Reasons to Believe

And Now ... A Politics Gene

Genetics seems to explain everything these days.

Previous posts explored recent efforts to account for human sexual behavior, but now it really gets dirty. Few discussions can muster emotion faster than political exchanges, so please be advised that RTB does not endorse any particular candidate, party, or platform.

A popular article, "Political Views Driven by Biology," suggests that political beliefs stem (at least in part) from genetics. You might say that a person is hardwired to hold liberal or conservative views.

Researchers tested 46 Nebraskans who held strong political beliefs for responses to fear stimuli. They concluded that participants who scored high on stress tests also tended to support positions usually associated with conservatism; including military spending, the death penalty, school prayer, and the concept of biblical truth. The same group tended to oppose pacifism, gun control, gay marriage, and abortion rights.

It appears that people who are most alarmed by bloody or really gross images (large spider on someone’s face, a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots on it) tend toward conservatism and are therefore "built differently" than others. The thought is that this type of research might help those on opposing sides of the political spectrum to exercise tolerance toward others, given that biology has produced their beliefs.

See anything wrong with this picture? Uh, how about upbringing and influences throughout one’s life? One would think that parents, teachers, clergy, peers, books, TV, the Internet, and many other factors carry far more weight in the development of political beliefs than an evolutionary response to frightful images.

Also, regardless of one’s political stance, this kind of conclusion seems to disrespect human capacity to reason, and therefore to learn, grow, and change. And why test only a tiny group from a red state? This smacks of "this helps explain why those bigots believe that stuff. They can’t reason because they’re hardwired, so we might as well accept that fact."

Ouch. What do you think?