Voting Republican Is A Genetic Flaw?


Stuttering Brain

A couple of days ago, the New York Times published an op-ed citing a recent study on the political beliefs of identical and fraternal twins. Oddly, twin studies are generally eschewed by lots of folks on the left-hand side of the ideological spectrum when they are used to try to figure out how much genes contribute to differences in IQ. But let's set that aside and focus the remarkable results reported here.

The op-ed, "How Much Do Our Genes Influence Our Political Beliefs?" by Columbia University journalism professor Thomas Edsall is actually quite interesting. Edsall is reporting the results of several twin studies that find that there is a heritable component to such personality attributes as conservatism, religiousness, authoritarianism, and traditionalism. Edsall reports that one study…

…comparing identical and fraternal twins [found] that "the correlation between religious importance and conservatism" is "driven primarily, but usually not exclusively, by genetic factors." The substantial "genetic component in these relationships suggests that there may be a common underlying predisposition that leads individuals to adopt conservative bedrock social principles and political ideologies while simultaneously feeling the need for religious experiences."

From this perspective, the Democratic Party — supportive of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the primacy of self-expressive individualism over obligation to family — is irreconcilably alien to a segment of the electorate. And the same is true from the opposite viewpoint: a Republican Party committed to right-to-life policies, to a belief that marriage must be between a man and a woman, and to family obligation over self-actualization, is profoundly unacceptable to many on the left.

Edsall quotes Harvard University evolutionary psychologies Steven Pinker:

Pinker contends that "an acknowledgment of the possibility of genetic differences is a game-changer for countless specific issues. If people differ genetically in conscientiousness, intelligence, and other psychological traits, then not all differences among people in social and economic outcomes are automatically consequences of a rigged system."

And Edsall quite correctly concludes:

Why are we afraid of genetic research? To reject or demonize it, especially when exceptional advances in related fields are occurring at an accelerating rate, is to resort to a know-nothing defense. A clear majority of those involved in the study of genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary biology are acutely aware of the tarnished research that produced racist, sexist and xenophobic results in the past. But as the probability of a repetition of abuses like these diminishes, restrictions on intellectual freedom, even if they consist only of psychological barriers, will prove counterproductive. We need every tool available to increase our understanding of our systems of self-governance and of how we came to be the political animals that we are.

Still, it bears noting that whatever constitutes traditionalism, conservatism and so forth, the attitudes of the American electorate have shifted dramatically toward greater tolerance with regard to how racial minorities, women, drug use, and now, even same-sex marriage are viewed over the past half century. Genes didn't change, yet political beliefs did.

The whole op-ed is worth reading.

For more discussion in this vein, see my critical review, "Different Races Exist. So What?" of Nicholas Wade's A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History

Hat tip Genetic Literacy Project.

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  1. self-expressive individualism

    provided your thoughts do not stray from the hive.

    1. How any democrat can argue there for “self-expressive individualist” when they consider themselves to be progressive/socialist is more retarded than Ben Stiller’s character in Tropic Thunder.

    2. Seriously, I hope I’m not the only one who sees how this parallels the soviet practice of treating everyone who resisted communism as mentally defective and shipping them off to mental institutions.

      Oh dear, you’re not a rabid lefty? We need to send you in for gene therapy to fix you….

    3. …self-expressive individualism

      provided your thoughts do not stray from the hive.

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. The party that’s all about the collective is really about self-expressive individualism?

      I wonder if confabulation is a genetic side-effect of biologically pre-disposed socialists.

      1. As long as you express yourself in an approved manner, of course.

    4. Self-expressive individualism – you didn’t build that. It takes a village.

    5. I think they must mean defining yourselves as 11/23 female, 7/23 male, and 6/23 gender-and-math-agnostic.

  2. “Political tags ? such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth ? are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

      1. That was Robert Heinlein he was quoting.

        1. Was Heinlein the guy who directed Starship Troopers? That movie sucked. What a shitty ripoff of Starcraft.

          1. No he owns a ketchup company.

          2. That was Paul Verhoven, may the fleas of a thousand camels infest his crotch. Heinlein was the author of the book that Verhoven got the treatment of a summary of from an intern while she was sucking him off.

          3. Such troll. So nerd rage.

      2. It’s a quote from Heinlein.

        1. This Heinlein guy is chock full o’wisdom…

          “There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”

      3. I believe that was a Robert Heinlein quote.

      4. Didn’t Heinlein say that?

        *stabs himself with fork*

        1. I think it was Heinlein.

            1. Heinlein? Never heard of him.

              1. I think he used to write for Sports Illustrated.

              2. I’m pretty sure he was a Dutch brewer.

                1. Andruw Jones never played for the Brewers.

                2. That was his kin.

      5. I can’t believe no one has pointed out that this is a Heinlein quote.

    1. Good Asimov quote.

    2. “A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.”

