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Is there a gene for liberals?

Is there a gene for liberals? Well, not quite, but scientists say they have found the first evidence that a gene can play a role in shaping an individual's political leanings.

In this case, it appears a variation of a gene known as DRD4, which had previously been linked to risk-taking behavior, also makes people more likely to be liberal. But there's a catch: That's only the case if they had a lot of friends when they were in high school.


Painted tabletop models of the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey. (Jacqueline Roggenbrodt - AP)

This provocative finding comes from some research by scientists at the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. They analyzed data collected from 2,574 adolescents who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which collected information about their genes, friendship networks, and about their political beliefs later in life. They found that people with the "7R" version of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults, but only if they had an active social life when they were adolescents.

"This is the first study to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification," the researchers wrote in a paper pubished in The Journal of Politics,

The DRD4 gene influences how a brain chemical known as dopamine, which has a variety of affects, including helping control movement, emotional responses, the ability to experience pleasure and pain.

The researchers stressed that the "most valuable contribution of this study is not to declare that 'a gene was found' for anything, but rather, to provide the first evidence for a possible gene-environment interaction for political ideology." It is likely that "the combination of hundreds if not thousands of genes interacting with each other and with external stimuli that influence political attitudes and behavior."

They add: "We do not claim that this evidence proves a causal relationship between DRD4 and political ideology. However, the association is consistent with a causal theory that we develop about the ways genes and environments combine to affect political ideology." Just having the gene does not make a person liberal, nor does "simply having a greater numbr of friends as teenager," they said. The gene also does not cause an individual to have more friends. "Rather it is the crucial interaction of two factors"--having the gene and having many friends--"that is associated with being liberal."

The researchers speculate that having that the gene may make people more interested in seeking out new experiences, including learning about the points of views of their friends, exposing them to a "wider diversity of viewpoints" and leading to their liberalism.

"It is the interaction of the desire for new experience and many different pathways to these experiences that we hypothesize has an impact on political ideology," they wrote.

They hope the research will spur more studies to investigate the interplay between genes and environmental factors in shaping complex human behaviors. Who knows, that could eventually lead to the discovery of a gene that plays a role in creating conservatives.

By Rob Stein  | October 28, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

Interesting. I'm the only liberal (for lack of a better word) out of four children in a conservative family. From early childhood, even before I knew anything about politics, I knew I was different. It didn't have so much to do with an openness to exploring and new experiences as with compassion and empathy: I just felt a lot more of it than anyone else in my family. I wonder if there's a genetic basis for that. Liberals are few and far between in my family, but not unheard of.

Posted by: csdiego | October 28, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I find this fascinating on so many levels.

First, there is the nature and nurture component that seems to be interdependent.

Second, looking at my own family it must not only be inherited, but it must be dominant. We have been four generations who could fill out each others' ballots.

This brings into question the high percentage of scientists and professors who are liberal. What does that say?

Posted by: cmelmiller | October 28, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

This constant nonsense spouted by scientists is half of what is corrupting our nation. We act as though we know so much even though we know so little. Maybe that's why every idiot with half a fact in this country wants to beat you with that half fact until you give way to his opinion or simply walk away from his uneducated tirade.

Liberals do have a gene, it's the same as the gene which conservatives have. It's called contrarianism. It allows them to believe that everyone else must be stupid, especially those who see things opposite.

But go figure, if you take every liberal talking point against every conservative talking point and go as far away from both as you can (the middle), something begins to make sense. Liberals and conservatives are the biggest problem in this nation, yet more and more Americans continue to fall into these categories. Why? Because Americans have a gene that these scientists didn't discuss called the collective idiocy gene. They simply must feel accepted by one group or the other, being in the middle is to be marginalized and no American could ever deal with that.

Posted by: TheFreeMan | October 28, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't take a gene, all it takes is a brain and a heart.

Posted by: Mikeystyle | October 28, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Good god. This may be the stupidest thing ever. What a waste of time and effort. Who cares?

Posted by: rhalter3633 | October 28, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

would not explain why I am a former repuglican...

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld1 | October 28, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have a very active social life when I was in high-school and most people believe I am quite liberal, but okay.

Early infusions of Neaderthal blood are responsible for the Republican gene, which is why society never advances under a Republican administration.

Posted by: Anglo_Rider | October 28, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have a very active social life when I was in high-school and most people believe I am quite liberal, but okay.

