E is for Enchantment and Evolution

| April 1, 2014

In The Case for God, Karen Armstrong presents the current landscape of religion as one that has lost its former ritualistic, enchanted practice in favor of scientific correctness (for believers and atheists alike), which she says would be laughable to our ancient ancestors. According to Armstrong, our unfortunate and insatiable demand for proof (on either side of the debate) has trumped the true benefit of religion, which comes through enchantment.

Recent “proof” of the Big Bang Theory, the popular Bill Nye and the Ken Ham creationism debate and recent Biblically themed movies (‘Noah’ among others – http://npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=295254039)

have generated renewed, widespread public interest and passions on the subject.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/02/ken_ham_bill_nye_debate_science_and_fact_versus_fiction_and_fantasy.html

But, it seems even this ability to become enchanted may come down to a scientific explanation of the brain, with the “God Gene” gaining more and more support and further studies in Neurotheology evidencing how religious experiences affect the brain (and vice versa).

According to Wikipedia:

“pothesis proposes that a specific gene (VMAT2) predisposes humans towards spiritual or mystic experiences. The idea has been postulated by geneticist Dean Hamer, the director of the Gene Structure and Regulation Unit at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and author of the 2005 book The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes.

The God gene hypothesis is based on a combination of behavioral genetic, neurobiological and psychological studies. The major arguments of the hypothesis are: (1) spirituality can be quantified by psychometric measurements; (2) the underlying tendency to spirituality is partially heritable; (3) part of this heritability can be attributed to the gene VMAT2;[1] (4) this gene acts by altering monoamine levels; and (5) spiritual individuals are favored by natural selection because they are provided with an innate sense of optimism, the latter producing positive effects at either a physical or psychological level”.

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=132078267

NPR’s report on The God Gene: 20090518_atc_05