Fast-forwarding Hamer's argument, he claims to have discovered a gene known as VMAT2, which controls the flow of monoamines within the brain. Monoamines are chemicals in the brain that can make us feel pleasurable, ecstatic, or depressed. Monoamines include dopamine and serotonin, and are customarily released by psychotropic drugs and hallucinogenics. Thus, Hamer argues that evolution explains why many individuals possess the VMAT2 gene, and are thus more likely to have their monoamines regulated in a way that leads to self-transcendence. Following so far?

Once self-transcendence is defined as the goal of this evolutionary process, and once VMAT2 is identified as the gene responsible for creating the feelings associated with self-transcendence, Hamer is well on his way to arguing that self-transcendence plays a role in evolution by fostering optimism in individuals possessing the trait. Such optimism leads to better health, to a more positive outlook toward the future, and increased likelihood that these individuals will have children and hand down their genes through the biological process.

This physicalist explanation, limiting something like faith in God to purely chemical factors, is necessary because Hamer and his colleagues are committed materialists. He provides an explicit admission of this fact in The God Gene. Insisting that a scientific explanation for belief in God must be expressed in terms of chemistry and physics, Hamer explains: "Proponents of this view often are called 'materialists' because they believe that all mental processes can ultimately be accounted for by a few basic physical laws. Most scientists, including myself, are materialists."


In other words, as a committed materialist, Dean Hamer is looking for an explanation of belief in God that will fit his evolutionary worldview. In order to do this, he has to jettison all that is customarily associated with theism, avoid everything that has to do with the content of belief, and redefine his entire concern in terms of self-transcendence--an experience he admits can be purely secular. In other words, Dean Hamer tells us absolutely nothing about belief in God and very little about modern genetics.

This point was made devastatingly clear in a review of The God Gene published in the current issue of Scientific American. Carl Zimmer, another major evolutionary theorist, blasts The God Gene as bad science and reckless argument.

As Zimmer notes, "The field of behavioral genetics is littered with failed links between particular genes and personality traits. Those alleged associations at first seemed very strong. But as other researchers tried to replicate them, they faded away into statistical noise. In 1993, for example, a scientist reported a genetic link to male homosexuality in a region of the X chromosome. The report brought a huge media fanfare, but other scientists who tried to replicate the study failed. The scientist's name was Dean Hamer."

That's right. Dean Hamer is most famously [or infamously] known for his claim to have found a genetic explanation for male homosexuality. That study created a firestorm in the press, and though it was never replicated in order to establish scientific credibility, it quickly became standard fare for arguments claiming homosexuality to be absolutely natural, and therefore normal.

As Zimmer laments, "Given the fate of Hamer's so-called gay gene, it is strange to see him so impatient to trumpet the discovery of his God gene." Zimmer then turns the table on Hamer, arguing that The God Gene should have been entitled A Gene That Accounts for Less than One Percent of the Variants Found in Scores on Psychological Questionnaires Designed to Measure a Factor Called Self-Transcendence, Which Can Signify Everything from Belonging to the Green Party to Believing in ESP, According to One Unpublished, Unreplicated Study. In the scientific community, that's undiluted condemnation.

It is laughable to suggest that belief in God is tied to any genetic structure that can be accounted for in this way. The Bible provides an authoritative explanation for our capacity to know God. As the book of Genesis makes clear, human beings are made in the image of God. It is the imago dei that explains the fact that we are the only creatures able consciously to know God, and to know Him intimately.

Any effort to create a genetic explanation for a generic experience of self-transcendence will fall far short of scientific credibility. More importantly, it will fall tragically short of providing an adequate theological explanation for how human creatures can know our Creator. That explanation is found only within the Bible, and is itself a knowledge revealed to us by our Creator.

The God Gene becomes a parable for our postmodern times--further evidence of the lengths to which clever humans will go in trying to deny that we were made by a Creator who designed us with the capacity to know Him.
The book is bad science and bad theology combined, but it does succeed in making one point clear: Materialism just can't answer the big questions.