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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes
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The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  321 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God; this conviction has existed since the beginning of recorded time and is shared by billions around the world. In The God Gene, Dr. Dean Hamer reveals that this inclination towards religious faith is in good measure due to our genes and may even offer an evolutionary advantage by helping us get through difficulties, redu ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Anchor (first published 2004)
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Dec 04, 2015 David rated it really liked it
The God Gene is an interesting survey of the evidence that spirituality is hardwired in our genetic makeup. Dean Hamer makes it quite clear, that this book is not an argument that God does or does not exist. For him, that is beside the point. The point is, whether or not there is something about faith or spirituality that has helped humans survive, that evolution has found useful to promote for the purpose of survival.

Moreover, Hamer makes a strong distinction between spirituality and religion.
Jul 26, 2007 Lena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The basic concept of this book is that people who have a certain version of a specific gene consistently test higher on subjective scales of self-transcendence than people who don’t. I find this idea thought provoking, as it sheds a scientific perspective on a subject that is so often clouded in myth. Hamer’s book is far from perfect, however; I got bogged down in his detailed descriptions of his original studies, and no further studies I am aware of have yet confirmed or expanded on his finding ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
I am not a science guy so a major part of this book which deals with science [DNA, Memes, genes, monoamines, etc.:] didn't give me much enjoyment.

Some may take the book's title with alarm, but the author does not actually try to disprove God or the authenticity of religious experience. He's only saying that Man, as he is, is genetically predisposed towards spirituality, or to believe in some higher power [which some call God:]. In one part of the book, he even likened it to an instinct. Just li
Jul 25, 2015 Owlseyes marked it as to-read

Theme: biological perspectives on RELIGION

Some scattered ideas to amalgamate into a coherent-sense article or review someday later.


A-Hamer,a geneticist, started in 1998,with a study on smoking addiction for the National Cancer Institute; more than 1,000 men and women were recruited,to take a 240-question personality test:Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI); traits measured: SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, which includes 3 other traits: SELF-FORGETFULNESS (ability to get entirely lost in an exp
Oct 23, 2013 Hayley rated it really liked it
This respectfully written book discusses how genes may influence our propensity to be spiritual or not.

The author describes how he and his colleagues had to 1) select a way to measure spiritual tendency, which is a slippery concept 2) find how much of it seemed to be genetically based, and 3) look for specific genes that influenced it.

They found at least one gene - one whose expression relates to packaging and distribution brain-signaling chemicals - but of course they don't attribute all spirit
Eric Wurm
Jun 19, 2014 Eric Wurm rated it liked it
The author of this book is not trying to instill a reductionist view in the reader, nor is he trying to provide evidence for or against the evidence of gods or any "spiritual" notion. He states very clearly that either interpretation could be drawn from the existence of a gene that correlates with spirituality. There is no need for the potential reader to get their Fruit-of-the Looms in an increased state of entropy.

Hamer, the Harvard biologist and geneticist hypothesizes, as have others, that "
Jul 07, 2012 Adam rated it really liked it
Pros: Hamer delievers his research content very clearly and doesn't get too bogged down in the statistical data (which might count as a "con" too). His (and others in his group) discovery of the VMAT2 gene offer an interesting approach to stuying the source of faith in humans. Also, for some reason, I really liked the beginning of one of the middle chapters where he give instructions on how to isolate your own DNA (using household items - one of which is vodka). There were little tidbits like th ...more
Sep 27, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was torn on how to rate this book. I was really intrigued to see what sort of evidence the author provided in support of his ideas. I love to read books that try to explain the connection between what are typically thought to be psychological traits and our genetic code. As I expected, however, the evidence provided was weak and not very conclusive as far as I was concerned. None the less, I think the author did a great job explaining his theories. With all that is unknown about genetics and ...more
May 01, 2010 Broodingferret rated it liked it
While not as convincing in defending its thesis as The Science of Desire was, The God Gene still made for some fascinating reading. Hamer's thesis is that there is evidence for a genetic influence on the human experience of spirituality (which, incidentally, makes the title problematic, as religion and spirituality are, as Hamer himself points out repeatedly, different things). While the results of the various analyses that Hamer expounds on are provocative, and certain genetic correlates of spi ...more
Dec 21, 2011 Shara rated it it was amazing
It’s hard to review this book without launching into my own personal philosophy about the subject, because after all, when we read, we often bring the baggage of our own points of view in order to digest the material.[return] [return]I picked up The God Gene for a variety of reasons (it’s always a variety that causes these pick-ups): the first, and most obvious, is that I believed the book would relate to certain aspects of my novel. In the end, I’m not sure it has, but it’s given me plenty to t ...more
Joel Justiss
Mar 09, 2009 Joel Justiss rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
Hamer, a geneticist, tells how he identified a gene which affects an individual’s “self-transcendence.” While admitting that there are probably many genes which have an influence on that characteristic, he explains that finding one such gene demonstrates the heritability of a key aspect of personality that is considered “spiritual.”

