Tag Archives: reductionism

How to Get Reality Back on Track

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By Deepak Chopra, MD and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Reality, that most important concept about everything that exists, has gotten out of kilter, and yet very few people have noticed or are paying attention. The problem goes deep into the heart of things, however, so deep that future generations may look back and wonder why this generation didn’t wake up. The reason isn’t mysterious, actually. It has to do with how much we have come to rely upon contemporary science and to trust it: science has been appointed to inform us about what is real and what isn’t. Myths, superstitions, personal prejudices, and obsessions are unreal, while facts, data, and measurements are real.

Nothing seems more secure than science in most people’s minds. As long as technology keeps progressing on all fronts, it’s commonly believed that the most intractable problems, such as curing cancer and reversing global climate change, are open to scientific solutions. But what if reality has something else in mind? Quite apparently it does, if you bother to look deep enough. Reality has decided to bring physics, for example, to a profound crisis, not on one front, which might be easily circumvented, but on almost all fronts. This sounds like a drastic statement, but it’s actually a foreshadowing.

Judging by the current state of affairs, certain difficulties are now at least forty years old without solution and sometimes a century or more.  To name the top seven dead ends that science faces,

  1. No one knows where the Big Bang came from.
  2. No one knows how life began.
  3. The origin of time, space, matter, and energy remain obscure.
  4. The relation of mind and brain is as up in the air as it was at the time of Plato and Aristotle.
  5. The nature of consciousness and how it evolved–if it evolved–cannot be agreed upon.
  6.  The process by which the brain creates a three-dimensional world of sight and sound using only chemical and electrical signals is totally mysterious.
  7. The two leading theories in physics, General Relativity (which explains how large objects work) and quantum mechanics (which explains how tiny things work) turn out to be completely incompatible.

In previous posts over the past five years we’ve gone into detail about each of these difficulties, and as much as mainstream science resists any crack in its armor, a host of leading thinkers acknowledges exactly what these problems are. But let’s back away from details to look at the big picture. If there are seven dead ends in our understanding of reality, isn’t something drastically off kilter? If the answer to that question is obviously yes, then why doesn’t science self-correct and change course? We emphasize “science as it is being currently practiced,” because quantum reality is drastically different from the outmoded assumptions of classical physics that still dominate in the everyday work of physicists. Why this gap exists is a complex issue, but let’s ignore the details once again and give a simple, workable answer: inertia. Science advances through the momentum built up over the decades, and like a car rolling downhill, inertia will keep things moving even if the engine is dead. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism (Part 2)

The birth of consciousnessBy Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Jordan Flesher, BA Psychology

As an attitude, skepticism is a natural part of the scientific method. It calls for solid proof and verification. As an agenda, however, the story of skepticism is quite different. The way that strident atheism has clothed itself in science seems convincing to people who are skeptical about God in the first place. But there’s no scientific basis for atheism, since God isn’t subject to experimentation. As the dust has settled, the agenda of militant skepticism has come to light – it’s basically another symptom of the blogosphere’s culture of personal attack, unfounded allegation, and a reckless disregard for the truth.

None of this is news. The fate of militant skepticism, whatever it may be, will drift apart from the serious business of doing science. After all, no scientific discovery was ever made by negative thinking. There has to be an open-minded curiosity and a willingness to break new ground, while the militant skeptics represent the exact opposite: they are dedicated to the suppression of curiosity and protecting rigid boundaries of “real” science.

But by a strange and unexpected chain of events, real science finds itself at a turning point where skepticism itself is proving to be a dubious attitude. The standby of the scientific method – gathering objective data to prove objective facts – has been undermined. The reason for this cannot be stated in a single sentence, because too many shadowy findings, suppositions, and theoretical conundrums are woven together. The leading issues can be stated briefly as follows:

Objectivity has been undermined by the measurement problem in quantum physics, which must account for how the observer actually changes or influences the thing he observes.