      -Alfred Bester

    3. “Patriotism is not sentimental nonsense. Nor something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man’s evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.”

      -Ray Bradbury

      1. Was Bradbury ever right about anything?

      2. Us versus Them; Since the beginning of time; Until the end of time.

        1. Every company I ever worked for has the same org chart. “Them” works for “Us”.

      3. “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
        – Mark Twain

        1. “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” -Samuel Johnson

          1. I believe you left out the ‘motherfucker’ part.

    4. “I’m not trying to frighten you, but only a fool makes predictions based on ignorance; I am not that sort of fool.”

      -Arthur C. Clarke

    5. Isn’t this an excerpt from Stranger in a Strange Land?

      1. No, I believe that’s from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long (Time Enough For Love)

    6. You people should crack a book other than The Fountainhead once in a while. That’s a Heinlein quote.

        1. Some sex pervert from the 80s.

          1. That’s like ancient times.

          2. No no, he was a cheesemaker.

  3. and the primacy of self-expressive individualism

    *howls of derisive laughter*

    1. Lefty individualism means the freedom to self-identify and express yourself as you see fit, except a) monetarily, as a political statement, b) as a function of your commercial activity, c) within 500′ of an abortion clinic, d) in an area not recognized by the university as conducive to free speech, and e) if your homeschool lesson plan has not been vetted by the education authorities. This list should not be construed to tolerate any expressive activity for which you have not sought permission.

      1. The list of approved reading materials should be more than sufficient for any self-expressive human!

      2. /thread

  4. This is Troll bait, this post is.

  5. Oh jesus this fucking Eugenics beat again? Why are progressives so obsessed with rooting out inferior people?

    1. inferior or people with different view points?

      1. In the mind of a progressive, that’s the same thing.

        Inclusiveness means excluding anyone with a different viewpoint.

        Equality means superiority over anyone with a different viewpoint.

        Tolerance means not tolerating anyone with a different viewpoint.

        1. In the mind of a progressive, that’s the same thing.


          Their voting habits define their inferiority, which has an actual genetic component.

      2. you mean progs would see a difference?

      3. To a progressive that’s a distinction without a difference.

      4. Most people think that people with different viewpoints are inferior. Libertarians are certainly not immune to that.

        1. But libertarians are unique in being correct :^)

    2. When you put it that way, it sounds a little suicidal. :)))

    3. You wouldn’t want them to fill the camps based on a hunch would you?

    4. Why are progressives so obsessed with rooting out inferior people?

      1. It eliminates obstructionist malcontents.
      2. How else do you expect to build a better society? You gonna let – *gag* – ‘people’ do it themselves?

      1. Sure as I know anything, I know this – they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better.

        1. Progressives inherited their genes from the church-ladies of the 19th century.

          A century ago their ancestors were railing against the demon liquor and trying to nag people into going to church on Sunday. Today they rail against high fructose corn syrup and nag people about their recycling.

    5. I know lots of people will interpret it that way, but is there anything in the study that says anyone is inferior? You could equally conclude that voting Democrat is the genetic flaw.

      Unless you want to go the “false consciousness” route, there is some reason why most people seem to favor some form of collectivism (let’s not imagine that conservatives are any kind of radical individualists for the most part). It’s a pity that stuff like this always gets used to beat on people, because it could actually be interesting to know about.

      1. there is some reason why most people seem to favor some form of collectivism

        public schooling?

        1. No, I think it is deeper than that. As much as we’d like to imagine that everyone just needs to awaken their inner radical individualist and see the light of liberty, I think that most people are more comfortable imagining that there is some big daddy government making sure things are OK. And that applies to conservatives as well as to liberals and progressives. Unfortunately, it seems to be part of human nature.

          1. Atavistic tribalism. There’s a reason why it took thousands of years of authoritarian poverty before markets were discovered almost by accident. And why everyone, even economists who should know better, behave as though modern wealth is the typical human order of things, like oil bubbling up from the ground.

    6. Because they need someone to look down on.

  6. From this perspective, the Democratic Party ? supportive of . . . the primacy of self-expressive individualism over obligation to family

    Meanwhile, back on the planet Earth…

    1. And given that the two major American political parties are amalgams of dozens of different groups each, many of them voting for the same party despite having dramatically different political and ethical beliefs (see the African-American community vs. the gay community among those who vote progressive, or neocons and paleocons among the conservative voters), trying to create this value-based line between “conservatives” and “the Democratic Party” is an incredible exercise in question begging.

