gene"

On June 29, 2007 a poster named Aeaeae sent me pdf backups of 23 threads he had on file. I offer my most heartfelt thanks to him for allowing OL to recover the present thread that was previously lost. I am posting this thread as a series of image files since extracting the text from the Acrobat file would entail an enormous volume of work. For easier file handling due to size, I am giving one Acrobat page per post (sometimes more).

In the present case, the entire thread was not lost, but some of the posts were. Now they are restored.

Michael

Godgene1a-5-1.jpg

Godgene1b-5.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

I find the God Gene legitimate because people can't change their selflessness into selfishness or vice versa, if these traits have been strong from childhood. I was predisposed towards atheism and libertarianism before I learned of Rand. The most selfless person I knew was predisposed towards theism and socialism before she took a course in her socialistic university.

Upon a scan of the otherwise nauseating The Language of God by the theist Francis S. Collins (2006), I found on page 258 a chart cited from "T.J. Bouchard and M. McGue, "Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Psychological Differences," J. Neurobiol. 54 (2003): 4-45." The chart gave an average heritability estimate of 45-50% for several personality traits; I assume that the other factor in these traits is environment. Though Collins cites this, he legitimately questions the legitimacy of the God Gene. But we know that the strongest theism follows from a predisposition towards selflessness, i.e., inherited personality, in which Collins believes.

Yet Collins thinks that we can change our personalities by something besides environment: by free will. But I maintain the biological maxim that genetics + environment = organism, and furthermore, that no environment can alter our strongest genetic predispositions, e.g., the aforementioned self-esteem.

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I find the God Gene legitimate because people can't change their selflessness into selfishness or vice versa, if these traits have been strong from childhood. I was predisposed towards atheism and libertarianism before I learned of Rand. The most selfless person I knew was predisposed towards theism and socialism before she took a course in her socialistic university.

That ain't genetics, it is memetics. You came to have these ideas because you -chose- to have these ideas. Genes do not determine the data or ideation content of your brain. That is acquired through experience which is a combination of choice and chance. Genes may determine how efficiently your brain works, but they in no say determine -what you think-.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I find the God Gene legitimate because people can't change their selflessness into selfishness or vice versa, if these traits have been strong from childhood. I was predisposed towards atheism and libertarianism before I learned of Rand. The most selfless person I knew was predisposed towards theism and socialism before she took a course in her socialistic university.

That ain't genetics, it is memetics. You came to have these ideas because you -chose- to have these ideas. Genes do not determine the data or ideation content of your brain. That is acquired through experience which is a combination of choice and chance. Genes may determine how efficiently your brain works, but they in no say determine -what you think-.

Ba'al Chatzaf

According to dictionary.com, a meme is "a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes." Memetics is hence the mainstay of pre-Chomsky linguistics. I believe in the inherited mental grammar, and all the other inheritance follows. This mental inheritance makes us not just voids with CPUs, but specific products of specific ancestors. The strongest pillar of objectivism is the notion that humans are a specific species that require a philosophy tailored to the natural selection of the species.

I believe that this is the objectivist viewpoint. I won't discuss non-objectivist viewpoints.

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I find the God Gene legitimate because people can't change their selflessness into selfishness or vice versa, if these traits have been strong from childhood. I was predisposed towards atheism and libertarianism before I learned of Rand. The most selfless person I knew was predisposed towards theism and socialism before she took a course in her socialistic university.

Upon a scan of the otherwise nauseating The Language of God by the theist Francis S. Collins (2006), I found on page 258 a chart cited from "T.J. Bouchard and M. McGue, "Genetic and Environmental Influences on Human Psychological Differences," J. Neurobiol. 54 (2003): 4-45." The chart gave an average heritability estimate of 45-50% for several personality traits; I assume that the other factor in these traits is environment. Though Collins cites this, he legitimately questions the legitimacy of the God Gene. But we know that the strongest theism follows from a predisposition towards selflessness, i.e., inherited personality, in which Collins believes.

Yet Collins thinks that we can change our personalities by something besides environment: by free will. But I maintain the biological maxim that genetics + environment = organism, and furthermore, that no environment can alter our strongest genetic predispositions, e.g., the aforementioned self-esteem.

The selfless are just as selfish as the selfish for selflessness is a subcategory of selfishness. They do tend more to hypocrisy, though. It is when the collectivists try to destroy selfishness and elevate selflessness to the supreme category that we get our moral and collectivist problems. That is when the selfless who try to be truly selfless suffer, at least in fiction. It can be a form of mortification or masochism, at least in real life. Some souls get off on that. Now, we can claim that an objectification of what man needs "qua man" means that this is not true, but that is the external imposition of overt selfishness as opposed to inside out, which is the same fallacy as the collectivists only in this case done by the individual egged on by persons of perceived authority. What is needed is true individualism and the understanding that as in economics with its subjective theory of value so to with an individual's--not society's--view of personal morality. The actual selfishness can only be objectified by him. If he doesn't, it's still selfishness. Not many people enjoy "ouch!" and those that do, do. The real trick is to let people know it's okay to be selfish so they can trash the bullshit, their own and that of others, and push the button on the dashboard that says "TURBO."

