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← Are politics in your DNA?

Are politics in your DNA? - Comments

zoro's Avatar Comment 1 by zoro

Does anyone know if similar studies have been done for religious denominations?!

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 08:16:00 UTC | #17423

Homo economicus's Avatar Comment 2 by Homo economicus

Did Frank Herbert know something we did not? In the Dune series other memory (ego/memories) of ancestors was passed genetically. Are we heading in that direction?

Would need to know more about the study's methodology to know how seriously we should be taking this.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 09:36:00 UTC | #17433

Mango's Avatar Comment 3 by Mango

If genetics had any sort of role, then why are sections of the U.S. predominantly liberal or conservative? Is it mere coincidence that residents of New York City are overwhelmingly liberal, and those of Fargo are in like fashion conservative? At this point, with the information from the article, I simply believe that politics is derived genetically only in so much as you learn your social beliefs from your parents through inculcation (and often a holy book!)

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 09:36:00 UTC | #17434

bugaboo's Avatar Comment 4 by bugaboo

Certainly you can't be born a communist, fascist etc but genes will contribute to personality temperament etc and people with certain varietes of these traits will tend to support different political parties.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 11:49:00 UTC | #17442

NoLongerHaveBelief's Avatar Comment 5 by NoLongerHaveBelief

Yeah Mango, you may be right there.

However, I think life experiences have a lot to do with our beliefs, also.

20 years ago I was a Christian, stinking sexist, stinking racist and wasn't a nice person. I believed in the death penalty and hated gays.

Much growing up and education later, aided with life experiences, I look at that younger model of myself with disgust.

No longer do I see the death sentence as Justice - there can be no justice with punishments that are absolute [which is why I can't believe in God. A being of such magnificence would surely NOT punish a lesser being for acting EXACTLY as the superior being created], nor do I believe being Gay is evil, nor do I look upon women as lesser beings. I no longer believe in Christ either.

So, we can change our politics. I've gone from extreme abnoxious right-wing thinking to left-of-centre liberalism. All in less than 2 decades.

Glad I grew up. Glad I opened my mind. Wish the believers would think about things too. WHY does the Catholic church have a problem with Gays?

I mean, Gays grew up around heterosexual parents - yet their parent didn't rub off on them, did they?! The Catholic church have a right cheek, getting up on their high horse about Gays - with their history of child abuse!

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 11:51:00 UTC | #17443

Mango's Avatar Comment 6 by Mango

Responding to bugaboo... Even if we we are all born with, how should I say, genetic susceptibilities to certain political mind-sets, that does not diminish the primacy of inculcation and (as NoLongerHaveBelief observes) life experiences. Using my example of New York City and Fargo again, it does not seem reasonable to suppose that people born in those cities were any MORE genetically predisposed to conservatism or liberalism, or any other terms you might use for political-mindedness. Rather, it shows that we are all born with the same genetic predispositions to any worldview and the one we end up with is from cultural-familial-experiential forces.

Saying people born with certain varieties of traits makes them more likely to support a certain political party is no different than saying your genes make you more/less likely to be criminally minded. To say genes have some sway over politics you have to say it does for crime as well, don't you? I won't assert that it does, and I return again to our upbringings and life experiences for the primary (only?) explanation.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 12:21:00 UTC | #17447

bugaboo's Avatar Comment 7 by bugaboo

Responding to Mango..Genes certainly do contribute to "criminality". The most obvious example being that males are more violent than females. I agree that our upbringings are extemely important however genes do play a role as evidenced in the many studies sited in Pinker(The Blank Slate) Daly & Wilson etc.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 13:22:00 UTC | #17449

Mango's Avatar Comment 8 by Mango

bugaboo... Let's get back on track with the article, which supposes that political flavor might be inherited from parents ("family resemblance in social attitude"). Now granted, males more than females are are responsible for crime. But is a child of a criminal more likely to be a criminal himself based upon his genetic inheritance? That is the question that relates to the topic, and I aver that there is no genetic heritage for either politics or crime (and your breakdown by gender is not in the context of "genetics" in which we are here using it).

NYC and Fargo. In both cities males commit the preponderance of the crimes, but what is the crime rate in those cities? Higher in NYC, and not because the criminals are children of criminals by dint of genetics but rather the social factors involved.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 13:33:00 UTC | #17450

nine9s's Avatar Comment 9 by nine9s

Like NoLongerHaveBelief, my political views have changed radically in my lifetime. I went from a diehard Democrat to a libertarian in the course of about six months. A lot of one's political beliefs stem from what one thinks government is capable of doing, and that's a matter of learned information.

