04 February 2007

Genetics and Spirituality

Quotes for the day:

"We think that all human beings have an innate capacity for spirituality and that that desire to reach out beyond oneself, which is at the heart of spirituality, is part of the human makeup. The research suggests some people have a bit more of that capacity than others, but it's present to some degree in everybody."

“Women score much higher than men on transcendence tests. They are more attuned to their emotional connections, and that's at the heart of spirituality."

Dean H. Hamer
Geneticist

"The field of behavioral genetics is littered with failed links between particular genes and personality traits,"

Carl Zimmer
Science author

"I wondered for a long time why [the concept of] a genetic implant hasn't been put in print or been part of a conversation in the broad theological community,"

"There are varieties of gifts but the same spirit."

Bishop John B. Chane

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington

Genetics and Spirituality

The release of current results that is causing somewhat of a stir in research fields is the growing evidence that Spirituality is connected to our gene pool. So for some of us Spirit based life styles are with us from incarnation and for others a little bit of effort is required.

Originally a personality trait known as self-transcendence was identified by Robert Cloninger, a Washington University psychiatrist. He found that spiritual people tend to share a set of characteristics such as feeling connected to the world and a willingness to accept things that cannot be objectively demonstrated

More recently Dean H. Hamer, a geneticist and his colleagues at the National Cancer Institute researched the genes that may make people prone to cigarette addiction. Pairs of siblings were studied comparing how strongly their shared heredity influenced different aspects of their personality and DNA samples were taken.

Hamer’s search led him to a gene known as VMAT2 (vesicular monoamine transporter) which Hamer calls the God gene. Two different versions of this gene exist and one version of the gene tends to score a little higher on self-transcendence tests. Approximately half the people in the study had at least one copy of the self-transcendence-boosting version of VMAT2.



He found that the brain chemicals associated with anxiety and other emotions, including joy and sadness, appeared to be active in the deep meditative states of Zen practitioners and the prayerful repose of Roman Catholic nuns as well as the mystical trances brought on by users of peyote and other mind-altering drugs.

Music for the Soul - Kitaro Ki – The Silk Road 4 min 52 sec

Interesting tidbits:

  • In organized religion spirituality tends to get lost.
  • We can change or abandon religions but cannot rid ourselves of the genetic need to be spiritual.
  • We can aid our spirituality through meditation, prayer and creative arts.
  • Cocaine users show a reduction in VMAT2 immunoreactivity. This may reflect damage to striatal dopamine fibers. These neuronal changes may play a role in causing disordered mood and motivational processes in severely addicted users.

Links:

How Spiritual Are You?

The God Gene

The Spacelady


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