  • Also from quantum physics, the Uncertainty Principle undercut the notion of solid, tangible atoms and molecules existing in fixed locations. No one is sure about the implications for the human brain, since it is composed of atoms and molecules whose status is tied into the mystery of consciousness. 
  • The emergence of time and space, either through the Big Bang or at this very moment, remains mysterious. The pre-created state of the universe is a deep mystery.
  • The whole issue of consciousness, long ignored because of science’s aversion to subjectivity, has become a major concern, principally for two reasons. The assumption that the brain is the producer of the mind has never been proved; therefore, it presents the possibility of being wrong. Second, if consciousness is more like a field effect than a unique human trait, the universe itself could be conscious, or at least possess the qualities of proto-consciousness, just as DNA possesses the possibility for Homo sapiens even at the stage when life forms were only single-celled organisms.

These four mysteries or problems, whatever you label them, undercut skepticism – and more or less demolish militant skepticism – because they make science question its belief in such things as materialism, reductionism, and objectivity. That’s too many “isms” for a non-scientist to really care about, and there’s no doubt that the everyday work of science proceeds as usual without regard for issues that many would dismiss as metaphysics. But such an attitude is the same as accepting a dead end. For without asking the deepest questions about what is real and how do we know the truth, the current state of physics and biology will be mired in speculation and doubt.

Let’s drop the bugaboo about metaphysics and look with open eyes at two critical aspects of philosophy that can come to the aid of science at this moment. One is ontology, which asks what is reality? or how can we discover the difference between reality and illusion? The other is epistemology, which asks what is knowledge? and how do we come to know about the world?  Neither looks like a burning issue in everyday life, but they are, because each has a positive and negative pole.

The positive pole is located at the horizon of particle physics and cosmology, where figuring out what is real has become urgent business, now that the solid, tangible world of the five senses has been thoroughly undermined. It has become an object of fascinated study to look beyond our perception of space and time, and since the human brain operates in space and time, this new horizon requires sophisticated thinking about thinking itself.

The negative pole is found with militant skeptics, who are wedded to an outmoded belief that the five senses are basically reliable, that only physical things are real, and that “pure” objectivity is possible, with the corollary that subjectivity will always be the enemy of real science. This last belief totally ignores the indisputable fact that every experience, including the experience of doing science, is subjective. Militant skepticism blocks the way to an expanded science that is trying to grapple with the issue of how the observer is woven into the object he observes.

In the next post we’ll consider how irrelevant and misguided the skeptical agenda is proving to be by offering specific examples from the work of two popular skeptics, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, whose intention to keep science pure and objective has led them into blind alleys and rigid thinking – the very things science should avoid at all cost.

 (To be cont.)

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Deepak Chopra: Can Reality Set Us Free? The Puzzle of Complementarity (Part 3)

In the clouds of Rho OphiuchiBy Deepak Chopra, M.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD, Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D.

We promised at the outset to explain the nature of reality by going to its very heart. To all appearances reality is dual. The objective world exists “out there” to be measured, but its existence is known only through subjective experience, which is “in here.” Both worlds need each other, and to be trapped in only one is unsatisfactory. The world turns into a dream only if you are conscious of your inner feelings, moods, sensations, and images. Yet if you rely only upon the physical world, you may wind up with meaningless data that don’t provide any link to what is truly important in everyday life. This point is easy enough to see, but joining the two worlds into wholeness isn’t easy.

Indeed, the task is so difficult that science proceeds as if it can exclude the mysterious, unreliable world “in here,” preferring measures of reality that can be reduced to quantifiable numbers. As a result, all of us have become used to balancing two versions of reality, and we do it almost without thinking. A summer day can be 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a fact, or it can be warm, which is a sensation. The two are not synonymous. “Warm” is a purely subjective statement, and it has no correlation to the thermometer. (After a subzero winter in Antarctica, 32 degrees F. feels warm, whereas compared to the inside of a volcano, 90 degrees F. is cool.)