Early infusions of Neanderthal blood are responsible for the Republican gene, which is why society never advances under a Republican administration.

Posted by: Anglo_Rider | October 28, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

It's not a gene thing. Most liberals only have half a brain.

Posted by: LarryG62 | October 28, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I think we already know the gene that makes conservatives...the poop gene. This is found from following the colon tube that enters the lower half of the brain and clogs the brain up with poop.

Posted by: beachbum1938 | October 28, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Guess this means the Tea Baggers were denied this gene and had no friends growing up?

Posted by: HillRat | October 28, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Yes, its been proven that liberals lack the math and economics gene.
For example: They think you can give 30 Million more people health insurance (who can't afford to pay for it themselves)and it won't cost taxpayers anything extra.

Posted by: ohioan | October 28, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

If there is sucha a gene, it will be interesting to watch the pro-life conservatives try to justify the amniocentesis test for it.

Posted by: di89 | October 28, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse


Good, now that we've identified the defective gene we can engineer it out of the human race.

Posted by: Jeff08 | October 28, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

It TOTALLY makes sense.

It's proof that the liberal minded are more evolved and thus more intelligent, and that those not possessed of this evolutionary trait are genetic dead ends... throwbacks whose knuckles are incapable of raising up off the ground.

Peace

Posted by: lee8798 | October 28, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Current Research on the DRD4 gene:
http://search.enGrant.com/sp/DRD4/

Posted by: daleharrison | October 28, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I remember another story a couple of years ago that had to do with how fear shape your political ideology. It also mentioned genes/DNA. Here's the archived link.

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/19/science/sci-politics19

Posted by: TheNervousCat | October 28, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

This is another example of the symbiotic relationship between the media and those who promote biological explanations of behavior. Big Pharma spends $60 billion a year on promotion of its pills (and only $30 billion on research); biopsychiatry accepts billions each year from Pharma for research that is spun to support biological "cures" for mental problems. Both Pharma and Psychiatry love genetics, because genetic explanations provide a rationale for using pills, electroshock and other biological interventions.

The media uncritically publishes press releases from the above players, giving little attention to contradictory studies. The media loves positive studies - almost never publishing pieces saying, "Seven studies failed to replicate the study we reported last year." The public is left with the impression of biological psychiatry's constant march of progress - and that's not true.

The public is generally unaware that: 1) No biological cause of, or test for, any major mental illness has ever been found. 2) The vast majority of genetic "discoveries" of causes for schizophrenia, depression, etc. have either been found unsupported by later research or vastly overstated. 3) Ditto for studies like this one, purporting to shed light on non-clinical aspects of behavior.

The human brain containes 100 billion neurons, each with thousands of possible connections to other neurons. The number of possible combinations of connections in a single brain is greater than the number of atoms in the known universe. There are over a hundred neurotransmitters, but only about a half dozen have been studied extensively. While scientific exploration of our genes and brains is fascinating, compared to what there is to know, science has barely scratched the surface. For every "suggestive" finding, there are innumerable unanswered questions and alternative explanations.

The most glaring omission in this article: they don't say what the actual correllation is between this gene, having friends, and being a "liberal." My guess is the correllation is probably pretty weak. Leaving out that kind of information, or actually distorting it, is typical of articles on genetics and biopsychiatry. A hypothetical example: a study shows X gene variant increases the chance of Y condition by 40%. That may sound impressive, but not if very few people have Y condition, and only a slightly larger percentage of the X gene group get the Y condition either. So you could as easily conclude that having X gene is a very weak predictor of having Y condition.

The researcher here doesn't over play the results; but articles like this reinforce an impression of certainty and potential beyond what is justified. In this context, researcher disclaimers are like the recitals of side effects in drug ads - everyone knows the point of the ad.

Posted by: pdwyer1 | October 28, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Can we please refer to this gene as "the open-minded gene"?

Posted by: lbgoals | October 28, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

So now we can truthfully say that liberals are mutants? I suspected as much.

Posted by: Illini | October 28, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

If there's a gene for "mouth-breathingly stupid", we'll find it in the conservative DNA. I think it's next to "always afraid". "bigot" and "drools over self" genes.