      1. What question?


  7. The individualism of self-expression that comes with surrounding yourself with people that think and dress and act just like you do.

    1. Wear the uniform of nonconformity!

        1. Damn it we’re not vampire poser wannabe’s.

    2. If I’m not free to make you subsidize my communal organic rooftop urban farm, I’m not free.

      1. If I’m not free to make you subsidize my communal organic rooftop urban farm give me your property for any reason whatsoever, I’m not free.


  8. From this perspective, the Democratic Party ? supportive of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and the primacy of self-expressive individualism over obligation to family ? is irreconcilably alien to a segment of the electorate.

    I’d like to take a moment to notice that all of those issues are social-cultural issues and NOT economic ones.

    Yet, the Democratic party, especially TODAY’s Democratic party stands for much more (and less) than “self-expressive individualism”. The agenda of the progressives currently in power is largely economic in nature. It’s about universal health care, the minimum wage, inequality, regulation, and NOT really much about abortion or same-sex marriage.

    And let’s also point out that same-sex marriage (and abortion) won IN THE COURTS, not because of legislation enacted by Democratic politicians.

    It amazes me how Democrats keep getting away with potraying themselves as the party of “individual self-expression”, when they want to stop people from expressing themselves via opening a business without getting permission from the government and ahereing to a bunch of rules restricting it.
    Isn’t one’s choice of occupation ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL to human identity and meaning?

    The Democrats are only fine with you expressing yourself as long as all your self expression is confined to non-economic spaces. In their ideal society you are only “free” in your non-economic life. Even though you spend most of your waking hours in your economic one.

    1. The Democrats are only fine with you expressing yourself as long as all your self expression is confined to non-economic spaces.

      The thrusts to insert trigger warnings and criminalize “hate speech” would beg to differ

    2. The Democrats are only fine with you expressing yourself as long as all your self expression is confined to non-economic spaces.

      Try speaking against abortion or in favor of religion in Team Blue circles. You’ll find out how much they are in favor of free expression.

      (I happen to be pro-choice and atheist myself, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to deny my opponent the right to his/her opinion.)

      1. Yes, Bill Maher and George Carlin are/were shunned by liberals for their anti-religion views – right?

        1. Try speaking… in favor of religion

          Yes, Bill Maher and George Carlin are/were shunned by liberals for their anti-religion views – right?


          1. Maher and Carlin routinely dump on all religions and are beloved by liberals.

            1. Right. And he said try speaking in favor of.

              So, huh?

              1. And Carlin doesn’t routinely do anything except rot.

              2. You’ll have to forgive it. It’s not a very good python script.

              3. Oh, I see. But both Clintons and Obamas pump their Christian bona-fides 24/7.

                That original statement is so ridiculous it threw me.

                1. Huh?

                  That original statement is so ridiculous it threw me.

                  Why can’t you just say you misread it or made a mistake instead of blaming what you read? The rest of us (presumably) didn’t get “thrown” by it.

                  1. Apparently it is time for cake.

                  2. Candidate for the eugenics lab he is.

                2. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

                  It’s Thursday, people.

    3. I’d like to take a moment to notice that all of those issues are social-cultural issues and NOT economic ones.

      I’d like to note that they aren’t really self-expressive individualism issues either; unless you have some twisted notion of self-expressive individualism that makes you list which set of genitals you prefer on your business card or have your abortions tattooed to your neck like some kind of WWII fighter plane.

      At least, the people who are generally against abortion and gay marriage aren’t generally against it in a form of speech sense.

    4. Democrats tend to not make distinctions between social and economic issues, which is one thing they’ve got right. Their approach is, of course, dead wrong. But it wouldn’t hurt free market advocates to show how their approach is more just and socially beneficial.

      1. That’s because they don’t really think about their ideas, they just regurgitate them from Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow.

        They haven’t thought about their opinions enough to notice the massive contradictions in them.

    5. I think it is stupid to apply it to the major parties, as both are a hodge-podge of different interests that were lumped together largely because of historical reasons.
      If you talk about it in terms of a more traditional notion of conservative and liberal (not progressive modern liberalism), it makes a bit more sense.

      Also, I think what people think they support is more relevant here than the actual results, as it is about personal views and preferences. And liberals/progressives do actually largely believe that they support self-actualization and personal freedom. What the actual outcomes are when the people they vote for are in charge is not really relevant.

      1. What the actual outcomes are when the people they vote for are in charge is not really relevant.

        Well, voting for something that you think will happen or makes you have teh good feelz while the reality of that vote enables soft tyranny should be what is actually considered a mental defect.