Is there a way to join these two halves of reality? Most people aren’t concerned with such a question, but we posit that wholeness – seeing reality exactly for what it is – would set the human mind, and human life itself, free. The cosmos is a cold prison measured as meaningless data extracted from random events. To be human is to crave meaning, and yet intellectual honesty compels us not to accept easy answers. It is too easy, for example, to say that God created the universe, and since God loves us, the universe is our loving home. Such answers once sufficed, but four hundred years of scientific theories and data to back them up have swamped us. Overwhelmed by facts about the world “out there,” it is a struggle to give the world “in here” the validity it deserves.

Our trek to wholeness, as outlined in the first two posts, involves the quantum principle of complementarity, whose purpose is to make some of Nature’s seeming paradoxes compatible. (Please refer to the previous posts to see how this repair job on duality works.) Essentially, complementarity holds that opposites need each other – they cannot be complete in themselves without the other “half”. The classic example is the opposition of particle and wave, which look and act totally different but which are the inescapable reality of quanta. Complementarity is critical because it asserts that there is only one reality, and no matter how much it shifts its shape as we look from different perspectives, all the angles from which reality can be seen must ultimately fit together. This is comparable to all the tourist photos taken of the Grand Canyon. No matter how many there are, what time of day or night when they were taken, and irrespective of the million aspects of the canyon that were chosen, the whole collection of photos can’t depict different Grand Canyons – there is only one in the first place.

Unfortunately, things aren’t this simple when we substitute “reality” for “Grand Canyon,” because from the perspective of “in here” there is no proof that the external world exists independently of conscious awareness. At the same time, using only scientific data gathered “out there,” there is no proof of the subjective world, either. An MRI scan can show the brain centers for pain lighting up, yet if you ask someone “How much does your arthritis hurt today?” only their subjective report is valid. Even consciousness itself is only inferred by watching the brain light up. A brain scan is actually a very complicated version of those cartoons where a light bulb goes off when somebody, usually an egghead professor, has a bright idea. The light bulb can’t tell you what the bright idea actually is, and neither can an MRI.

Thus in order to see reality as a whole, we have to ask something incredibly basic: Why did creation split into subject and object in the first place? They are so wildly incompatible that this split has dogged and troubled humankind for centuries. Couldn’t God or the multiverse or random chance have come up with something much simpler, a reality that holds together properly? It doesn’t seem all that much to ask.

The two worlds “in here” and “out there” are either split for a reason or it just happened that way. If it just happened that way, fine. Science will go on, and so will subjective experience, and the two will uneasily meet somewhere in the brain. But if “in here” and “out there” are split for a reason, that’s a new story. There have been many versions of the story so far. In many cultures, there was once a Golden Age that was innocent, pure, and untroubled (in other words, whole) while now we live in a fallen age, and our separation from God or the gods has resulted in a fragmented world. Good is forced to come to terms with its opposite, evil, and therefore a reality of light and darkness envelops us. Needless, to say, such a story has not been satisfactory in a rational, scientific age. It persists as myth and religion, which billions of people still prefer to science.

We come closer to a rational story via complementarity, because when complementarity holds that opposites have a hidden unity at the limit of observation (revealed through mathematics), a complete view of quantum physics is satisfied. An opposite pair light wave and particle arise from the same source, and even if this source is beyond the five senses, lying in some invisible virtual domain, quantum mechanics can link the opposites and thus make every measurement turn out right. By extension, can we say the same about “in here” and “out there”? Do they spring from a common source?

Our answer is yes, and we point to the only source that could unite them, which is consciousness. The universal model for any experience needs three parts, commonly called the observer, the observed, and the process of observation. “Newton saw an apple” fits this model, as does “the collapse of the wave function produces a particle.” In the first case, the observer is named – Newton. In the second, the observer is implied. A great many physicists would balk, however, claiming that the collapse of the wave function doesn’t need an observer. It can happen even with automated experiments that carry out observations of the quantum system. It’s an objective event that occurs trillions of times throughout the cosmos, like countless other events (colliding hydrogen atoms, exploding stars, protons getting sucked into black holes) that came along before observers ever existed.