Posted by: info23 | October 28, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

So what does this say about those of us in the middle - a third of the time my views coincide with the doctrinaire "conservative" position, another third with the "liberal" position - and th ebalance somewhere in between or different. Most people, like myself, do not agree with the hard core extremist but rather see some merit in both arguements but prefer a middle ground

Posted by: VirginiaResident2007 | October 28, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

So conservatives are socially AND genetically defective. That would explain a lot, particularly their fascination with Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Maybe if we can get at-risk kids into special ed early we can cure Republicansim in a generation or two.

Posted by: JimZ1 | October 28, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Sure, it's called the "Intelligence Gene". Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

Posted by: larry9 | October 28, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse


Excellent,,,,, and now that we have a better handle on interaction between genes and environment that encourages the naivety of liberalism, maybe we can get these people the institutional care they truly need.


Oh wait, that’s why liberals like big government institutions so much, because they know that’s where they will eventually end up!


Viva la science in finding the defective gene that can lead to liberalism.

Posted by: bcarte1 | October 28, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I come from a family made up entirely of Republicans. I am the only throw-back liberal.

I'm also the big flamer in the family, and the fact that Republicans and social progressiveness are anethema have a lot to do with the fact that I became a Democrat.

In fact, when I registered to vote on my 18th birthday, I registered Republican because that's what I thought I was supposed to do. I didn't change until my first Presidential election when I finally got my own conscience.

Since then, I've never looked back. There are only two options in this country, and they're both pretty much the same. So until the Green Party gets some cajones, I will stay a Dem, but nevertheless, I will always be a Lib.

Posted by: trambusto | October 28, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"Features alone do not run in the blood; vices and virtues, genius and folly, are transmitted through the same sure but unseen channel."

--William Hazlitt,
British writer

Posted by: BruceBruce | October 28, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure liberalism is not a genetic trait. I am the child of two white conservative Christian parents. I was a devout political conservative until I went to law school at age 35. 3 years of reading and learning about the law and our government, and esp. about the Constitution changed my politics dramatically(and I went to a fairly conservative Jesuit school). I think the drafters of the Constitution were the open-minded, free-thinking liberals of their day.

Posted by: smeesq | October 28, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks that there may be a "politics" gene has no business being in the science field. But scientists need funding too, and they know that if they offer some made-up BS like this, they can get some attention from stupid media saps like Jennifer and Rob.

Complex human behaviors are just that - complex. They don't even know why some people are left-handed. There's no way anyone has figured out why some people lean left politically.

Anyone who takes this sort of thing seriously must have a genetic predisposition towards gullibility...

Posted by: bigbrother1 | October 28, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This psuedo science is going to hurt someone soon. Will the abortions for liberal or gay fetus become the next holocaust?

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | October 28, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

This is, quite simply, ludicrous. I know many people who've changed their political positions over their lifetime. "Science" is becoming more and more ridiculous every day.

Posted by: darkglobe5 | October 28, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

It's always been amazing to me how someone actually can become a liberal thinker and lean politically to the left. I understand our entire public educational system and all the history books promulgate these crazy ideas, so in that light, it's not so surprising how someone exiting high school or college can end up that way as such an idealist. People don't have a true perspective on the thinking of those who created the government and society of this great country. Read the book, "The 5000 Year Leap" if you want to understand this better. We cannot create a utopia on earth--that will only be possible at the end of our lives. We are participants in the greatest experiment in government ever conceived of and implemented and now 20% of our population wants to destroy it. Most of those voting Democrat don't even know what the principles (I hate to use that for Democrats as they don't have any/many principles) that each party stands for and believes in. The current administration and liberals want to change this country fundamentally into a socialist oligarchy while most of the countries in the world who've dabbled in this approach, are moving away from it now after failed experimentation. Educate yourselves on how this country was formed--read the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers and understand better how and why we have the government that the Founders created. Vote for constitutional rule of law, and work to make the country better.

Posted by: tomfrumde | October 28, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

There is little doubt that genetics has a role in determining human behavioral tendencies in dimensions like sexual orientation, risk taking, aggressiveness, and care giving. But these impacts may be due to the action of many different genes that are difficult to factor. In general, scientific studies that try to infer causality just from weak statistically measured correlations are not worth vary much. But, it is well known that men are more likely to be Republican than women. So there is not much doubt that there is some genetic correlation at least with American political affiliation even if the exact cause is probably still open to debate.

Posted by: dnjake | October 28, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean we can cure liberalism?

Will socialized medicine pay for treatment to turn liberals into realists?

