Do you think religious belief can be dissected in molecular and genetic detail? I don’t think so?
Do you think a “god gene” exists?
It’s nothing but modern molecular preformationism. Palmistry for the genome. We’ve been fighting against this simplistic notion of the whole of the organism prefigured in a plan or in toto in the embryo since Socrates, and it keeps coming back. We’ve moved from imagining a little homunculus lurking in the sperm to one hiding in the genome. It’s just not there. You can’t point to a spot on a chromosome and say, “there’s the little guy’s finger!”, nor can you point to a spot and say, “there’s his fondness for football!”.
Kristof, for instance, points to a particular gene as the source of piety. Piffle. Here’s his shining locus of sacredness, VMAT2:
The vesicular monoamine transporter acts to accumulate cytosolic monoamines into synaptic vesicles, using the proton gradient maintained across the synaptic vesicular membrane. Its proper function is essential to the correct activity of the monoaminergic systems that have been implicated in several human neuropsychiatric disorders. The transporter is a site of action of important drugs, including reserpine and tetrabenazine. Liu et al. (1992) and Erickson et al. (1992) investigated cDNAs encoding the synaptic vesicular monoamine transporter in rat brain. Using sequences from rat brain SVMT, Surratt et al. (1993) identified the human homolog. Human SVMT shares 92% amino acid identity with the rat sequence, but displays one less consensus site for asparagine N-linked glycosylation and one more consensus site for phosphorylation by protein kinase C. By Southern blotting analysis of human/rodent hybrid cell lines and fluorescence in situ hybridization, Surratt et al. (1993) mapped the human SVMT gene to 10q25. They also demonstrated a TaqI polymorphism that may prove useful in assessing the gene’s involvement in neuropsychiatric disorders involving monoaminergic brain systems. Peter et al. (1993) likewise assigned the brain synaptic vesicle amine transporter gene to 10q25 using a panel of mouse/human hybrids and in situ hybridization.
It’s a pump. A teeny-tiny pump responsible for packaging a neurotransmitter for export during brain activity. Yes, it’s important, and it may even be active and necessary during higher order processing, like religious thought. But one thing it isn’t is a “god gene.”