Anthropologists are studying twins to find out how muchgenes influence our belief in God. Because the families wegrow up in and the schools we attend (especially religiousschools) have a big influence on our future beliefs,identifying our "God Genes" is easier to do when we'reolder. Researcher Laura Koenig says, "Behavioral geneticistswant to find out what part of that difference is due togenes and what part is due to environmental effects."
In Science & Theology News, Julia C. Keller reports thatKoenig looked at 169 identical twin brothers and 104fraternal twin brothers. Identical twins share 100% of theirDNA, while fraternal twins share only half of their genes,just like all other siblings. Unlike some of the earliertwin studies, in this study, the brothers grew up in nearlyidentical households and had the same parents, the sameschooling and similar religious upbringings.
Koenig wanted to find out how twins rated theirreligiousness as they grew up and became independent. Whenthe twins leave home for college, she says, "It's morelikely that their genetic predisposition will lead them tobecome religious or not." Koenig's study showed that by age33, genes probably accounted for about half of thereligiousness seen in the mature twins.
Dean Hamer, author of The God Gene, agrees with Koenig'sinterpretation of the results. "[But] just because somethingis 'genetically influenced' doesn't mean it's strictlyhard-wired," he says. "People who practice meditationactually improve their scores [on the religiosity test]. Soeven though there's a genetic proclivity, it certainly canbe altered by people's actions and behaviors."
But exactly what genetic traits make up the DNA of areligious person? Hamer asks, "Is it being obedient to otherpeople? Is it a gene for consciousness? Is it a gene forspirituality that's doing a bunch of different things?" Hethinks "God genes" remain in our gene pool because "thesegenes also promote better health, both psychological andphysical." They also encourage people to be generous andtake care of one another, rather than stealing from eachother, which might be the more natural action to take.
Harold Koenig, editor of Science & Theology News, agrees. "Ithink having evidence that a person has a geneticpredisposition toward religion or spirituality suggests thatthere must be some reason why that's encoded in our genes.And the reason why things are encoded is because they have asurvival advantage," he says. "This provides some biologicalevidence of the religion-health relationship."
Psychiatrist Thomas Achenbach says, "It's unfortunate thatno data were reported for females. Although the authorsacknowledge this as a limitation of the study, one can'tdraw general conclusions from only one gender." As a generalrule, womenare more religious than men. And it's amazing how much ourminds can do when wepush themto the limit. For a limited time only, get this (and everyother book on our store) for10% off ourregular, low prices?andsubscribers saveeven more!
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