Is there a God gene?

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ID 12942212 © Tatiana nikolaevna Kalashnikova | Dreamstime.com

One scientist has claimed to have found a God gene. A gene that causes some part of our brain to be susceptible to the idea of God. Another study showed that identical twins with a particular version of the God gene who were reared apart were twice as likely to become religious as those without that version of the gene.

Based on these studies, some scientists have concluded faith is biological. In their opinion, those of us with faith are being led around by our DNA. I can see how this makes sense if you believe in evolution. If we are all evolved animals, then most of our behavior should be explained by how our DNA has evolved. So to explain a belief, it must be rooted in our genes and it must have an evolutionary advantage somehow. But is there an evolutionary advantage to faith that would cause the God gene to propagate?

Perhaps the scientists think the God gene would help people to cooperate enough to create a society and live peacefully together (assuming we actually do that now). I could see the evolutionary advantage to that.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t put it past God to give a genetic susceptibility for belief to those people who He already foresaw would come to Him. But then again, maybe not. The Bible says, He gave us the choice. To explain away faith as the product of a gene minimizes the role of our free will.

It isn’t faith if it’s forced. And it isn’t faith if it’s biologically programmed.

Scientists may try to consign God to a portion of DNA, but He is bigger than that. He is working out His plan. He is crafting the fabric of our lives. He is watching and listening to our limited, human attempts to define Him.

What do you think? Is belief genetic? If so, could you enhance or destroy that part of you? Where does free will come into it?

 

Reference: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/nov/14/20041114-111404-8087r/, http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/what-twins-reveal-about-god-gene

 

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Field Camp

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Photo by Janice Boekhoff, taken on field camp in Wyoming (notice the tiny people on the road)

Every prospective geologist must go to field camp before they graduate. If you graduate from a large school, then you go to field camp with your fellow geology students whom you have known for years. But if you go to a smaller school, like me, which doesn’t have their own camp, then you end up going to a larger school’s field camp. So basically I went to field camp with four of my classmates and somewhere around thirty strangers.

That may not sound so bad unless you know what field camp is all about. I showered in group showers with the girls (including my professor’s wife). I climbed mountains with the guys and had to hide behind tiny scrub bushes when I had to go to the bathroom (no restrooms on the side of a mountain). We froze together in the beginning of the season, we got heat stroke together near the end, and suffered through rashes, spider bites, and rattlesnakes. We hung off the side of unstable cliffs two hundred feet up from the highway (well, I didn’t, but I bit my nails twenty feet back from the edge). We worried over one of our professors, some 70 plus years old, who would waver and sway on the trails. He almost fell to his death at least five times. Thankfully, he survived field camp, as did the rest of us.

I came to know those thirty strangers quite well, but what pulled me through the struggles of field camp wasn’t my companions. It was my love of rocks, especially fossils. I came back with fossils of cyanobacteria (called stromatolites), gastroliths (stones used by some dinosaurs to grind up food in their bellies), nautiloids and more brachiopods (ancient clam shells) than I could count. Like most fossils, these are grouped together in deposits of different rocks and don’t usually overlap, with the exception of nautiloids and brachiopods.

At the time, I didn’t question anything my professors said at camp. I believed them when they said the fossilized animals lived hundreds of millions of years apart. And I never asked why they believed this. Later, I discovered the reason. Because the fossils are found in such discrete groups and because my professors believed the rocks were laid down slowly with burial occurring during local floods. However, I came to realize the discrete groups of fossils could just as easily be explained by the burial of animals living in different habitats, as the water rose during a global flood.

One global flood or many local ones? I look to the Bible for my answer and what I see in the rock record gives me no reason to doubt it. Fossils are the remnants of amazing creatures, many now extinct, that our creator left for us to appreciate. Even the rocks declare His majesty.

Science versus Faith, part 2

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© Kurt | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last week, we discovered that a belief in earth origins (a historical science) requires faith in a theory (see Science versus Faith, part 1). We can’t prove the origin of the earth like we can prove the effectiveness of the polio vaccine.