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Brant,

Before I had given up on trying to change people's characters, and before I had learned of other moral options besides selflessness, I had told my ex-girlfriend that it was selfish to wait for Prince Charming to get her off because she was putting effort into that which would make her alone euphoric at some point, thereby diverting effort from the ends of others. By this means I was appealing to her selflessness. Reflecting upon this attempt after reading Rand, I decided instead that she suffered from selflessness, for the concomitant lack of self-esteem makes the idea of getting oneself off repulsive; the afflicted find their own bodies nauseating. Yet I can see how mental masturbation (the "soul getting off" as you put it) results from this hypocritical selfless selfishness. However, the souls that get off this way are damned anemic; they don't have a "turbo" button. But those that do must indeed discover it for themselves, as I did during my recovery from the selfless contagion. They must not discover it through a meme, but through reflection upon instructive texts like Rand's novels. Then again, anemic souls have no choice but to follow the dominant theistic meme, if they want to get off properly. For what can they do to change their mode of mentally getting off? Like the homosexuals, they are born with a trait unfavorable in natural selection, for they lack a turbo button as the homosexuals lack a satisfying means of reproduction and infant suckling. Now surely the mental state is usually more versatile than sexual orientation, but I believe that some, who are particularly selfless from youth, suffer incurable mental anemia. We can gain nothing from discourse with them in philosophy, the arts, or the social "sciences," and little else from outside the most stable paradigms of physical, natural, computer science &c.

As Barbara Branden has warned, we must not break up families and same-sex friendships (among men, at least; I don't know about women) just because some of our relations and allies have this incurable condition. But we can avoid prolonging relationships with the afflicted of the opposite sex, in which bitterness recurs inevitably. (For homosexuals, reverse "same" to "opposite" and it should still hold true, but again, I don't know about these relationships first hand.)

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Peter,

When relationships turn into philosophical discussions about motivations and such they are probably end-stage.

Some of what you say seems to be the old nature/nurture debate.

Identical twins are sometimes quite different character and personality-wise.

You seem to be dissipating yourself into an intellectual-deterministic world. Seem to be; I don't know.

--Brant

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Brant,

Indeed they are end-stage at that point, because the fundamental conflict of strong inherited traits becomes evident when the traits become philosophically offensive.

I agree that the environment significantly differentiates twins. But I would expect that the environment could not change a very strong inherited trait, e.g., mental anemia.

I believe in limited intellectual determinism; it is limited because I have recently shifted from depressing selflessness into confident selfishness, but I could only shift so easily because selflessness was not my predisposition as a child, but only a powerful sentiment that I had first encountered later in life. Again, I do not believe that we are born as blank slates, but as the specific product of our ancestors. We are not slates, but humans, whose correct philosophy is tailored to the peculiar reasoning faculty of humanity. Furthermore, our ancestors endow us with even more specific speciation of various strengths, e.g., varied strengths of mental anemia.

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Brant,

Indeed they are end-stage at that point, because the fundamental conflict of strong inherited traits becomes evident when the traits become philosophically offensive.

I agree that the environment significantly differentiates twins. But I would expect that the environment could not change a very strong inherited trait, e.g., mental anemia.

I believe in limited intellectual determinism; it is limited because I have recently shifted from depressing selflessness into confident selfishness, but I could only shift so easily because selflessness was not my predisposition as a child, but only a powerful sentiment that I had first encountered later in life. Again, I do not believe that we are born as blank slates, but as the specific product of our ancestors. We are not slates, but humans, whose correct philosophy is tailored to the peculiar reasoning faculty of humanity. Furthermore, our ancestors endow us with even more specific speciation of various strengths, e.g., varied strengths of mental anemia.

Peter,

What is your basis for stating that "mental anemia" is inherited rather than acquired? This seems awfully weak to me and it's not even clear what it is. Raw intelligence seems to be another matter. If you have a lot of brains it's hard to be stupid. All children should be taught how to use their brains and very few are.

--Brant

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Brant,

Indeed they are end-stage at that point, because the fundamental conflict of strong inherited traits becomes evident when the traits become philosophically offensive.

I agree that the environment significantly differentiates twins. But I would expect that the environment could not change a very strong inherited trait, e.g., mental anemia.

Anemia is low hemoglobin or low iron content of the blood. What is "mental anemia". Do you have a reference to a medical book for that?