Posted by: cdrdavy | October 28, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean we can cure liberalism?

Will socialized medicine pay for treatment to turn liberals into realists?

Posted by: cdrdavy | October 28, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

"So now we can truthfully say that liberals are mutants?"

Not all mutations are maladaptive. :-) I'm fine with you calling me whatever you darn well please. I'd prefer you not use profanity to my face, personally, but it's still no skin off my back either way.

Posted by: amm72 | October 28, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

There's probably something to this but we should be careful drawing conclusions. Political affiliation is incredibly complicated behavior and is influenced by every experience we have, what we know, who we know, how "realistic" or "idealistic" we are and so on. There are probably "conservatives" with the "liberal" gene too, they probably just had more intense experiences to get there.

It's very interesting research and I hope for more but I can also see a terrible potential for stupidity and abuse if people take these things too seriously. It will probably always be better and more accurate to listen to what people say (and watch what they do) to figure out their politics than it is to take a blood sample.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | October 28, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

It's a real shame this gene isn't powerful enough to overcome whatever God-awful experience must have happened to Republicans when they were children.

Posted by: mmax | October 28, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure about a gene factor, but certainly there is an intelligence factor in which political party one belongs. It's not a secret that those with only a high school education tend to vote Republican, and those with college degrees vote Democratic more often. 63% of US educators are Democrats. During the last Presidential election a survey showed that the 80 counties in the US with the lowest education levels voted Republican, the 80 couties in the US with highest education levels voted overwhelmingly Democratic. As Katie Couric clearly showed, Sarah Palin and her ilk are not readers. Like the bumper sticker I once read stated "Vote Republican, It's better than thinking".

Posted by: logcabin1836 | October 28, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Incomplete information provided. What is the baseline of people who have this gene and what percent of them are considered liberal and what percent were considered social. A statistically significant finding can in reality be very misleading in understanding the reasons why someone is liberal, conservative, or likes chocolate ice cream. At best, this research provides only speculation on one of the reasons some people are more likely to be liberal, but there must be thousands of other factors as well. Check out a book titled "Born to Rebel" to get some interesting findings about how birth order predicts being conventional vs. unorthodox.

Posted by: HHinDC | October 28, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Allow me to put this nonsense to rest right now.

I am a liberal. Personally, I lean toward socialist, but since we don't have any viable candidates running, I vote as far left as I can reasonably get, which usually means voting Democrat (in spite of the fact that they aren't very left at all, from where I'm standing). All of the candidates I'm planning on voting for happen to be Dems.

My brother is a card-carrying member of the GOP, and active in his county's party apparatus. He is a member of the NRA, and a conservative blogger. He tends to get a lot of his information from other right-wing sources. He remains a big supporter of former President Bush.

We are identical twins. Ergo, the conclusion that there is anything even remotely like a "liberal gene" is utterly ridiculous. And I find it hard to believe that any reputable researchers wouldn't have thought to use identical twins as the basis of the research, since it essentially eliminates the entire genetic code as a variable.

Posted by: bjameswi | October 28, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I believe this just like I believe there's a gene that makes scientists lean towards idiocy and bad research methodology.

Genes only go so far, like traits -not states. Political leanings are states, not traits.

These results can also be attributed to the social networks, the expanding of their world-view, or even their diets. And, by the way, there is a difference between causal and correlation.

Correlation is the least reliable and least generalizable of results and depends entirely on the sample population.

Stupid, stupid.

Posted by: topwriter | October 28, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Can't wait until they identify all the genes that will justify all my bad decisions in life.

"Sorry boss, I didn't come into work yesterday because my 'Unmotivated Gene' makes me take every Tuesday off. And since it's now scientifically documented, you can't fire me because I have a disability. Also, I want a raise, because my genes say I should be paid about 10k more than what I'm getting now.

"I believe your genes will be okay with that."

Posted by: chill | October 28, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Liberals do suffer from a genetic deficiency but it is located in the brain. The defect affects the ability of its carrier to examine evidence and reach logical conclusions.

Posted by: mhr614 | October 28, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, never thought about it that way before.

www.anonymize.it.tc

Posted by: clermontpc | October 28, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Is that the same gene that prevents the survival of the liberal species unless there is a government to provide handouts and tell them what to do?

Posted by: SalMonella | October 28, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

All together now: Correlation does not imply cause and effect.

