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Monday, November 15, 2004

The God Gene

A common excresence or should we say expression in evolutionary psychology is an announcement by some academic type of the discovery of a new gene that controls an aspect of our behavior, such as altruism, thumbsucking, incest, or voting Republican. The latest dubious discovery is the 'God gene' . The God gene is no more than a gene that controls the transport mechanisms of mood altering chemicals, whatever that means. Now, I'm of the sort that thinks we believe in God due to fact that we have a big neocortex (or grey matter), and thus can forsee bad things like death and taxes. Thus we postulate Gods and Republican administrations to eliminate the problem. Therefore there is no need to postulate a God or Republican gene. But that's besides the point.

Consider if you will a particular array of genes that only me and 7% of the population have. They basically wire up my cerebral noggin with many more receptor genes for a particular little neurochemical called dopamine. Thus I and my minority compatriots are more sensitive to novelty and surprise, and seek it out wherever we can. Because this mood altering dopamine molecule is being transported all over the place due to the extra receptors I possess, I am more inclined to be a creative troublemaker. Thus I will be more likely to be a world conqueror, artist, scientist, or republican president. Now here's the rub. Do I say that I possess an artistic gene, attila the hun gene, or political gene? Well no, because these genes, as well as other genes, control for general tendencies, not specific ones. Thus, all I can say is that these genes control for left handedness , and a sensitivity to surprise. Now a sensitivity to surprising or novel things doesn't have the cachet of an Attila the Hun gene, but evolutionary psychologists don't care to trumpet this blander fact because that's not where the money or notoriety is. The guy who discovered the God Gene has written a new book, 'The God Gene', about it, and will make a lot of money, which goes to show that money talks, or that the poor fellow possesses the yet to be discovered bullshitter gene.

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