Many geologists and paleontologists don’t like to hear their science labeled as a belief system—sounds too fluffy, too unscientific—but it’s true nevertheless. For instance, we can prove the earth is round, not flat, but we can only prove that for the recent past. Perhaps the earth started out flat and then became round later (please don’t leave a comment saying I’m crazy—I’m not suggesting this is true, just making a point). Anything we say about the past involves assumptions, even if it’s the assumption that the past is like the present.

The same principle holds true for recorded history. I recently watched a program that claimed King Tut was murdered by his sister so she could take over the Egyptian Kingdom. A little while later, I found an article that said he probably had temporal lobe epilepsy and died at a young age because of it. Can any of this be proven? No, because we have no eyewitnesses and the evidence (in this case King Tut’s mummy) can be interpreted in several ways.

Similarly, the origin of the earth cannot be proven. You must choose which theory to believe. So what theory do you have the most faith in?

faith  noun \ˈfāth\ : strong belief or trust in someone or something

From Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, faith requires a strong belief in something. Most geologists and paleontologists have a strong belief in evolution and an old earth. Most would say their belief is based on scientific evidence. And yet, we’ve already established the true definition of science doesn’t apply here (see post from last week).

At this point, some people may bow out of the conversation, saying there’s no way to prove how the earth was created (which of course is true on this side of heaven), but what fun is it to ignore the questions? God made us with brains that question and hearts that long to discover His world.

Certainly, there’s evidence to examine (and we will look at some in later posts) and what the evidence says is the subject of much debate. I’ve discovered, in my years as a creationist, that the same evidence is interpreted in different ways, based on your starting place. If you believe God created the earth, there is plenty of evidence to support it. If you believe in evolution, you will find evidence to support that, as well. So where does that leave us?

In a tug of war between two competing theories. And both require a leap of faith. Do you believe in the man-made theory of evolution or what God says He accomplished in the Bible? Where will you put your faith? My choice will always be with God.

How do you feel about the scientific ‘leap of faith’ required to study earth origins? What origin do you put your faith in and why? All thoughtful and respectful comments will be displayed.

Science versus Faith, Part 1

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© Max Blain | Dreamstime Stock Photos

When I was in elementary school, I memorized the definition of science. You probably did, too. But as I made my way through high school, college and even became a scientist myself, that definition of science changed along the way. I didn’t notice or question it until much later, but when I did, I realized there are two different types of science.

One type is experimental science (sometimes called hard science) and the other is historical, or earth origins, science. Each type of science has its own challenges and both try to answer different questions. Experimental science answers the questions we have about our planet and ourselves in the here and now. Things like: How can we cure cancer? How much force is required for this rocket to break out of the atmosphere? Is this volcano going to explode soon?

In contrast, the historical sciences focus on what has happened on the planet in the past. Both are referred to as science, but only one fits the definition of science that most of us memorized in school. According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary:

sci·ence   noun \ˈsī-ən(t)s\ : knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

Science helps us learn through experiments and observation. This works great in the experimental sciences, like biology, physics or medicine. But what about the historical sciences? Did anyone observe how the world was created? Can we design an experiment to test how we think the world was created? Can we recreate the conditions under which life first formed?

The answers, of course, are no, because the historical sciences don’t fit the true definition of science. This was a difficult realization for me because somewhere along the path to my geology degree, I adjusted my definition of science to include the historical sciences. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to say geologists and other historical scientists don’t observe what they see and develop theories, but we must remember that’s what they are—theories. And they will stay theories, because we will never be able to test them the same way we test the measles vaccine or the design for a new airplane.

This is why any belief in earth origins requires a certain amount of faith. Faith in a particular theory. Faith in the assumptions behind the theory (because there are always assumptions).

I’m sure you caught the key word. Faith.

More to come on faith and science next week. Please share your thoughts on faith and how it relates to science by leaving a comment.