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The Genetics Of Politics


knocker

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Posted
  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

Slowly, and in some quarters grudgingly, the influence of genes in shaping political outlook and behaviour is being recognised

IN 1882 W.S. Gilbert wrote, to a tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan, a ditty that went “I often think it’s comical how Nature always does contrive/that every boy and every gal that’s born into the world alive/is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative.â€

In the 19th century, that view, though humorously intended, would not have been out of place among respectable thinkers. The detail of a man’s opinion might be changed by circumstances. But the idea that much of his character was ingrained at birth held no terrors. It is not, however, a view that cut much ice in 20th-century social-scientific thinking, particularly after the second world war. Those who allowed that it might have some value were generally shouted down and sometimes abused, along with all others vehemently suspected of the heresy of believing that genetic differences between individuals could have a role in shaping their behavioural differences.

Such thinking, a product compounded of Marxism (if character really is ingrained at birth, then man might not be perfectible) and a principled rejection of the eugenics that had led, via America’s sterilisation programmes for the “feeble mindedâ€, to the Nazi extermination camps, made life hard for those who wished to ask whether genes really do affect behaviour. Now, however, the pendulum is swinging back. In the matter of both political outlook and political participation it is coming to be seen that genes matter quite a lot. They are not the be-all and end-all. But, as a review of the field published in September in Trends in Genetics, by Peter Hatemi of Pennsylvania State University and Rose McDermott of Brown University, shows, they affect a person’s views of the world almost as much as his circumstances do, and far more than many social scientists have been willing, until recently, to admit.

http://www.economist.com/node/21564191

I'm not sure this link will stay active but the paper can be found here.

http://download.cell.com/trends/genetics/pdf/PIIS0168952512001114.pdf?intermediate=true

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  • Location: Mostly Watford but 3 months of the year at Capestang 34310, France
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  • Location: Mostly Watford but 3 months of the year at Capestang 34310, France

Slowly, and in some quarters grudgingly, the influence of genes in shaping political outlook and behaviour is being recognised

IN 1882 W.S. Gilbert wrote, to a tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan, a ditty that went “I often think it’s comical how Nature always does contrive/that every boy and every gal that’s born into the world alive/is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative.â€

In the 19th century, that view, though humorously intended, would not have been out of place among respectable thinkers. The detail of a man’s opinion might be changed by circumstances. But the idea that much of his character was ingrained at birth held no terrors. It is not, however, a view that cut much ice in 20th-century social-scientific thinking, particularly after the second world war. Those who allowed that it might have some value were generally shouted down and sometimes abused, along with all others vehemently suspected of the heresy of believing that genetic differences between individuals could have a role in shaping their behavioural differences.

Such thinking, a product compounded of Marxism (if character really is ingrained at birth, then man might not be perfectible) and a principled rejection of the eugenics that had led, via America’s sterilisation programmes for the “feeble mindedâ€, to the Nazi extermination camps, made life hard for those who wished to ask whether genes really do affect behaviour. Now, however, the pendulum is swinging back. In the matter of both political outlook and political participation it is coming to be seen that genes matter quite a lot. They are not the be-all and end-all. But, as a review of the field published in September in Trends in Genetics, by Peter Hatemi of Pennsylvania State University and Rose McDermott of Brown University, shows, they affect a person’s views of the world almost as much as his circumstances do, and far more than many social scientists have been willing, until recently, to admit.

http://www.economist.com/node/21564191

I'm not sure this link will stay active but the paper can be found here.

http://download.cell...termediate=true

I find it hard to believe - although I will accept that nature can affect character to a degree, my water tells me that it is much more likely that nurture and experience of life will affect one's political views with the crossover being whether one is naturally concerned for one's fellow man, or a natural tight a**e.

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