But this argument, which seems so commonsensical, is fallacious. The principle of complementarity tells us that “in here” and “out there” aren’t just compatible; they are necessary to each other, intertwined aspects of the whole. You can’t have one without the other. Grasping this fact is hard. Classical Western science, from the ancient Greeks through Newton and beyond, was based on atoms, molecules, and other physical “stuff” that exists on its own. But just as there cannot be particles without waves; “out there” needs consciousness, “in here.” This is a participatory universe, and leaving the participant out cannot be valid. In a fundamental sense, the universe is human, because we aren’t just isolated observers like kids pressing their noses to the window of a bakery shop. The three-part model needs all three parts: observer, observed, and process of observation.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony).  Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory,Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.  www.neiltheise.com

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

Beyond Belief: Sam Harris Imagines a “Moral Landscape”

 Good science fiction is a worthy genre, and although it’s darker and more tension-filled to imagine a dystopia run by berserk robots or malicious aliens, there’s occasionally a gentle story, about a future where kindly scientific wizards save mankind from its  age-old ignorance and folly. In this imaginary utopia human beings have risen above their base drives, reason prevails, and the highest good has been achieved. America’s founding fathers had such a vision, although they didn’t call it science fiction.  In his new book, The Moral Landscape, atheist Sam Harris tries to call it science without fiction, but he’s on shaky ground. 

The book’s subtitle, "How science can determine human values," gives a précis of the main idea: in place of the messy, irrational way that human beings make decisions about right and wrong, Harris proposes that a rational view, based on valid scientific data, can provide us with an absolute moral compass. Very few adults with a memory of history would easily swallow that the scientists who brought us the atomic bomb, napalm, Thalidomide, Agent Orange, DDT, and ever more diabolical weapons of mechanized death are now to be embraced as bringers of the good life. But as in his previous books, Harris is really swinging again at his familiar piñata, organized religion. Do we not have the example of atheist Denmark and Sweden as places full of really good people, as opposed to the Taliban, who throw acid in the faces of young girls trying to go to school when religious law forbids it?

Harris tells us that morality can be scientifically determined by "maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures." In an interview on his website, the author  elaborates: "If there are more and less effective ways for us to seek happiness and to avoid misery in this world–and there clearly are–then there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality." In other words, let’s toss out custom, social agreement, emotional attachments, and religious guidance in favor of reliable data. 

When asked if science is really the right judge of morality, Harris says, "Yes, in principle. Human well-being is not a random phenomenon. It depends on many factors–ranging from genetics and neurobiology to sociology and economics. But, clearly, there are scientific truths to be known about how we can flourish in this world. Wherever we can act so as to have an impact on the well-being of others, questions of morality apply."

"In principle" religion was supposed to do the same thing.  It hasn’t had a sterling record in producing human happiness, but the prospect of science doing any better is likely to be just as fraught with error. Harris is as idealistic as any Southern Baptist seeking to be reborn, but let that pass.   He is treading on the fashionable ground of happiness research in the field of positive psychology, which has blossomed in recent years. One of the basic findings of this research is that people are very bad judges of what will make them happy. For example, the notion that money brings happiness is profoundly flawed, and so are short-term jolts of bliss that one gets from, say, a shopping spree.

The interviewer points out that ideas of happiness come into conflict, don’t they?  If I want a nice juicy steak and you belong to PETA, won’t there be a clash? Harris is sanguine about this small glitch: "There as some circumstances like this, and we call these contests ‘zero-sum.’ Generally speaking, however, the most important moral occasions are not like this. If we could eliminate war, nuclear proliferation, malaria, chronic hunger, child abuse, etc.–these changes would be good, on balance, for everyone."

This is the first whopper that makes one wonder if the author is writing a satire on morality.  To begin with, the eradication of global ills that he cites aren’t scientific in nature; everyone, including poets and monks, wants to achieve them. The fact that war hasn’t been eradicated isn’t for lack of scientific data to enlighten us (indeed, science is the chief reason that modern warfare is so ghastly). Nor is it for lack of a rational answer. The persistence of human aggression is deeply rooted in our divided nature, a part of the inner struggle that never leaves the human condition.  Child abuse doesn’t occur because a parent goes, "Oh, I forgot that my child would be happier if I didn’t beat her."  The decision isn’t rational and therefore cannot be cured by sweet reason.  This kind of naiveté on Harris’s part raises suspicion about his connection to psychological reality.

