Religion Is Human

In the Island of Dr. Moreau the beast people congregate in a community in corner of the Island, where they live by the fabricated dogma imprinted in their minds by their creator.  These beast people were trained by Moreau to follow rules, repeating the unnatural mantra called “The Law” throughout the novel.

 

Moreau engineers a social order among his creatures and a safety net for himself by brainwashing the beasts to adopt his “Law” and fear him as the omnipotent enforcer.  Wells’ obvious suggestion of religion as a vehicle of social control draws attention to the contemporary debate on the nature of religion.

 

Scientists and theologians are the continuing the debate:  Did evolution instill in us a sense of the divine so that we would gather into the communities essential to keeping the species going?  Did God (or Survival) select for our genes, much like Moreau in the beasts, a spiritual nature?

 

The beast people in Wells’ novel were made smarter and stronger, capable of severely harming each other and Moreau’s company.   To tame their animalistic instincts and insure the survival of everyone on the Island, Dr. Moreau selected a kind religious law for the creatures that bound the beasts in an ordered community.

 

Wells, being heavily influenced by Darwin, may have contemplated human’s innate sense of religion.  In the late 19th century there were new, isolated civilizations being discovered.  Many of these remote tribes, some separated by vast oceans, shared the concept of God.

 

Yesterday Time magazine and CNN co-published and article entitled “Is God in Our Genes.”  The report covered a claim by Dean Hammer, chief of gene structure at the National Cancer Institute, that he has uncovered the gene root for spirituality or self-transcendence (Vmat2).  Hammer’s study concluded that a base-pair substitution in the Vmat2 gene plays a role in one’s ability to have the spiritual experience fundamental to religion.

 

Have humans been hardwired for religion by the natural selection of the Vmat2 gene in our evolutionary history?

 

Dr. Moreau set out to select the most favorable and human traits for his creatures.  He engineered animals to walk upright, to speak in a human language, and to adopt a manufactured religion.

 

To be human requires a “gene for God.”   Dr. Moreau thought so.  Dean Hammer’s research suggests it.  What do you think?

 

-Alec Petersen

 

Check out these websites if you want more information:

 

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101041025-725072,00.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A46793-2004Nov12?language=printer

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,995465,00.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3393198.ece

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~ by anonymous on March 13, 2008.

One Response to “Religion Is Human”

  1. Dean Hamer readily admits in the article that Vmat2 is not ‘THE Gd gene.’ To quote the article, “Hamer is careful to point out that the gene he found is by no means the only one that affects spirituality. Even minor human traits can be governed by the interplay of many genes; something as complex as belief in God could involve hundreds or even thousands.” And further, Vmat2 influences spirituality, not religion–one can be spiritual without religion and religious without spirituality. The concept of self-transcendence being threefold, perhaps the most important aspect of it in evolutionary terms would be transpersonal identification, the feeling of connectedness to a larger universe. This sense of belonging (or desire for such a feeling) would be what pushed our ancestors into groups. Religious beliefs would certainly be helpful for group regulation upon entering those groups, but a need to belong rather than a search for Gd would be what would ultimately form bands of people. If a genetic basis for a belief in Gd WERE needed by early humans in order to survive, then wouldn’t those who were not predisposed to spirituality be weeded out of the genetic pool?

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