Is there a liberal gene?
Researchers at Harvard and UCSD may have identified a liberal gene. The idea is that the 7R variant of the DRD4 gene is related to "novelty seeking," predisposing those who have it to be open to diversity in relationships and experience. That, apparently, leads to seeking out such curious specimens as Keith Olbermann.
"No wonder you can't reason with liberals!" I hear conservatives shouting. "How can you argue with biology?" Conservatives might change their political tactics. Ann Coulter, famed author of the "book," How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), might revise her recommendations in light of these findings by adapting the "What Do You Do When You See a Bear" section of Yosemite National Park's Web site:
If a liberal approaches you, act immediately to scare it away: make as much noise as possible by yelling very loudly....If you are with other people, stand together to present a more intimidating figure, but do not surround the liberal.
The intent is not to harm the liberal, but to scare it from the area and restore its natural fear of people by providing a negative experience....
When a ranger sees a liberal, the ranger may use non-lethal aversive tactics to chase the liberal out of a developed area. During your overnight stay, expect to see and hear rangers patrolling public areas for liberals. You may hear rangers yelling at and chasing liberals. You may also see or hear rangers shooting noisemakers or non-lethal projectiles (such as rubber slugs from a shotgun or clear paintballs from a paintball gun).
Actually, wait, given that description, some Tea Partyers already treat liberals as though they were feral animals.
Also, natural fear of people? That sounds more like conservative predispositions at work. In fact, the researchers also found that the presence of the liberal gene in and of itself doesn't produce an individual with lefty politics -- also critical, apparently, is how many friends those who possess this gene have in high school. The more friends, the researchers speculate, the more exposure to a diversity of viewpoints, experience that apparently promotes liberal views. If true, does this evidence the stereotype about how some conservatives believe what they do because of their barren social lives growing up?
So even if all we are is brain chemistry, our particular experiences still seem to matter. That's somewhat reassuring -- particularly for those of us who want the experience of reading our blog posts to change our readers' minds, not just to rile them up. Still, speaking of the experience side of the equation, the Internet age provides people both with the opportunity to expose themselves to alternate views and with the ability to select content that closely matches their ideological leanings, however formed. Liberal gene or no, I have to worry that's turning civic debate into the rhetorical equivalent of shooting noisemakers at each other.
| October 29, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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