Monday, August 27, 2012

Genetics and Politics

As scientists get better and better at analyzing our genetic code, they of course have moved beyond health issues to something really important -- such as whether we are conservative or liberal based on genetics.

A story today provides a little detail on this question:
Categories such as political knowledge and liberal versus conservative ideology were more likely to be influenced by genetics, whereas political party identification was strongly affected by upbringing, the researchers said.
I don't have access to the original studies on which the point above relies, so it's hard for me to evaluate their methodology and findings.  Do I buy it?  For ideology, yes.  For political knowledge?  Not so much.

Ideology can be traced to the Big Five Personality Traits, which very well may have genetic origins.  I have a more difficult time tracing political knowledge in the same way.  Perhaps certain personality traits, which can have genetic origins, may lead to a greater need to know stuff.  Openness to experience, maybe.  But for me, political knowledge is more a function of motivation, a need to know and understand the world.  Is there a genetic code for that?  Perhaps, but I've yet to see compelling evidence.  Yet.  It's an area ripe for investigation as it gets less and less expensive to do these kinds of sophisticated tests.

What has been linked to ideology?  Lots of stuff, some of it hard to buy into.  For example, this study that addresses, in part, low IQ and conservative ideology. I file that under the "damned unlikely" category.  Or this one on the dating preferences of liberals and conservatives (people wanna dates folks, ideologically speaking, like themselves).  This last one, I'm going to expand on later in another post because it looks an awful lot like our cable news preferences.

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