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The Genetic Gods

The Genetic Gods

Evolution and Belief in Human Affairs

John C. Avise

ISBN 9780674020351

Publication date: 07/01/2009

They mastermind our lives, shaping our features, our health, and our behavior, even in the sacrosanct realms of love and sex, religion, aging, and death. Yet we are the ones who house, perpetuate, and give the promise of immortality to these biological agents, our genetic gods. The link between genes and gods is hardly arbitrary, as the distinguished evolutionary geneticist John Avise reveals in this compelling book. In clear, straightforward terms, Avise reviews recent discoveries in molecular biology, evolutionary genetics, and human genetic engineering, and discusses the relevance of these findings to issues of ultimate concern traditionally reserved for mythology, theology, and religious faith.

The book explains how the genetic gods figure in our development--not just our metabolism and physiology, but even our emotional disposition, personality, ethical leanings, and, indeed, religiosity. Yet genes are physical rather than metaphysical entities. Having arisen via an amoral evolutionary process--natural selection--genes have no consciousness, no sentient code of conduct, no reflective concern about the consequences of their actions. It is Avise's contention that current genetic knowledge can inform our attempts to answer typically religious questions--about origins, fate, and meaning. The Genetic Gods challenges us to make the necessary connection between what we know, what we believe, and what we embody.

Praise

  • Our genes, [Avise] says, are responsible not only for how we got here and exist day to day, but also for the core of our being--our personalities and morals. It is our genetic make-up that allows for and formulates our religious belief systems, he argues. Avise does not eschew spirituality but seeks a more informed, less confrontational approach between science and the pulpit.

    —Science News

Author

  • John C. Avise is Professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1994 he served as President of the Society for the Study of Evolution.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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