Saturday, July 13, 2013

The God Gene and the Sensus Divinitatis

Some have dismissed religious experiences as inauthentic due to the fact that medical professionals can induce these states in patients.  I'm not at all impressed by this objection.  After all, they can induce all kinds of experiences, such as pain and pleasure, that we all know to be authentic.

In any case, scientists are now talking about the so-called "God gene," known technically as VMAT2.  What this means is that human beings are genetically predisposed toward belief in God.  I'm not yet able to formulate an argument for justified belief based on VMAT2, but I think we're headed in that direction, and that the sensus divinitatis, far from being a whacky outdated idea, is actually backed up by medical science.


  1. An experience is always authentic. A person experiences what he or she experiences. The issue is what these experiences are based on. If e.g. it is possible to induce the experience of a horse kick in a patient without using a real horse or even a real kick, then the experience of a horse kick in no way proves that a horse kicked this patient.
    That's the point. Of course the fact that religious experiences can be induced does not prove that there is no God, but it does prove that experiences of God can have other causes.
    Likewiwse, if the sensus divinitatis is the result of a gene, then this does not disprove God, but it does prove that experiences of God are not necessarily based on revelation by a really existing entity.

  2. I'm not hypothesizing that the God gene could be used as a proof of what I call authentic experience. By "authentic," I mean an experience that has a corresponding reality, and not simply a perception. What I suggest is that the God gene may provide rationally acceptable reasons for theism. Remember, I'm talking about justified belief, and not proof.

    Inclusion of the God gene could also be thought of as a correct C-inductive argument for God's existence. While not proof of God's existence, the fact that there is a genetic predisposition makes God's existence more likely than it would be without that genetic predisposition.