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The "God Gene" and the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness

N. Perlas, 20 November 2004

In the preface to the upcoming book by Nicanor Perlas on "Spirit or Empire: Societal Revolutions in the 21st Century", he identifies hyper-materialism as a grave challenge facing humanity. It is important to start taking a closer look at the materialistic assumptions driving the billion dollar ambition to create human cyborgs and super-intelligent machines.

Genetic science and especially behavioral genetics has become the ultimate playground for scientists who believe that the essence of what it is to be human can be discovered in the chemical, material realm of DNA. This total reduction of life and spirit to matter is responsible, in turn, for many social approaches that do not factor in human spiritual creativity and freedom in the shaping of societies.

A recent article on the "God Gene" (re-posted in TruthForce!) is a good example of this widespread but misdirected tendency in modern science. This tendency not only encourages one-sided materialism in humans. It also creates societies which are hostile to spiritual realities including authentic freedom, compassion, creativity, and other traits essential in creating peaceful, productive, harmonious and sustainable societies.

Yes, human beings are inclined to spirituality. But this is not because of their genes. Rather they tend towards spirituality because their essence is of a spiritual nature. To equate emotionalism with spirituality is to fail to distinguish between stirrings of the heart due to lower emotions, and stirrings of the heart due to deep spiritual insight. The former is connected more with the amygdale or the "reptilian" aspect of the brain, while the latter is connected with "the intelligence of the heart" -- recently discovered by scientists.

The article on the "God Gene" on this issue ignores the basic scientific dictum that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. In cases where correlation indeed indicates a deeper level of causation, these scientific researches show that non-physical actions can have physical impacts. For example, the work of Nobel Laureates Roger Sperry and John Eccles show that the movements of consciousness trigger the patterns of neural events. The details of the neurophysiology of the brain can be viewed as merely footprints, in a physical medium, of non-physical, non-genetic supersensible realities connected to the spiritual activity of human consciousness. This deeper view of the relationship between consciousness and matter is also one that is also finding greater and greater acceptance in physics and general biology.

The "God Gene" resurrects the old and false notion of genetic predisposition, also criticized by others in the said article. If your experience of your consciousness is nothing but a reflection of genetic events, then you cannot even be aware that you are observing genetic events. A consciousness that is determined cannot be a reflective, self aware consciousness. It simply is. It is simply a mechanism expressing itself without awareness, much like the rapid calculations of computers which do not experience emotions nor the very act of supercalculation.

The very awareness of being apart from molecular biological processes shows that we have a larger reality that transcends brain and genetic events. We are more than that neural firings of our brain. We thus have a freedom that allows us to scientifically study biochemical and genetic processes. If we are just our genetic predispositions, then we cannot even practice science.

There is, however, a value of researches like this. Done within a proper context, studies like this give a better handle towards spiritual practice. For example, repetitive actions, which lead to habits, express themselves as neural pathways that are much easier to trigger than if one starts a total new behavior. The discovery of the "brain of the heart" and its dynamics makes certain spiritual exercises, including breathing and meditation, much more understandable and accessible.

This knowledge of the physical dimension of a soul-spiritual act can thus give an individual a better handle on changing one's bad habits and developing better ones. In this context, they have a value. But, taken out of context, dogmas like the "God Gene" drag the human image lower than their spiritual reality and become the foundations for a society devoid of spirit and meaning, breeding grounds for social disintegration and chaos.

Nicanor Perlas
20 November 2004

Editorials also appear on TruthForce!


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