Harris can feel the strangeness of his proposal, so he is quick to assert that science isn’t the only answer. "We already have very good reasons to believe that mistreating children is bad for everyone." Really? Isn’t the point that despite these very good reasons, child abuse continues?  Skipping ahead, he says, "I think it is important for us to admit that this is not a claim about our personal preferences, or merely something our culture has conditioned us to believe. It is a claim about the architecture of our minds and the social architecture of our world. Moral truths of this kind must find their place in any scientific understanding of human experience."  The tone is placating and reasonable, but the assertion is nonsense.  It’s exactly personal preference and social conditioning that keeps most wrong-doing alive, whether we are talking about centuries-old tribal animosity or families where beating your children is the accepted thing to do (and pretty satisfying, no doubt, when the wallop is delivered in such families).  

Harris is so sure that we need to stop going to church and start watching Nova that he rushes forward fearlessly.  The interviewer brings up the Taliban, who feel great about what they do, not just because denying all rights to women is moral but because it is dictated by God.  Harris remains unruffled: "There may be different ways for people to thrive, but there are clearly many more ways for them not to thrive. The Taliban are a perfect example of a group of people who are struggling to build a society that is obviously less good than many of the other societies on offer." He seems unaware that Osama bin Laden is the most popular person in the Muslim world and that Islamic media persistently held up the Taliban regime as the closest to an Islamic paradise that any society has ever achieved. A lot of people are going to need a lot of hours on the Science Channel, it would appear.  In many ways it is Harris’s cool objectivity that feels the creepiest, as when he asserts, "It is not, therefore, unscientific to say that the Taliban are wrong about morality. In fact, we must say this. . ." Is he implying that we wouldn’t abhor the Taliban before science came along to enlighten us?  If we did know that the Taliban are morally criminal already, why do we need Tom Swift, Jr. or even Albert Einstein to reinforce the point?

The interviewer inserts a bit of realism by asking if the Taliban might have different goals in life than someone else. Harris’s answer again raises the possibility that his book could be a spoof. "They don’t. They are clearly seeking happiness in this life, and, more importantly, they imagine that they are securing it in a life to come. They believe that they will enjoy an eternity of happiness after death by following the strictest interpretation of Islamic law here on earth. This is also a claim about which science should have an opinion."  He seems oblivious to several things. A) Attempts to tell others how to live their lives generally meet with great hostility and resistance. B) People like to try out various alternatives in life, some of them against their own interest. From these negative experiences we develop wisdom and insight (not always, of course). C) Emotion can never be separated from decision-making. People who have suffered the loss of emotional centers in the brain find it almost impossible to make any decisions. We do what we like, and like what we do.

Stripped of its rhetorical decoration, however, The Moral Landscape gussies up old-fashioned utilitarianism, whose motto is "the greatest good for the greatest number." Like any 18th-century Benthamite, Harris doggedly pursues the utilitarian line as if people are counters on a game board. He calls this board "the moral landscape," a field of all choices where some people make bad ones and others make good ones. In his position of benign arbiter, Harris wants only to move everyone higher up on the game board. (Thus, if you want to ride a Harley screaming down the highway without a helmet, a scientist needs to remind you that motorcycles have lots of accidents and riders without helmets suffer badly in crashes. Is Harris so naive that he doesn’t see the human capacity for denial?)  The agenda here is to get human nature to shape up and fly right. "Given that our experience is fully constrained by the laws of the universe, there must be scientific answers to the question of how best to move upwards, toward greater happiness." Well, no there aren’t.  One of the principles of science, quite pertinent to the laws of nature, is known as entanglement. It says that isolated phenomena are in fact not isolated but linked to one another. The same is true in our daily lives. We experience the good and the bad tangled together, and because we are participants in this entanglement, not cool observers, it’s all but impossible to disentangle good from bad. 

