Dean Hamer’s 2004 book, The God Gene: How Faith Is Hardwired into Our Genes, in no way disproves God. Hamer’s theory – that the VMAT2 gene in humans is responsible for producing a belief in God – has been widely criticized both in secular scientific circles and in the theological world. There is virtually no serious scientific or theological scholar who backs Hamer’s hypothesis.
This raises the question as to why Hamer would propose such a thing to begin with. Actually, he answers the question himself: “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” (emphasis added).
Therein lies Hamer’s motivation. Materialists or philosophical naturalists believe God does not exist and there is no supernatural component to life. To materialists, everything has a purely natural explanation; their worldview dictates that they exclude any rationale that hints at the supernatural. It’s an a priori judgment and not scientific at all, but when scientists begin expounding on philosophy and religion, their bias usually starts to show.
In reality, a true, absolute materialist probably does not exist. A materialist may say to his wife, “Sweetheart, I love you,” but a more accurate statement—from his standpoint—would be, “Sweetheart, I’m having a chemical reaction.” Love, to the true materialist, is nothing more than a serendipitous mix of hormones.
Materialist thought is nothing new. In Acts 17, the apostle Paul confronts the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens. Among them were the Epicureans, who believed life was nothing more than a random composition of atoms. Like Hamer, they were materialists, and they believed nothing existed beyond physical life and the natural processes that comprise it.
The Bible says that all people intuitively know there is a God, not because of a specific gene they possess but because they were made in the image of God (the imago dei; cf. Genesis 1:26). “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21). Reformer John Calvin referred to this knowledge as the sensus divinitatis (“sense of divinity”).
While materialists like Hamer espouse a reductionist view of humanity, the Bible gives humanity a special place in creation. According to Scripture, we are more than just matter + time + chance. We carry a living soul, created in us by God’s very breath (Genesis 2:7).
Further, Hamer’s book does nothing to answer the sound philosophical arguments for God’s existence, which have endured centuries of scrutiny and debate. The cosmological, teleological, and moral arguments for God, as well as the historicity of Jesus Christ’s life, drown out any assertion by philosophical naturalists that God does not exist.
In the end, the God gene theory fails to make even the smallest dent in the truth claims of Christianity.