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Spirituality and wellness. Is God in our genes?. Time Oct. 25, 2004 “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?” Do we seek spiritual outlets because they are adaptive? Does spirituality help humans cope and flourish? Foster health and well-being?. Buddhist Belief.

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is god in our genes
Is God in our genes?
  • Time Oct. 25, 2004
  • “Does our DNA compel us to seek a higher power?”
  • Do we seek spiritual outlets because they are adaptive?
  • Does spirituality help humans cope and flourish?
  • Foster health and well-being?
buddhist belief
Buddhist Belief
  • Existence of a spirituality “gene”.
  • Inherit a tiny fragment from a previous life.
  • This small “gene” merges with those we inherit from our parents.
  • Shape our physical and spiritual profile.
god gene
God Gene
  • Dean Hamer is a geneticist works at National Cancer Institute (NIH).
  • Ph.D from Harvard Medical School.
  • The God Gene: How faith is hardwired in our genes
  • Idea came from a study on smoking and addiction.
temperament and character inventory
Temperament and Character Inventory
  • TCI designed by Robert Cloninger.
  • Researcher on genetics of addiction.
  • Self-transcendence trait made up of:
  • 1) Self-forgetfulness: To get entirely lost in an experience.
  • 2) Transpersonal: Connectedness to the larger universe.
  • 3) Mysticism: Openness to things not literally provable.
self transcendence gene
Self-transcendence Gene
  • Hamer ranked 1000 subjects on Cloninger’s self-transcendence trait.
  • Got DNA samples from subjects.
  • Focused in 9 genes involved in production of monoamine neurotransmitters related to mood and reward (serotonin, dopamine).
  • Gene for vesicular monoamine transporter.
  • VMAT gene variation high in those with trait.
vmat gene for spirituality
VMAT gene for spirituality?
  • Buddhists have found Hamer’s finding “amusing and fun”.
  • What do you think?
  • Is our tendency to believe in God due to levels of our brain chemicals?
  • Most religious leaders are not impressed.
john polkinghorne
John Polkinghorne
  • British clergyman.
  • Winner of the Templeton Prize in Science and Religion.
  • “You can’t cut faith down to the lowest denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking.”
  • Reductionist thinking: The nature of complex things can always be reduced to (explained by) simpler or more fundamental things.
spiritual inheritance
Spiritual inheritance
  • God “gene” may be a stretch.
  • But spirituality does convey adaptive value.
  • Could be inherited in a broad sense.
  • Might help us cope and flourish.
  • Promote health and well-being.
  • Those who possess this trait more likely to have productive lives and strong families.
minnesota twin studies
Minnesota Twin Studies
  • MZ twins share more in common than do DZ twins.
  • Phobias, illnesses, habits.
  • MZ twins more likely to share spirituality but not religious faith.
  • Spirituality is search for meaning in life, need to relate to something greater than one’s self.
  • Religion is how spirituality is channeled by institutions, specific beliefs and rituals.
spirituality and religion
Spirituality and religion
  • Spirituality is found in all human cultures.
  • Expressed differently in religious faiths.
  • Common mechanism for transcendence.
changes in brain function
Changes in Brain Function
  • Writing and speaking brain active now.
  • Processing language.
  • PET scans show language areas active.
  • Limbic system (emotional brain) is quiet.
path to meditative state
Path to Meditative State
  • Begin meditation exercise.
  • Parietal lobe goes quiet: time and space.
  • Frontal lobes becomes more active.
  • Inputs from limbic system.
deep meditation
Deep Meditation
  • Powerful feelings begin to emerge.
  • Time and space disappear.
  • Feeling of peace.
  • Lose world around you.
  • Spiritual experience
  • Centering prayer.
  • Quiet, reflective state.

A meditation class

what are the benefits
What are the benefits?
  • Spirituality has a biological expression.
  • Benefits: Provides good stress reducer.
  • Neuroscientist Michael Persinger:
  • “God experience is a brilliant adaptation. It’s a built-in pacifier.”
  • Seek meaning in our lives.
  • Hope there is a purpose to it all.
  • Religion provides additional benefits.
religion and health
Religion and Health
  • Most medical schools now expose students to spiritual issues.
  • Harvard Medical School: Armand Nicholi
  • Question of God
  • Contrasts Freud and C.S. Lewis.
  • Viewpoints about the role of religion in psychological and physical health.
religion and well being
Religion and well-being
  • Benefits of participation in religious behavior.
  • Not just beliefs.
  • Those that attend services on regular basis report greater well-being and better health.
  • More than just social association.
  • Six factors
1 provides social support
1. Provides Social support
  • Social support strong predictor of well-being.
  • Community of like minded individuals.
  • Social psych: we strongest bond with others like ourselves.
  • Help others with problems in mind, body and spirit.
2 support health lifestyles
2. Support Health Lifestyles
  • Many religions urge moderation in use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Some prohibit use.
  • Others promote family guidelines.
  • Discourage other risky behavior.
  • Natural helpers: Referral sources.
3 personality integration
3. Personality Integration
  • Deeper commitment helps people focus on goals and strivings.
  • Life-long path of discovery.
  • Meditation and prayer help us integrate our personalities.
  • Who we are and what we are about.
4 increase generativity
4. Increase Generativity
  • Erik Erickson’s Developmental Stages
  • Stage Seven – later adulthood, marked by generativity versus stagnation
  • In this stage generativity refers to the adult's ability to care for another person.
  • Not just your own children but the next generation(s).
5 unique coping strategies
5. Unique Coping Strategies
  • Providing hope, optimism.
  • Relief from stressors.
  • Place lives in a greater perspective.
  • Positive forms: Working with higher power to get through difficulty.
  • Negative forms (guilt and blaming) offer no relief.
6 sense of purpose
6. Sense of Purpose
  • Life has meaning and purpose.
  • Religion provides framework for life’s journey.
  • Traditions and rites of passage.
  • Add meaning to events.
  • Good times and bad.
  • Sense of control: Not just pawns.
not alone on our journey
Not alone on our journey
  • Prayer: “You are close to us as breathing and further than the farthest most star.”
  • Provides moral code of conduct.
  • Most religions have a version of “do unto others as you would have them to unto you.”
  • Foster a sense of self-worth, shared meaning from the community.
dark side of religion
Dark Side of Religion
  • Religion can become evil.
  • Religious wars.
  • Exclude and devalue others who don’t share your beliefs.
  • Ethnic cleansing.
  • John Lennon’s dream of a perfect world with “no religion too”.
benefits from other sources
Benefits from other sources?
  • Commitment to an important cause.
  • Examples: Promoting peace, protecting nature, securing equality.
  • Might provide sense of purpose, social support, generativity, personality integration.
  • Healthy lifestyle?
  • Unique coping strategies?
spirituality takes many forms
Spirituality takes many forms.
  • Have to be engaged.
  • Not just beliefs, but also actions.
  • Benefits come from active participation.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Generativity: Care for the next generation.
  • Amazing returns on your investment.