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Such experiences may ultimately be at least as important a part of our spiritual tool kit as the genes we're born with. A poor genetic legacy but lucky spiritual circumstances might mean more than good genes and bad experiences. "Fortune includes the possibility of divine grace as well as environmental influences," says Cloninger.
No matter how the two factors balance out, scientists may eventually find that trying to identify the definitive cluster of genes that serves as our spiritual circuit board is simply impossible--like trying to draw a genetic schematic of love. Still, they're likely to keep trying. "I am personally convinced that there is a scheme of things," says Davies of Macquarie University, "that the universe is not just any ragbag of laws." In the end, genes may prove to be a part of that scheme--but clearly one of very many. --With reporting by Jeff Chu/ London, Broward Liston/ Orlando, Maggie Sieger/ Chicago and Daniel Williams/ Sydney