Harris should try talking to any psychiatrist, who will offer abundant testimony about patients who know what they are doing wrong and what is causing their pain, yet who never change — or change very slowly. The underlying argument of all utilitarians is the definition of happiness as a surplus of pleasure over pain. But it was discovered, by Freud, and long before him by practical psychologists, that people don’t change because their lives get too painful. Millions of people pursue addictions, stay with abusive partners, refuse to leave miserable jobs, and indulge in self-destructive behavior of all types. Pain won’t make them change; they change when what they are doing no longer works.  In addition, there are lots of activities we enjoy, such as marathon running, where "no pain, no gain" applies. Harris’s definition of happiness doesn’t surmount these objections.  He simply waves around new words like neuroscience and genetics to plaster over the proven fallacies of the "maximize pleasure, minimize pain" view of human happiness. 

A small voice in Harris’s brain must be telling him how close he’s veering to the popular image of Dr. Strangelove, because he sounds a note of seeming doubt. "Positive social emotions like compassion and empathy are generally good for us, and we want to encourage them. But do we know how to most reliably raise children to care about the suffering of other people? I’m not sure we do." This moment lasts only a short time, however, because he is soon back to his main theme. "These questions have answers, and only a science of morality could deliver them." It seems to escape his notice that compassion, a leading quality in Buddhism, didn’t save Tibet from a brutal invasion and repression by the Communist Chinese. Oh wait, there weren’t any moral scientists standing at the border to remind the invaders of the natural laws they were violating.  

Harris slights the role of intuition and feeling, which is the main way that ordinary people make moral decisions. Doing good feels better than doing bad. If doing bad feels good instead, then by the utilitarians’ own argument, the person will continue to do bad. Horrifying as it is to contemplate, mass murderers enjoy what they are doing and sleep well at night. After the defeat of Nazism, countless ordinary Germans were not remorseful over what they had condoned under Hitler; they regretted instead that they lost the war. This, not the wrongness of their actions, determined their attitude. And since we are speaking of World War II, it is generally agreed that the defeat of Hitlerism justified hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Allied side. In what way did their sacrifice improve the happiness of the dead and wounded, or of their surviving families?  Moral philosophy has been wrestling with these issues for centuries. Harris’s band of reasonable scientists are a joke when offered as a better idea. 

Near the end of this extensive interview, Harris gets to pounce on his real prey, the faithful. When asked if religion has been helpful in guiding morality, he says, that it has generally been unhelpful. "Religious ideas about good and evil tend to focus on how to achieve well-being in the next life."  This is not remotely true of many strains of Buddhism, Vedanta, and Judaism, and it’s a gross simplification when applied to Christianity, which has both an afterlife and a doctrine of morality that applies to the here and now. When Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, he isn’t pointing to the resurrection.  The Sermon on the Mount, like the Ten Commandments, is a guide for the present. I agree with Harris that it isn’t helpful to cling to religious dogma — the reasons have been obvious for centuries — but throwing out Moses, Jesus, and Buddha because their teachings were violated by future followers is just as misguided as throwing out the law because there are bad judges.  Moral truth is embodied in our wisest sages and holiest saints. Given the ease  with which repressive regimes can buy nuclear bomb  scientists and pharmaceutical companies and  oil companies can buy scientists to produce studies to support the preordained conclusions, can Harris produce a "moral scientist’ who has wiser and holier things to say? I doubt it.

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The Gene for God

Question: Would you please explain the VMAT2 gene, the "God gene"? Is that really the soul?

Answer:

No, a gene cannot be equated with the soul, nor is it equivalent to an experience of God. The connection with the VMAT2 gene with God is made by the geneticist Dean Hamer. The basic idea is that this gene is associated with the breakdown of monoamines, the neurotransmitters that are loosely connected to a kind of spiritual receptivity that is composed of the tendencies of: self-forgetfulness, connectivity to the universe, and an openness to accepting the unprovable.