It also seems inevitable that genetics also has something to do with this. Babies are born with their own personalities, and while a lot can be done with that, it probably can't be completely overthrown. Bugaboo makes a good point:

Genes certainly do contribute to "criminality". The most obvious example being that males are more violent than females.

The study seemed to be making a similar point: that party affiliation is due almost entirely to environment (learning) while attitudes were a mix of learning and genetics.

As an interesting side note, conservatives have 41% more children than liberals, and children share their parents' political affiliation 80% of the time.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 13:54:00 UTC | #17451

Mango's Avatar Comment 10 by Mango

"It seems inevitable that genetics also has something to do with this." Really, you're going to have to show me the "criminal" gene before anything becomes inevitable. In the light of the article, show me a gene that has been isolated that gives a person a personality that's more likely to make them conservative/liberal or any other social dichotomy.

Many of us change throughout our lives in our social beliefs. How do you propose to bring genes to bear on that?

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:01:00 UTC | #17454

bugaboo's Avatar Comment 11 by bugaboo

Mango.. i was simply responding to your comment regarding politics/criminality. In response to your question (that relates to the topic)about the children of criminals i sited Pinker,Daly and Wilson since therein lies the evidence that( eg )violent behaviour is indeed partially heritable. I used the example of violent males as the most obvious role of genetics.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:03:00 UTC | #17455

Mango's Avatar Comment 12 by Mango

Bugaboo. I haven't read the studies you cited but I will concede that they confirm what you have stated.

However, please respond to what I have been saying about NYC and Fargo. What is going on there is social, isn't it? Is genetics even on the radar when exploring the salient explanations for the differences between two cities' politics and crime rates?

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:10:00 UTC | #17456

Veronique's Avatar Comment 13 by Veronique

This is off the subject.

I have just read a 'review' of RD's TGD on and I have emailed the RD site with the link for Josh.

I am not sure that this is the way to send a link to Josh.

Can someone help me please.


Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:40:00 UTC | #17457

nine9s's Avatar Comment 14 by nine9s

Really, you're going to have to show me the "criminal" gene before anything becomes inevitable.
I don't think there can be any such thing as a "criminal" gene any more than there can be a "doctor" gene or a "basketball" gene. But a person can have a certain combination of features (height, athletic build, endurance, good hand-eye coordination) that, put together, give that person a natural advantage at basketball, even though the game is an entirely learned activity. Similarly, if someone has high levels of aggression and testosterone, and low levels of empathy, regard for the opinions of others, and ability to project into the future, that person would be more prone to committing crime than others would be.

Now, none of this means that a person is predetermined to become a criminal, any more than a tall person with stamina is predetermined to play basketball. But as biological beings, our biology plays a part in our outlooks and our internal reward/punishment systems (emotions).

As for Fargo and NYC, yes, the issue may be entirely social. There's nothing the nature/nurture symbiosis that prevents one side from dominating the other. Also consider that conservatives born in NYC are likely to be uncomfortable there and may move elsewhere.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:42:00 UTC | #17458

sdit7's Avatar Comment 15 by sdit7

"...probed the transmission of social attitudes among more than 4,500 pairs of fraternal and identical twins."

Wouldn't it be expected that social attitudes of twins would be more or less the same given that they would have been raised in the same household and under the same conditions?

Humans, among all animals, are uniquely dominated by culture...influences that are learned and handed down. Wouldn't the entire meme theory of religion rest on the fact that there is indeed a social dimension to issues such as religion, politics, etc. rather than an innately biological one? For instance, my father was raised as a Catholic, but left the religion in his early teens. Having an irreligious mother as well, I was raised in a secular home. Given these conditions, when I began to study religion a few years ago, I found it be to be generally incomprehensible because for my entire life I had been predisposed to see the world as it was with no Divine hand present in it.

Although I can see how one's surroundings could affect their social outlook, I even see this as a bit flawed. I was raised in southern Louisiana, an area renown for high rates of alcoholism and staunchly Republican views. Yet, once I came of age, experience a bit of life, and researched the facts, I have decided that I am ideologically a Democrat and never want to drink alcohol.

So, even if genes do play some role in our social views, I believe common sense can tell us that they are surely usurped by culture, and furthermore, once one comes of the proper age, I certainly hope that culture is usurped by reason.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 14:51:00 UTC | #17460

bugaboo's Avatar Comment 16 by bugaboo

mango, regarding NYC and Fargo I think its largley social. When explaining human behaviour however i dont think you can discount the effects of genes. In the UK we have similar demographics: people in rural areas tend to be conservative and people in cities tend to be liberal. Perhaps people with certain dispositions are attracted to living in certain areas. (that will sound naive i know since poverty etc will play a large role in peoples choices) I dont know -just a thought. No one will ever find the "libertarian gene" or whatever. But having particular versions of genes will increase the statistical probability of a particular behaviour manifesting. Of course the "correct" environment will have to be present for the expression of traits.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:08:00 UTC | #17463

Mango's Avatar Comment 17 by Mango

nine9s. Exactly right that there is no criminal gene, and that was my point.

