Monday, April 1, 2019

Born This Way? Scientist Claims to Have Discovered "Trad Gene"

Strands of DNA inside a human cell (from Science

Faith and science are not in opposition, but this recent story from Catholic News Agency is still pretty incredible. I vaguely knew of Dr. Hannah and his research program through rumors in the tradosphere, but I didn't know that his work had recently been published. It will be interesting to see what reaction there is among the usual suspects, foes and friends:
Baltimore, MD, Apr 1, 2019 / 8:13 am (CNA). - Dr. Kenneth Hannah, a senior researcher at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, claims to have discovered two gene variants that have a statistically significant correlation with "traditionalist" forms of Catholic worship. 
Hannah, 64, is the editor of the Annual Review of Genetics as well as being a cradle Catholic who has been a member of a Latin Mass parish in Baltimore for over thirty years. 
He published his findings last month in the Annual Review. 
The genes, HFDS and UXCSP6, both make a type of protein that stimulates certain areas of the brain. 
"I wouldn't call it a 'trad gene'", laughed Dr. Hannah, during a telephone interview with CNA. "Though I understand why some might stick the name on it. Genes have no opinions on liturgy or religious liberty. Rather, it's in some sense a random feature of a genetic control mechanism for analytical thinking that nevertheless has consequences for how we choose to worship." 
Hannah began research in this area five years ago, using volunteers from his own parish St. Alphonsus Ligouri in Baltimore as well as St. Mary Mother of God Church in Washington D.C. and St. Rita of Cascia Church in Alexandria, Virginia. He also took genetic samples from a control group of Novus Ordo attendees who had agreed to be part of the study by filling out the research consent form for a home genetics test. 
Simultaneously, he was poring through data from the Minnesota Twin Family Study (MTFS). 
"Consider this," Dr. Hannah said. "Two identical twins, put up for adoption in Minneapolis. One was raised in Bangor, Maine. The other in Dallas, Texas. One of them grows up in a mainstream Catholic family attending the Novus Ordo. The other was raised with no religious faith at all, later converting on his own. But in their twenties they each separately decide to become Catholic priests - indeed, traditionalist priests of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Though they were identical twins and photos from the time show them to be almost indistinguishable, since they were attending separate seminaries and of course had different names, no one knew they were related. It was only at the International Seminary at Econe, during a gathering of recently ordained priests, that they and others made their incredibly discovery. 
"'I'm not Fr. David. I'm Fr. Christopher. Why does everyone think that I'm David?'" 
Hannah, laughs again, recalling the story as told to him by Econe instructor Fr. Thomas Moreau who had witnessed the encounter. 
"When they met for the first time and knew that something incredible was up, they embraced. Apparently, it was very moving, as well as being somewhat humorous."   
Hannah began analyzing the data he had gathered from his own subjects. 
"As you know, members of traditionalist parishes can be fairly diverse and come from different backgrounds. Most of them don't live in the neighborhood but sought out the Latin Mass independently. At St. Alphonsus there were Irish, Italians, Anglo-Germans, a number of South Americans, three Jamaican families and so on. But what most of them had in common was that HFDS and UXCSP6 were fully active." 
According to Hannah, the protein creation sequence was active in 81% of the Traditional Mass attendees but was only active in 37% of the Novus Ordo Mass goers. 
"It was stunning. I just couldn't believe it," recalled Hannah. "I felt like maybe God was playing a practical joke on me." He then added, "or maybe it was one of my Jewish assistants." 
Dr. Hannah said it's not as simple as "nature vs. nurture." 
"Obviously, some non-traditionalists, including many non-Catholics have the active genes. But it has to be triggered in some way, for example, by exposure to chant, or perhaps a negative experience involving the New Mass." 
For Hannah, there is a personal dimension to the story. His father was a devout Catholic but also an enthusiastic promoter of the liturgical innovations of the sixties and seventies. 
"I worshipped my father and I wanted his approval," recalls Hannah, who was fourteen when Saint Pope Paul VI promulgated the "New Order of the Mass" in 1969. "I also wanted to fit in with my peers who were pretty gung-ho about all the changes. But as much as I tried, I always knew I was different." 
Hannah recalls hiding in his room on the day he was supposed to serve as a Eucharistic Minister. 
"I know that my father loved me, but as intelligent as he was he didn't realize his enthusiasm, as I would call it, was in fact pushing me away from him, as well as from Vatican II." 
Spending a year as an exchange student in Switzerland was a turning point for the young Hannah. 
"I fell in with a group of SSPX seminarians who were living together in Lausanne for the summer. For the first time I felt like I wasn't weird or an outsider. I began wearing my scapular flipped on the outside of my shirt. I didn't care. It was wonderful."
But he spent the last few months of the trip worrying about what his father would think. 
"I knew that my mother would be supportive. But it would be years before I would speak frankly with my father about it." 
When the Traditional Latin Mass was "legalized" (as Hannah remembers his father terming it) in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, they reconciled. 
"'I don't agree with you, but I respect your choices and your right to make them, and apparently the Church now does, too'" he remembers his father, saying. 
But later, things would have a not so happy ending when his father, a retired executive with UPM Pharmaceuticals, left the family to study Buddhism in Vietnam. They never spoke again. 
Hannah believes that the active function of the genes, one of which is recessive, may often skip a generation. Hannah's grandfather never accommodated himself to the Novus Ordo, though this may have been due to other aspects of his personality. 
"My grandfather was a stubborn man." 
Nevertheless, Hannah suspects this may explain why it took two generations after Vatican II for the Traditional Mass to reassert itself, at least outside of SSPX circles. 
Hannah brushes off any normative aspects to his work in genetics. 
"I'm a scientist who also happens to be a traditionalist Catholic, but I follow the evidence wherever it leads. I have no idea whether my work will help the traditionalist cause. Obviously, that would be nice. But that's not the  point." 
Hannah revealed that a related part of his research program will be to investigate a possible link between the "trad gene" and IQ as well as male virility. But that's in the future. 
"It's all up to Him," Hannah said. 
"Benedicamus Domino."


  1. I'm buying it... every bit of it. In fact, I'm about to shoot off an email to the schola director at my parish sharing this with him and telling him in light of this he and the schola need to work up a chant version of Gaga's Born This Way.

  2. Would God make proper adoration of Himself dependent on genetic markers? Highly suspect.