General discussion

Researchers Find the 'Liberal Gene'

Don't hold liberals responsible for their opinion -- they can't help themselves.

A new study has concluded that ideology is not just a social thing; it's built into the DNA, borne along by a gene called DRD4. Tagged "the liberal gene," DRD4 is the first specific bit of human DNA that predisposes people to certain political views, the study's authors claim.

And the key to it all: Liberals are more open, said lead researcher James H. Fowler, a professor of both medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego.

"The way openness is measured, it's really about receptivity to different lifestyles, for example, or different norms or customs," he told "We hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences [a measure of openness] will tend to be more liberal" -- but only if they had a number of friends when growing up, Fowler cautioned.

This isn't a typical gene association study," he said. "There's a combination of genes and environment that matter."

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You could look at it this way ...

If all liberal tendencies are as dysfunctional as you think they are then there will be a tendency for conservatives to have a survival advantage and the liberal gene will eventually be selected out.

Unless of course the liberal gene confers some sort of advantage. Are liberals more attractive mates? Looking at Michael Moore makes me think not.

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And Rush Limbaugh is attractive?

Sounds like the "liberal gene" is a compliment. I'd rather be open-minded than not.

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I am very suspicious of it....

The assumptions that liberals are more open-minded or more likely to seek out new experiences are VERY suspect. There may be something to this research, but they haven't filtered out human bias.

I love the reactions and interpretations I've seen in various places though.

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Compared to Michael Moore....

yes, of course.

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"open minded" being synonymous with empty headed

with attractiveness being relative, yes Rush is more attractive (although attractiveness might also be dependent on the gene as I have heard liberals claim that Pelosi was "attractive" despite the evidence to the contrary).

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We probably need both kinds ...

Josh, I agree that being open minded has its virtues. I'm not quite sure that being conservative and open minded are antithetical, though. There's conservative and then there's conservative. Same for liberals, some of whom are not people I would describe as 'open minded' unless by that you mean 'hole in the head'.

In any event, I suspect that IF political orientation is substantially a biologically determined trait then the reason both liberals and conservatives survive is that we need both for society to function. If the conservatives are right about who actually generates more wealth (I'm not saying they are 100% right, but just for the sake of argument) then they play an important role. OTOH, to the extent that artists and idealists (who typically seem to be more liberal than not) play a role in shaping a less utilitarian society then we need them too.

As I understand natural selection the reason genes persist is that they impart survival advantage to the species, but not always to specific individuals in the species and not always to individuals who express the gene's most extreme traits. An example is the sickling cell gene that can be lethal to those who inherit one from each parent, but helpful in people who inherit a normal gene from one parent and a sickling gene from their other parent. People with one of each (heterozygous sickle cell 'carriers') are more resistant to malaria.

There's an awfully lot we do not know about how genetics affects personality/behavior and I doubt that political orientation is a purely genetic trait but the research is at least interesting.

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I'm put in mind of astronauts...

Aren't they receptive to "different lifestyles, or different norms or customs?" Don't they indulge in "novelty-seeking behavior?"

I believe most of them are politically conservative. The same could be said for a number of occupations/careers.

I wouldn't put too much stock in the study.

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So I assume

that the 'lack' of this gene makes one a Republican?

That means George Bush Jnr wasn't responsible for his actions either.


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Don't assume..

"In fact, psychologists have asserted for many years that social conservatism is heritable..."


Fowler suggests that it made more sense to be liberal in certain environments at specific points in human history, and in others a conservative ideology was merited. "And this is what made it possible for our species to survive," he said.

All Republicans are not conservatives and all Democrats are not liberals. W was not really as conservative as common wisdom has it. I don't think there's a gene for Democrat or Republican.

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Good post, Ed
Fowler suggests that it made more sense to be liberal in certain environments at specific points in human history, and in others a conservative ideology was merited. "And this is what made it possible for our species to survive," he said.

I think that is a very good observation. Let's not also forget that people can be liberal in some ways and conservative in others. I consider myself fiscally conservative but socially more liberal. Most of us are not as easily labeled as people like Rush, Ann Coulter and Keith Olbermann seem to believe. That's kinda what today's rally in Washington is all about (with a sense of humor about it all).
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How long for the cure?

Eradication of defective genes is a worth goal.

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