Posted by: bbabcoc1 | October 28, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Liberals are so pompously condescending it's laughable. Their delusions of self righteous superiority in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary indicates an infantile and stubborn refusal to live in the real world, regardless of the consequences. They are determined to shove their world view down your throat because they know what's better for you than you do, NOT.

Posted by: beck2448 | October 28, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

gee, maybe the teabagger Mormons can use electroshock to "cure" it like they have done for their gays

Posted by: areyousaying | October 28, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I know of several liberal genes -- Eugene McCarthy and Eugene V. Debs, just to name two.

Posted by: AdrianMole | October 28, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, now we might get an option for prenatal gene therapy. Correcting this condition would be great for the world.

Posted by: illogicbuster | October 28, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Adopted by two conservatives. Great aunt was a founder of a John Birch Society chapter! My own political arc: cried when Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, worked for Jon Anderson while a freshman in college, transitioned to Democrat by sophomore year and have never looked back.
Age 26: for the first time found "background info" on birth parents. They met at a Peace Corps training in fall of 1962.
So, yes, I'm a believer that there's something genetic that sent me on a different path...

Posted by: kelly63 | October 28, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

It may be that certain people are indeed predisposed to be either liberal or conservative. However it all seems fairly simple to me. Change is inevitable and those that embrace change and recognize that the future will be different from what is now, are most likely to be liberals. Conservatives are more comfortable with the Status Quo and yearn for previous times that resonated with them both culturally and politically. If these conservatives were only to stop and realize that huge change has been wrought in their own lifetimes they would realize that they are fighting a losing battle. Consider this very simple fact: That which seems to be right now will be considered wrong in the future. Conversely that which is considered wrong now will be right in the future

Posted by: hhafter | October 28, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness... I've been worried about me for the last 48 years... I had a lot of friends in H.S. but all in the drama club, had many avowed Marxist and Liberal professors in college... now I am an old, white, straight Republican...

Posted by: barber_daniel | October 28, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

"Who knows, that could eventually lead to the discovery of a gene that plays a role in creating conservatives."

I thought we already figured that out a long time ago -- it's called the 'Neanderthal gene'.

Posted by: Frank57 | October 28, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The gene must be recessive, because my dad and mom were extremely right wing and all three of their daughters are lefty, bleeding heart liberals with careers in the helping fields: a nurse, a teacher and a social worker.

Posted by: meowomon | October 28, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

It's more a genetic defect than a liberal gene.

Posted by: Straightline | October 28, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse


Perhaps the science is good but the interpretation is erroneous.

Look at it this way: "liberalism" in the modern political sense means a fundamental tolerance for almost any possible irritant. Combine that with gregariousness, excessive tolerance for high-density levels of overcrowding, and you have a perfect recipe of the modern "liberal": someone who actually embraces extreme and dangerous levels of overpopulation and is willing to overlook even major polluters.

This gene needs to be detected, and detected early. I'm generally not a supporter of abortion on the basis of genetic flaws detected by amniocentesis, but for this I will make an exception.

These people are "sharing and caring" the world into mass extinction of species and global resource depletion combined with global warming and de-glaciation. A clear and present danger to the entire planet, this detectable genetic flaw is more dangerous to us than are sociopaths (highly present in Republican/Conservative ranks).

Overpopulation-loving genetic liberals who prefer popularity to having anything to eat, or immoral and unethical sociopathic conservatives who'd cheerfully eat the liberals?

Your vote on Tuesday could decide.

Posted by: thardman | October 28, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Yes, its been proven that liberals lack the math and economics gene.
For example: They think you can give 30 Million more people health insurance (who can't afford to pay for it themselves)and it won't cost taxpayers anything extra.
=======================================
Further evidence "Conservatives" have the 'Assumption" gene, or the 'Lack of Common Sense" gene.
If you actually believe your statement, it seems you failed econ 101, or failed to take econ 101.
Here is ONE example, among many possible, proving your failed premise.
The Japanese, with a lower GDP, and a lower per capital GDP, spend 8% of that GDP delivering Universal Health-care. The average Japanese patient consumes approximately 3 times as much health-care (visits, lab tests, procedures, medications) per patient, as the average U.S. patient.
WE spend in the neighborhood of 17% of our GDP, our higher per capital GDP, and have 10s of Millions with no (or substandard) access.
Obviously our for-profit system is skimming well over $ ONE TRILLION per year.
Remove the Greed and Corruption (i.e., remove the Republican agenda) and you easily cover those 30 Million AND save money.