There are no mental diseases. There are neurological anomalies and dysfunctions, but no mental diseases. So called mental diseases are either the result of bad habits or indicate a neurological malfunction.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Sorry; I was referring to my own figurative expression, which I just derived from reading that the eerily insightful Toohey of The Fountainhead calls Catherine "anemic." I defined "mental anemia" as the lack of Brant's "turbo" button, caused by the inability to realize one's selfish potential. The mentally anemic in Atlas Shrugged are the villains, and the others are heroes. Ranging from the lowly Willers to the prescient Galt, and from the secure Galt to the wavering d'Anconia to the perenially resistant Dagny Taggart, these heroes, like the villains, have in common the characteristics of objectivists or of mental anemics, respectively. I consider this differentiation heritable because these villains and heroes do not transmute to the other side. Even the resistant Dagny does not change her character in the least. The great volatile environment of the characters changes nobody as far as we can see. Rand leaves us hanging in the end, for she cannot predict what the greatest persuasive force, the will of John Galt, will do to the characters of the villains.

The book is a presentation of the stubbornness of man. As the clever President Thompson shows, man can classify the one right philosophy as a good one among equals, all of which must be accepted in a free society. This postmodernism nihilistically dissolves objectivism.

Again, nothing we can do can change the minds of James Taggart and company, except perhaps that which Galt does. Surely Rand believes in an inherited predisposition of character - in genetics - for environment (except, perhaps, for Galt's destruction of the reeling People's States) does nothing to particularly strong genetic traits like being a hero or a villain; but a simple aspect of the environment, i.e., Galt's conferences with business leaders, can convince wavering people, who haven't the villain's predisposition, to become full heroes. The environment can work on people where the genetic resistance isn't too fundamental.

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Peter,

You are touching on what I call the Objectivist version of Original Sin. We are all born with a capacity to choose (volition), but until we start making choices, this means we are still in a morally imperfect state. Only by making the right choices do we become morally perfect.

(For the record, I don't buy the concept of moral perfection as valid to apply to people, only to specific things they do. In other words, a person does not enter a morally perfect state through some kind of salvation, but he can make morally perfect choices when he does this or that.)

In theory, Rand believed all people can choose the right thing and even promoted the idea of man being tabula rasa at birth, but in her concrete condemnations, she certainly gave the impression at times that some people were irredeemable and naturally loathsome by nature.

But you are right if you are stating that we inherit temperaments. The genetics of this is starting to be properly identified.

Michael

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Peter,

We cannot study human psychology by referring to fictional characters per se, especially characters in any Ayn Rand novel after "We The Living."

--Brant

You're right that it isn't ideal to study hypothetical people, but Rand maintains that people like her characters do exist, and she said in her postscript to Atlas Shrugged that the publishing of her book is evidence of their existence. Furthermore, we both know these same characters deeply, whereas we know different people deeply in the real world.

Though these characters are prototypal, you're right that they are not evidence of anything. Our relations of real people to these characters makes them auxiliary in a study. The steadfast Rand heroes and Rand villains of my acquaintance, who I have known to be steadfast since childhood, have not been open to a transmutation to the other side. Do you know anyone who has changed a strong predisposition, as evinced in childhood, towards being a hero or a villain; i.e., towards being selfish or selfless? Did you know, or know of, a taciturn and selfless young girl who became an objectivist? Did you know a John Galt who contrarily transmuted?

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The steadfast Rand heroes and Rand villains of my acquaintance, who I have known to be steadfast since childhood, have not been open to a transmutation to the other side. Do you know anyone who has changed a strong predisposition, as evinced in childhood, towards being a hero or a villain; i.e., towards being selfish or selfless? Did you know, or know of, a taciturn and selfless young girl who became an objectivist? Did you know a John Galt who contrarily transmuted?

Are you really seeing those people or are they being filtered and distorted by your Objectivist eyes?

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede
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Michael,

Yes, temperament was the substance of the cited neurobiological chart.

I agree with what Barbara Branden said and what you paraphrase: that educated actions can be evil, but actions in ignorance, thoughts, and mere existence are not evil. But we must consider the scope of this education. A standard university education today, as stated in Atlas Shrugged, leaves the actors in ignorance. A reading of Rand's works is sufficient education for many. But some people need to be the starving citizens after the cliffhanger ending of Atlas Shrugged. Those souls hardened even against Galt are evil beings, not just evil sets of actions, and they would sooner die than accept objectivism. Rand doesn't specify which of her characters are thereby evil, but I think she hints that Dr. Stadler was one of them. Anyone short of such a being is not evil, for he can be educated.

I maintain that from the historical perspective, genetics and environment (the sum of all atomic movements in the universe that occurred before one's conception, thereby including all human action) determine how a man lived his life. Note the past tense. A man can act upon irrational whims that are per se unpredictable, but retrospectively, genetics and environment will tell us why he acted rationally or irrationally, though they will not tell us why he did something in particular unless we can observe the life of a men with at least seventy-two quarterings of recorded ancestry in controlled cells. So we can never see all the particulars unless we perform Naziistic experiments, but I maintain that we get a general idea of character from a man's ancestry and surroundings. Ye will see more neurobiological revelations in time. Rand had not seen any; therefore the tabula rasa was plausible to her.

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