The same scientist who claimed to have found a DNA sequence linked to male homosexuality, now says that a god gene is the basis of faith. The claims have been criticized by leading church representatives who consider the research as being nonsensical.
The findings of Dean Hamer, director of the US National Cancer Institute's Gene Structure and Regulation Unit, were based on a study of 2,000 DNA samples and interviews with volunteers who answered questions that attempted to discover how spiritually in-tune they were with God.
According to the research, the volunteers ability to believe in a higher spiritual being, the more likely they are to have the VMAT2 gene. The research also suggests that being brought up in a devout environment has little effect on belief.
Hamer also claims that Jesus, the Buddha and Prophet Mohammed are likely to have carried the gene.
The research has, however, been strongly criticized by member of the church, who say the idea of people having a predisposition to faith simply displays a failure to understand it.
Donald Bruce, director of the Church of Scotland's Society, Religious and Technology Project called the research findings a "publicity stunt".
"I regard his claims as scientifically ridiculous. There is absolutely no such thing as a god gene. The whole point is that god makes himself available to all equally."
Dr. Donald Bruce, the church's society, religious and technology project director, says he and Hamer both participated in a 2003 conference, during which Hamer made a surprising disclosure about his book.
Bruce said, "I asked him if he thought the book's title was irresponsible. Dr. Hamer agreed the words 'God gene,' as well as the book's title, were misleading."
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: "Religion is not specifically restricted to one era, race or continent, and the fact that it is so all-encompassing and widespread tends to suggest it is not specifically related to our physical make-up."
The Rev. John Polkinghorne, a fellow of the Royal Society and a canon theologian at Liverpool Cathedral, said: "The idea of a God gene goes against all my personal theological convictions. You can't cut faith down to the lowest common denominator of genetic survival. It shows the poverty of reductionist thinking."
The Rev. Walter Houston, the chaplain of Mansfield College, Oxford, and a fellow in theology, said: "Religious belief is not just related to a person's constitution. It's related to society, tradition, character everything's involved. Having a gene that could do all that seems pretty unlikely to me."
Hamer, however, denies that his research attempts to undermine faith in God.
"Religious believers can point to the existence of God genes as one more sign of the Creator's ingenuity a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence," he said.