Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Genetics and Politics

According to a story in The New York Times, our political beliefs may be more genetic than reasoned. This comes from a study reported on in The American Political Science Review. The study found that genetics is the predominant influence in determining our general views on social issues, while upbringing and environment determine our political party affiliation.

As the report points out, this may explain why some people with liberal views on many social issues identify themselves as conservatives or Republicans. Conversely, some with mainly conservative views consider themselves liberals or Democrats. It also may explain defections from parties, like that of Zell Miller.

When contacted for comment, Miller said that his political views haven't changed much since he was a young Marine. Instead, he says, the Democratic Party changed. "And I'm not talking about inch by inch, like a glacier.... I'm saying the thing got up and flew away." Based on my experience, I agree with Miller.

The NYT story concludes, "The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less." Yikes!

Anyway, the report is interesting. After years of academic indoctrination to the effect that anything in The American Political Science Review is literal truth, I'll leave it at that.

By the way, the NYT used the word "progressive" throughout the story instead of "liberal." This never ceases to amuse. If "liberal" has become a dirty word (I don't think it has) it's because of extremists on the left. Nevertheless, thus spake the Times, so I guess that makes it so.

Note: Link from The Huffington Post


Blogger John Walter said...

When I see stories about how some behavior is linked to genetics, I get nervous. It has all kinds of unsettling implications:

1. That choices aren't really voluntary-- that we have no free will.

2. That some classes or categories of people are superior to others-- and entitled to greater influence.

3. That some types of people are genetically inferior-- and need to be weeded out.

4. That conservatives or liberals or whatever do not need to be listened to since their beliefs are not based on reason, but on an inferior genetic predisposition.

While I acknowledge that my family upbringing had much to do with my general outlook on life, I like to think that I choose what I believe-- that I am a free person rather than an animal.

7:02 AM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

John, these kinds of things also make me uneasy. It seems that every advance in the study of genetics leads to the same kinds of implications. However, the influence of genetics doesn't eliminate the additional influences of environment and learning. I guess that explains why some of us have to work harder in life than others.

8:09 AM, June 22, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...


You know it is interesting that the NYT was not using liberal. I mean liberal is a good word. Progressive is purposely obscure. I mean there is a progressive movement in the Republican party that I would not call liberal.

As far as genetics go, I'm a bit disinclined to agree. I seem to think age, income, and work history have much more to do with voting.

When I was younger, I tended to be much more liberal and idealistic(a lot of that was trying to get laid) mainly as a backlash against my parents. Now that Im older and have some kids (see worked) I'm much more conservative and pragmatic.

Oh I'm just as idealistic; but sweat, blood, and tears go with that idealism.


10:11 AM, June 22, 2005  

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