Posted by: JohnInMI | October 28, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

This would explain something utterly incomprehensible, people voting 'Publican. If it weren't for a genetic flaw, no one could act so irrationally, frequently against his/her own best interests. And it ain't altruism.

Posted by: mini2 | October 28, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

The problem with a genetic predisposition to consider a new idea or new way better than the established way only because it is new and exciting is that that sounds like a predisposition to find it better based only on its novelty rather than on an unemotional, logical analysis of its pros and cons relative to the established way or idea. Sounds like DRD4 people, the way they describe it, are drawn to a new thing regardless of its merits or lack thereof merely because it is new and shiny. That isn't a good way to evaluate the merit of an idea.

Posted by: SCOTSGUARDS | October 28, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Low risk taking likely leads to a gravitation towards the warm shelter and promises offered by some controlling entity such as government.

Just as conservatives lean towards indivualism, liberals lean towards collectivism.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | October 28, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that conservatives will now embrace abortion as a means to prevent giving birth to liberals? Or that they will start home-schooling all their children so that none of them will have friends growing up? Either way, its a win for us liberals! Less crowded schools, lower birthrate, no threat to legalized abortion.

By the way, parents were alternatively liberal, then conservative, then back to liberal when they came to their senses after the Reagan reign of error. All of my siblings were/are liberal.

Posted by: Chagasman | October 28, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Genes seem to be binary, i.e., they're either turned on or off. So, if turning on DRD4 through adolescent socializing turns on the risk-taking that might affect one's worldview, then the opposite would be true, too, i.e., DRD4 not turned on would lead one to be a non-risk-taking or more conservative in outlook. Since genetics is a complex discipline, I see no reason that this isn't a possibility. I'm not sure that I'd define politics as other than conditioning, but I can see where the entire idea of risk-taking could be correlated to political outlook up to a point. But, I've known many men who volunteered to join the military, hoping that it would take them to foreign lands or knowing that they would serve in combat zones, yet, most of them were solidly conservative in their politics.

Personally, I think a lot of science comes up with bogus theories. For every valid theory that becomes tested over time to prove true over and over, there are many that fall by the wayside. I'm not so sure that I'm ready to equate social behavior and outlook to a purely genetic trigger. But, who knows, maybe it'll prove true in the years to come. For now, I'd give it a big ole Hmmmmmmm.

Posted by: akaurora | October 28, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Have you heard the one about the guy who, while preparing for a heart transplant, asked his surgeon for the heart of a 78-year-old Republican? Surgeon asked the guy, "Why on Earth would you want the heart of a 78-year-old Republican?" Guy answers, "'Cause I know it's never been used."

Posted by: georgereston | October 28, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

So .. from a Creationist point of view,
does this mean that progressive people -
aka liberals - were intentionally created?
W

Posted by: George-W | October 28, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Another "duh" moment. Genetics has an effect on everything we do. Money was spent on this? Too many PhD candidates chasing too few meaningful research topics...

Posted by: theFieldMarshall | October 28, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Another "duh" moment. Genetics has an effect on everything we do. Money was spent on this? Too many PhD's chasing too few useful research topics...

Posted by: theFieldMarshall | October 28, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Well, I've always know that leftists are toxic hate filled fanatics and I sort of figure that being that kind of low life was genic. Liberals, though, come in two flavors, educated thoughtful people and Obama's lemmings.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | October 28, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

..." they will start home-schooling all their children so that none of them will have friends growing up? "

Well, that seems to already be the plan of quite a few of them.

Posted by: di89 | October 28, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

So... if I favor liberty over equality and believe property rights are fundamental human rights, its the "7R" version of the DRD4 gene?

And... if someone else feels its more important for government to manage charity than individuals and private organizations, its that same gene?

Fascinating.

Posted by: scott3 | October 28, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

So true.

If you're the type of person who constantly paranoid that someone or some group is going to stop you from getting what's rightfully yours, you are a Republican.

If you actually care about your fellow man and our society as a whole, you are a Democrat.

