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Friday, November 03, 2006

Genes And Skepticism

The next explanation for Kansas, according to a researcher at Rice, is that they just can't help themselves - it's a genetic problem. From the first link:
It long has been established that our identification with a particular religious denomination is a result of our upbringing, but perhaps less known is that the strength of our religious convictions is almost entirely genetically determined. According to Rice University’s John Alford, the same is true regarding our choice of political parties and our political ideology.

In a study reported in the May issue of the American Political Science Review, Alford and political science colleagues Carolyn L. Funk, associate professor with Virginia Commonwealth University, and John R. Hibbing, professor at the University of Nebraska, challenge the long-held assumption that our political orientations are shaped by our parents and upbringing. In reality, they argue, our political ideology is determined by our genes.
Got that? Faith in God - in your genes. Conservative? Blame your genes. Liberal? Thank Gaia!

Practically speaking, this does explain why the euthanasia crew is so enthusiastic about pushing their agenda. At long last, they've figured out the only possible answer to the question "What's the matter with Kansas?" That answer can only be a neutron bomb, if one accepts this hypothesis.

You might, if you are one of those skeptical-gened people, be wondering why the population of Minnesota is reported to be so much more religious and has so much more conservative social beliefs than the current population of northern Europe, given the commonality in the gene pool. Undoubtedly the answer will turn out to be some sort of Reagan-era gene manipulation program spread by ADM, in cooperation with the CIA. Because everyone at DU knows that science is never, ever wrong, unless they have genetic defects that prevent them from achieving enlightenment. They are, after all, the reality-based party. (But even DU is becoming concerned about the "human garbage" theory of political life.)

This is pretty much a Hitlerian idea about humanity, which perhaps explains the current vogue of anti-Semitism amongst our societal elite. This view of human potential could not be further from the Jeffersonian liberalism, and it explains why Pope Benedict felt the need to appeal for the restoration of a faith in human reason.

My question is, how can one believe that these theories are true, when is it that every society that embraces this basic theory about human nature turns and chews up its own guts? Look around the world. Look at history. They are ashes, whereas societies composed of individuals, who live in a free society with free debate and make independent choices live and are strong.

This is a manual trackback.

I enjoyed your comments on the article, and replied on my own blog. This issue is also being discussed on digg.
Explaining things like political party preference in terms of genetics has always struck me as being like trying to solve your software problems by putting a voltmeter on the computer's power supply. There's a problem of levels here.

The twin studies are interesting, though. It't imaginable that genetics does have an influence of temperament--but the expression of this temperament is going to depend on environment. For example, suppose that there is a genetic component to conformity. A person with this tendency living in Georgia is far more likely to be religious than a person with the same tendency living in England.
Nice analogy.

But the stunning comeback on the link above is that yahahah! there is a genetic difference between Americans of European ancestry and Europeans, because the ancestors of the Americans left. This is an interesting hypothesis that's been floating around since I was in highschool, but there is no scientific support yet for it. Furthermore, if you contend (as at least one of these profs actually does) that almost all political affiliation is genetically determined, you have to explain why populations shift political philosophies so radically over even one generation.

When I stop laughing I'll write more about this; there are problems with the cited evidence.

But to me, the real stumper comes back to this question "Why do societies that accept such a deterministic view of human potential keep running into brick walls when compared with societies which do not?"

I'd accept many answers to the above question, but I think it must be asked and fairly considered. If this theory is true, why do societies structured on this line fail? They ought to be more efficient, but instead they are less efficient, which seems to at least imply that there is a flaw in the hypothesis.
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