Basketball players are genetically gifted to be good players, but besides testosterone what you list for criminals are not so easily placed upon genes (empathy, concern for others, ability to anticipate the future) -- those sound much more social/learned.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:11:00 UTC | #17464

sdit7's Avatar Comment 19 by sdit7

Mango, I respectfully disagree. I have a good friend who is an Olympic swimmer. He has been waking up at 5AM everyday to swim (in addition to an afternoon practice as well) since he was 12-years-old, and routinely swims over 10,000 meters a day, 6 days a week. He, as a good number of athletes can contest, is not naturally predisposed to be a fast swimmer, but through intensive training (including a healthy nutritional regimen) and practice, has risen to the level that he is at now. Obviously, if you have bad hand-eye coordination, it doesn't matter how many times you go to the batting cage, you just might not be cut out to be home run hitter. However, as they say, "Practice makes perfect." It is true that there are some naturally gifted athletes, but it is also equally true that many Olympic caliber athletes have worked gruelingly for years to perfect their talent.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:24:00 UTC | #17467

nine9s's Avatar Comment 18 by nine9s

I think criminality has much more to do with environment than genetics. But then what to do with the cross-cultural fact that men commit the vast majority of crime? Are men and women equally empathetic and concerned for others? It's obvious that environment has a very large role in this, but does it make sense to dismiss the possibility of genetic variances?

Mango, are you arguing that genetics has nothing to do with any of this? I'm just arguing that it's a blending of genes with environment; I'm not arguing against environmental influences, or even against the superiority of environment over biology.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:24:00 UTC | #17466

Mango's Avatar Comment 20 by Mango

Firstly, sdit, obviously you can practice to become good at any sport, even basketball if you're just 5'2". All I was saying was that of course being 7 feet tall predisposes you to be naturally adept at basketball. So I don't see what your point is.

nine9s, you bring up gender like bugaboo did, and I addressed that by remarking that gender is out of context in this discussion of genetics. Obviously there are genetic differences between men and women in their physicality and basic behaviors that are genetic and evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary biologists make a living studying these differences. But, political leanings inherited from a parent? Now that's the question. Your parents might give you intelligence in your genes, they might also give you dexterity and imagination, but what you do with those with your conscious mind is an entirely different ballpark. You can be intelligent, dexterous, and imaginative and be a flaming liberal but change your mind and be a staunch conservative and not a bit of those opinions or the change from one to the other can be genetically explained.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:31:00 UTC | #17470

sdit7's Avatar Comment 21 by sdit7

Mango, you said, "Basketball players are genetically gifted to be good players." It made it sound like you were inferring that there are some people, based on their genetic makeup, that are better at basketball than others. I am 6'7", but I cannot make a shot if my life depended on it. Perhaps you could have said, "Some people are genetically destined to be tall, and thus, have a better chance at being successful basketball players than others."

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:36:00 UTC | #17472

Mango's Avatar Comment 22 by Mango

I was responding to a post that mentioned physical characteristics that "give that person a natural advantage at basketball" and I was conceding that as I made my point. sorry for the confusion.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:39:00 UTC | #17473

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 23 by Russell Blackford

Damn, I just wrote a very long post which the system lost.

I won't try again. Just remember that it can be quite misleading to say that the variation of a phenotypical trait within a population is explained to a certain percentage level by genetic differences.

Here's an example. What is the extent to which the distribution of number of legs within a given human population is explained by environment, as opposed to genes? For an example, take the population of the city where I live - Melbourne.

The correct answer is (close to) 100 per cent. Almost all the variation is explicable by environmental things like car accidents. This is precisely because of the similarity of our genes in the relevant respect.

Of course if the population consisted of a mix of human beings and horses, the distribution would be more like 100 per cent explained by genes.

I could imagine that there just might be quite a strong genetic effect on distribution of political persuasions within a population under the following circumstances:

1. There is a causal mechanism whereby genes affect the brain, or hormones or something, in a way that might affect general attitudes to the world (e.g. tough versus tender).

2. There are political ideologies on offer (within the environment of the population concerned) that are differentially appealing to people whose brains (or whatever) are coded for in the relevant attitudinal ways (e.g. there is a "tougher" ideology and a "more tender" ideology).