Posted by: bartedson | October 28, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure about a gene factor, but certainly there is an intelligence factor in which political party one belongs. It's not a secret that those with only a high school education tend to vote Republican, and those with college degrees vote Democratic more often. 63% of US educators are Democrats. During the last Presidential election a survey showed that the 80 counties in the US with the lowest education levels voted Republican, the 80 couties in the US with highest education levels voted overwhelmingly Democratic. As Katie Couric clearly showed, Sarah Palin and her ilk are not readers. Like the bumper sticker I once read stated "Vote Republican, It's better than thinking".

Posted by: logcabin1836 | October 28, 2010 4:44 PM |

=====

You conflate intelligence with (formal) education. By your measure African Americans and Hispanics are (on average) stupid because their educational attainment (on average) is lower than for other racial / ethnic groups. Yet they tend to vote Democrat. Hmmm.

I'm not buying it. It's far more likely that you are wrong and merely a partisan waging emotional war because you are incapable of the open mindedness needed to actually debate ideas. It's a typical defect of partisans in fact, just look at the comments here for evidence.

Posted by: robert17 | October 29, 2010 1:51 AM | Report abuse

It may be that certain people are indeed predisposed to be either liberal or conservative. However it all seems fairly simple to me. Change is inevitable and those that embrace change and recognize that the future will be different from what is now, are most likely to be liberals. Conservatives are more comfortable with the Status Quo and yearn for previous times that resonated with them both culturally and politically. If these conservatives were only to stop and realize that huge change has been wrought in their own lifetimes they would realize that they are fighting a losing battle. Consider this very simple fact: That which seems to be right now will be considered wrong in the future. Conversely that which is considered wrong now will be right in the future

Posted by: hhafter | October 28, 2010 7:26 PM

=====

Wow, that is really... stupid on so many levels. Can we look forward to you starting to smoke? I mean it is considered wrong now, so you'll be a real pioneer in the neo-smoking movement. What about pollution, or murder? Is public disapproval for those likewise going to be turned on its head? What an asset to society your open mindedness will surely be as you assassinate leading environmentalists.

The truth is that even in the most revolutionary of times the vast majority of socially condoned behaviors are beneficial. Even when they are not, the world rarely allows us simple binary choices. Change not only has to make the case that the status quo is suboptimal, it also has to answer the question - change to what?

Posted by: robert17 | October 29, 2010 2:11 AM | Report abuse

i rarely agree with this kind of science report, but judging by the comments posted, there is a gene... Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha...

Posted by: benshen | October 29, 2010 5:36 AM | Report abuse

Is there a gene for conservatives? Ya betcha!

Posted by: mac7 | October 29, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Looking over the comments there's a high probability that conservatives don't have genes. Or brains. Just a two position switch that defines everything as either good or bad and a small monkey in their skull that flips it back and forth.

Posted by: washpost18 | October 29, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The truly genuine knowledge is the one obtained through the intellect, not through the senses, once said Democritus. The following citation comes from the book “The Revelation After Ioannis”, of the writer – gnoseologist Ioannis G. Tsatsaris, from the chapter entitled “Chromosomes”. I would suggest to those who work on genetics to study the passage, so as to be able not only to better explain human behavior, but also to provide through their research truly useful results:

“We humans perceive only the visible functional Elements that represent the various Positions in life, without knowing that many invisible Elements have to be mobilized in order for them to function. The Rule is that the visible functions on the basis of the invisible (…). External factors always play an important role in the functioning of the organism, entering and affecting groups of cells whose responsive vibration stimulates the instinctual centers, which affects the control center, often causing uncontrolled and erroneous behavior. During the formation of the constitution of the individual, these external factors enter the Positions that science calls chromosomes.”
(Ioannis G. Tsatsaris, “The Revelation After Ioannis”, Vantage Press-2004, pp. 129-130)

Zoe Pittaki, Economist, Athens

Posted by: ZoePittaki | October 29, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

No doubt there is genetics involved when people are willing to vote for those who end up screwing the people who voted for them.

So How Did the Bush Tax Cuts Work Out for the Economy, You and Me?

The 2008 income tax data are now in, so we can assess the fulfillment of the Republican promise that tax cuts would produce widespread prosperity by looking at all the years of the George W. Bush presidency.

Just as they did in 2000, the Republicans are running this year on an economic platform of tax cuts, especially making the tax cuts permanent for the richest among us. So how did the tax cuts work out? My analysis of the new data, with all figures in 2008 dollars:

Total income was $2.74 trillion less during the eight Bush years than if incomes had stayed at 2000 levels.

