Art and the God Gene

Liz Larner ceramic sculpture
Evolutionary biologists tell us we have a “God gene” or “religion gene.” What they mean is that for evolutionary purposes not yet understood we are conditioned to believe that there is a transcendent reality — even though such a belief is, in the view of science, just an illusion. The trouble with this proposition is that it tempts us to simply disagree or disagree with it, to lapse into stagnant dichotomy, rather than challenge us to live adventurously with the unknown. One advantage of the arts is that it helps us with this latter, vital task. After all, the core attribute of good art is mystery — mystery as to its origins, and mystery as to its ends, its intentions, its purposes. The work of art doesn’t require us to vote thumbs up or thumbs down, though some may mistakenly think that is required of the informed viewer or listener. It is impossible for a response to art to be an illusion. This is why aesthetic and emotional subjectivity is the most reliable source of truth, the only kind of “fact” you can take to the bank, existentially speaking.


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