3. Within the population concerned, everyone is exposed to much the same environmental influences.

At the same time, the effect might be swamped if we look at a larger population of which this one is just part, or if we look at a more environmentally heterogeneous population, or if we try to compare two populations living in different environments.

We always have to try to think through the ways in which genes and environment might interact, and we need to be careful about cited figures of how much one or the other explains differences within a population. Take a close look at the nature of the population before drawing a conclusion about what that figure is really telling you.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:52:00 UTC | #17476

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 24 by Steven Mading

( in 2. Comment #19453 by Homo economicus on January 27, 2007 at 9:36 am, he said: Did Frank Herbert know something we did not? In the Dune series other memory (ego/memories) of ancestors was passed genetically. Are we heading in that direction? )

I very strongly doubt that is possible. Isn't the DNA pattern you have in you when you are an adult having sex and concieving children the same one you had when you were a baby? How can the memories of what happened to you when you were, say 20 years old, be encoded in a pattern that is identical to what it was when you were 10 years old, which is identical to what it was when you were 5 years old, and identical to what it was when you were developing in the womb?

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 16:51:00 UTC | #17480

magetoo's Avatar Comment 25 by magetoo

#19497: Thank you, Russell.

And I'd also like to point out that debates like that one are best conducted in the forum, instead of swamping the article comments with posts.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 17:02:00 UTC | #17481

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 26 by -TheCodeCrack-

No wonder multi-culturalism fails so often. no one can agree with anything even when there born and brought up here. The genes must be doing a fair bit.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 19:06:00 UTC | #17493

denoir's Avatar Comment 27 by denoir

I'm very sceptical about the attempts of dismissing environmental causes more or less completely in favour of genetic determinism - especially when it comes to modern social phenomena. When our gene dictators created higher level brain functions it was largely game over for them. The last 500,000 years of human social development is not because of the genetic changes that have happened in that time but because what we accomplished with our brains.

A human anno 2007 AD is nearly identical to a human anno 100,000 BC genetically speaking. Yet the problems and questions that we face are radically different. Socialist vs communist vs liberal is nonsensical in stone age terms, but relevant today.

Our genomes evolve slowly and our hard wired behavioural patterns are optimized for a bygone age when we roamed around in Africa in small family bands. These wirings do indeed influence us today - they are the foundation of our thinking and behaviour. It is however absurd to think that there is a direct mapping from the stone age variation of human behaviour to the modern variation of it. Market liberals do not not originate from one population that had some genetic quirk back then and that gets expressed as a political opinion today. And the behavioural differences between modern market liberals and trotskyists is infinitesimal compared to how humans in behave today in modern societies compared how they behaved 100,000 years ago.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 23:47:00 UTC | #17507

Joadist's Avatar Comment 28 by Joadist

The height of the basketball player is not what gives some people an advantage. It is the rule which sets the height of the basket which makes the determination.
Change the rule and you change the advantage.
There is no genetic predisposition to arbitrary rules.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 01:09:00 UTC | #17508

JDAM's Avatar Comment 29 by JDAM

The discussion seems to be proceeding a bit afield from the original premise, i.e. are politics in the genes?

I rather doubt it, based on my own personal experience. I was born of a father who was a kind-of washed out conservative and a mother who started life in America (foreign-born and raised) as a flaming Leftie (Grandpa was a card-carrying Communist Union dude in the '20s and '30s) but ultimately became pretty much a Goldwater/Reagan conservative before she passed away. I myself started my political life as a flaming Leftie, a wage-slave who paid little in taxes and saw little wrong with ripping the well-to-do for all that could legally be drained from them.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Nirvana. I became "well-to-do" (relatively speaking) myself. My conversion from Flaming Leftie to Pretty Conservative was completed by the Clinton Tax Increase in 1994. I am a conservative to this day. As an old friend used to say, "You can't be a Conservative until you get something to conserve..."

In my own life exeperience, it is very difficult to accept a view that political outlook is even remotely genetically based. Genetically based freethinking perhaps, but not politics.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 20:49:00 UTC | #17575

Aussie's Avatar Comment 30 by Aussie

I don't think there can be any such thing as a "criminal" gene

Oh yes there is. In eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain this gene gave rise to a whole broad social grouping within society known as "the criminal classes".

As part of a very efficient program of genetic cleansing almost all individuals within these classes were transported to New South Wales during this period and the gene rapidly became dominant in the population there and has prospered ever since.

One unexpected side effect of this gene is that it has had quite serious consequences on cricketing ability.

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 00:18:00 UTC | #17593