Average incomes fell. Average taxpayer income was down $3,512, or 5.7 percent, in 2008 compared with 2000, President Bush's own benchmark year for his promises of prosperity through tax cuts.

Had incomes stayed at 2000 levels, the average taxpayer would have earned almost $21,000 more over those eight years. -- http://tiny.cc/la63czz62v

VOTE GOP - THE RICH WILL THANK YOU

Posted by: kkrimmer | October 29, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I can across some data a short time ago that may illustrate a significant difference between Democrats and Republicans.

http://adage.com/article?article_id=146663

Noting first the common. Everyone buys stuff and wants to know when it's shipped. There is some minority priority differences, but nothing terribly significant. Both like the History Channel and Discovery Channel. Both like Cheerios.

The major difference appears in slot #1 for Democrats. Google is the number 1 brand. For Republicans, Fox News is the number one brand. Notice also, that no where on the Republican list is Google or any other search engine.

When Democrats [or liberals] want to know something, they use a tool to look it up. When Republicans [or conservatives want to know something they wait for Fox News to tell them.

I can't tell you how many times I've said conservatives can't look anything up, they're all bumper stickers and slogans. The fewer words the better. Really. How many conservatives will mention the Reagan tax cuts but not the 7 tax increases during the same Reagan Administration? Fox News hasn't told them about the tax increases so they don't know.

Posted by: James10 | October 29, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

We are identical twins. Ergo, the conclusion that there is anything even remotely like a "liberal gene" is utterly ridiculous. And I find it hard to believe that any reputable researchers wouldn't have thought to use identical twins as the basis of the research, since it essentially eliminates the entire genetic code as a variable.

Posted by: bjameswi | October 28, 2010 5:06 PM

One instance of identical twins doesn't prove or disprove anything. I can flip a coin 20 times and every time it could come up heads. Does that prove the coin has no tails? Does it prove that the next time I flip the coin it's more likely to come up heads?

Posted by: James10 | October 29, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

The answer is of course, YES. It's a defective one!!!!! Happy Halloween.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | October 29, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting and makes sense. From the description, one could argue that the gene in possible conjunction with other genes that foster gregariousness has adaptive/survival value in that it fosters collaboration rather than the self centered misanthropy of conservatives.

Posted by: ivjim | October 31, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I absolutely hate stories like this, which lead people to believe that human behavior can easily be explained by something as simple as a single gene.

There is no "liberal gene". First of all, if any such kind of gene exists, it would be a "political persuasion gene" with multiple forms (alleles), some of which would push you towards liberalism and some towards conservatism. Liberals wouldn't carry an extra gene, they would simply have a different form of it than conservatives. So, if we buy into this claim of a liberal gene, we all carry it, even the most conservative.

Second, no complex animal behavior has ever been shown to be strongly controlled by genetics, let alone a single gene. Even the best models of what have been claimed as complex behaviors controlled in some way by genetics have proven, after sufficient research, to be environmentally controlled. Genetics may give some predisposition towards one extreme or another (although the evidence even for that isn't particularly strong), but it does not determine behavior. Even behaviors that appear to have 100% inheritance have been shown to be caused by environmental effects in early development. These effects may change the way in which the genetics of an animal are processed, but the difference is in the environment, not in the genes themselves.

Third, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" don't even have fixed meanings, so any selection that would occur on such a gene would be highly confused. Historically many of the ideas today embraced by conservatives were instead championed by liberals, and vice versa. So your particular political ideology wouldn't get the same label in the 1940s, 1920s, 1890s, 1860s, etc. as they did in any other period, including today.

If we try to reduce the two labels down to the most basic meanings of "willing or unwilling to accept change", a difference that at least has some chance of a genetic component, then they become politically meaningless, as change isn't really what we ever mean by these terms in politics. Liberals often want things to stay the way they are and conservatives often want to change things. The Tea Party isn't such a strong political movement this year because they want things to stay the same, but because they want things to change.

So these kinds of articles are worse than worthless. They don't even use the language of genetics properly to convey the correct message, they imply things about genetics and the human condition that science knows are completely false, and they fail to even consider how ridiculous it is to think that complex social phenomena like political persuasion can be explained by simple mechanisms, leading to the common belief that the solutions to complex problems are easy and simple. No wonder we have such an ignorant and uninformed electorate.

Posted by: Rob29 | October 31, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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