In the middle of the book, Hamer turns from the subject of “self-transcendence” to faith, and a few pages later, to religion. Unfortunately he doesn’t point out that
Mar 20, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
I've seen many discussions of why we may have evolved to believe in gods, and why religion makes sense from both an evolutionary psychology perspective and meme theory, but I hadn't seen that spirituality can actually be correlated with specific genes. Hamer gives an excellent, popular science overview of his research into the genetic basis of "spirituality" (thoroughly distinguished from "religion" which is primarily cultural and learned, a distinction I was particularly happy to see). He tread ...more
Apr 22, 2015 Eve rated it did not like it
Shelves: never-finished
I don't think that this book deserves a rating even of 1 star. Had to read this for my Genetics class (I am in university) and this book was just plain nonsense. Obviously to those who have never encountered scientific language before the studies might sound fascinating, but in reality this book was about complete nothing. Not worth anyone's time. Although I have to give credits to the author, because he knows how to sell nonsense!
Jason Mashak
Jul 06, 2011 Jason Mashak rated it really liked it
Essential reading, right along with Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, Lawrence's Apocalypse: Cambridge Lawrence Edition, Hecht's Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson, and many others that help one to understand why religious conflicts have existed since the dawn of man.
Jan 03, 2015 Stark rated it really liked it
Terrible title, worthwhile description of how vagus nerve activation creates feeling of transcending the self, and how this can be abused to create group cohesion by fascists.
Jul 07, 2014 Alloe rated it really liked it
loved it! My major is Bio Psych, so if your in to statistics and empircal comparisons for better understanding, it's for you.
Oct 22, 2012 Annette rated it really liked it
Why do people believe in God? Why are so many people religious? This fascinating book explores the connection between genetics and the human thirst for spirituality and meaning in life. Although the book does a nice job describing the research that has been done so far, I'll reserve judgment until more research has been conducted. On the other hand, the topic fits well with my recent interest in the role of nature vs. nurture. Actually the part of the book I found most interesting was the charac ...more
Anna Hanson
Nov 11, 2014 Anna Hanson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit challenging for the average lay reader, the book is still readable for those who have a nodding acquaintance with basic biology and scientific understanding. Examining the pop-culture thought that there is a God-shaped hole in every heart, the evidence is intriguing that yes, perhaps there IS - or at least, a genetic predisposition to spirituality. As the author sums up: "Our genes can predispose us to believe. But they don't tell us what to believe in." If you like "science-y" books, you' ...more
Jordan Mohondro
Jun 26, 2016 Jordan Mohondro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt that this book was really enlightening. It is exactly the type of nonfiction I'm into. I like the intersection of science and religion and this book does a good job of distinguishing between religion and spirituality, two related but different concepts. The only thing I will say is it had a lot of technical language and even as someone who studies biology it can be relatively hard to understand sometimes. On the other hand it really brings up some interesting points on which we could expa ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Jessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a science based book about spirituality (not necessarily religion). It came across like a thesis paper written for the non-science person, which worked for me. Before chapter 4, the author set-up the validity of the research and his professional creditability. In chapter 4, we got to the good stuff, the belief that the god gene could be VMAT2. The rest of the book dealt the past research projects and current applications. If the topic appeals to you, the book presents the information we ...more
Mar 24, 2012 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some said this book dragged on for too long, but I think it was excellent. The concept of a link between brain chemistry and the experience of spirituality is fascinating.

"...feelings of spirituality are a matter of emotions rather than intellect. No book or sermon can teach one person to use a different monoamine transporter or another to ignore the signals emanating from his limbic system. It is our genetic makeup that helps to determine how spiritual we are. We do not know God; we feel him."
Aug 05, 2007 Nikki rated it liked it
Recommends it for: academics
The author of this book is not a writer, he is a scientist. Therefore, it makes sense that his book reads more like a scientific paper than a novel (which it isn't anyway}. At points, the scientific jargon and the author's attempt at humor make this book somewhat difficult to read. That being said, the subject matter is fascinating, and once you get past the mediocre writing style and into the meat of the book, it's hard to stop reading. Overall, I'd say it was pretty good.
If you were hoping to find scientific evidence of a clue to a Divine Creator in this book, keep on seeking. I wish I'd read the reviews first before taking up time to read this book. I picked it up at the library on a whim, as I had recently watched a documentary on the links between science and religion in which this book was mentioned. For those who like reading genetic or science textbooks, you'll enjoy this book. Otherwise, skip it.
Aug 22, 2012 Anthony rated it it was amazing
We are the only living creature that has spiritual genes hard-wired into our brain. Have you ever wonder why if evolution is true that nature would "waste" precious space to hard-wired unneeded neurons to a non-existence creator ? God through his majestic plan hard-wired these neurons for us to communicate with him. That is the omniscient characteristic of God.
Nov 19, 2011 Matthew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: entertainment
This book was interesting, but was a little premature. I think the author has more work to do before this book was ready for publication. It also became very technical and a bit dry and wouldn't necessarily recommend the book unless you were extremely interested in the topic.
Ron Krumpos
"The God Gene / How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes" is one of the books in the secondary bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism. "The greatest achievement in life" at has been reviewed on Goodreads.
Lee Entrekin
Dec 12, 2012 Lee Entrekin rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a very good "popular science" update on genetic research into why we believe. Hamer presents an objective, balanced argument that belief has an evolutionary advantage, without straying too far into either the religious or scientific camps.
Apr 25, 2011 Andy rated it liked it
A clear, relatively unbiased argument on the genetics and biology of religion and spirituality. Ultimately, it left me unsatisfied. The conclusion seemed to pander to both sides rather than make a distinctive stand for one side or the other.
Shelton Ranasinghe
Other than the first few topics, I found this book extremely interesting, logical and scientific. I like Dean Hamer's work and recommend this books for people who like to analyse facts keeping the faith at a side for a moment.
Jun 20, 2009 Andrea marked it as to-read
It is sort of interesting, but I am reading it because i am out of books, and though I have had it for a while I never opened it. Probably never going to finish this one.
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