        1. Yeah, allowing good intentions to outweigh actual positive outcomes is much more like a defect.

      2. And liberals/progressives do actually largely believe that they support self-actualization and personal freedom.

        Not for people who are different from them.

        They don’t think that owning your own business free of government harassment is a legitimate form of self-actualization. As soon as you make a “profit”, you’re fresh meat to them.

        1. I think you are being overly broad here and really just looking at the far left. There are plenty who have no problem with people starting their own businesses or making a profit. Yes, they also think that people who make more should pay a higher tax rate and be subject to more regulations than we do. Now maybe they are wrong, but that is what they believe.

          Even in the case of the nuts who do think that profit is evil and all that, I think that they see the people who would run business for profit are bad people not deserving of that freedom. I think that is idiotic, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t believe it. Everyone has a line that you can’t cross in your self-actualization. I don’t think that many would agree that anyone should be allowed to fuck 5 year olds because that is the kind of personal freedom they desire. Now, it is idiotic to equate that with people wanting to run a business and make money, but people do a lot of idiotic things. That doesn’t mean they don’t have all the best intentions, or sincerely believe what they say.

          I stand by my original statement.

    6. Isn’t one’s choice of occupation ABSOLUTELY CENTRAL to human identity and meaning?

      No, for most people it’s just how they make money. If you simply gave them the $ they’d be satisfied.

  9. Genes didn’t change, yet political beliefs did.

    The improvements in human interaction, movement, and communication throughout history have always resulted in the liberalization of political beliefs. The last 100 years have seen more movement and communication than probably all of combined history prior to WWI. Freedom breeds freedom.

  10. I often think it’s comical ? Fal, lal, la!
    How Nature always does contrive ? Fal, lal, la!
    That every boy and every gal
    That’s born into the world alive
    Is either a little Liberal
    Or else a little Conservative.

    –Gilbert & Sullivan

  11. Aborto-Freaks and Christ-Nuts automatically fall in line with the GOP?

    Crazy talk!

    1. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

      It’s Thursday, people.

      1. Forgive me for not portraying the GOP in the most glowing light possible.

        1. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

          It’s Thursday, people.

  12. Though the left claims to represent the latest and greatest in all things, observe how their “progressive” ideology still mirrors the fads of the 19th century. In metaphysics, reality as a plaything of consciousness (Kant); in epistemology, knowledge as a product of social subjectivism (also Kant); the political economy of Marx, etc.

    And in this case, we are looking at old-fashioned materialism, which holds that volition is an illusion; instead, human beings come with philosophical premises pre-programmed as intrinsic qualities of their genetic structure. Now they call it “evolutionary psychology” and it’s all the rage in underground internet forums, but it’s just a new version of the same old (boorish) thing: determinism.

    1. Is there another Kant I’m not aware of? Because that’s not Immanuel.

      1. Libertarius is a Randian, thus the purist hatred of Kant.

        It’s always impressed me that objectivists are the only people on the planet who have a clue what Kant meant or believed about anything.

      2. Yes it is. The world is filled with what you are not aware of.

        1. A snide objectivist. Such a rarity!

        2. Did my thesis on Kant, and you believed Rand’s fairy tales. So, yeah, I feel good about my victory here.

  13. So I guess that N Korea had a sudden influx of bad genetics right before the Russian Revolution or something. Japan must have got a lot of good genes right after getting conquered by the US. Man, the US must have had some ubermensch genes right before our independence, and I guess the South’s anti-slavery genome must not be kicking in right or something.

    Beyond the bad conclusions which spring forth from genetic determinism, the sheer stupidity of it is astounding and has very poor explanatory power when it comes to sudden change.

      1. I understand necessary/sufficient just fine. Now if you wouldn’t mind explaining to me the evidence of bad genetics as a causal factor in political economy, I’m all ears. In my observation, the factors regarding the popularity of some political model or other seem to hinge on zeitgeist and events moreso than some fixed genetic component. Certainly it is difficult to explain the radical shifts in such in the same region within roughly the same population.

        1. Knowing you, TIT, you’ve probably already read her, but if not, you might check out McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity for a novel & convincing explanation of how social factors (namely the 17th-century elevation of merchants’ social status above that of the expropriating class) accounted for the explosion of culture and wealth in the west.

          1. Have not read it. It’s on my list now.

        2. A few things:

          “Genetic determinism” is a strawman. People who don’t believe in the blank slate don’t believe in the opposite.

          Heratibilty must be understood in the context of the environment. The estimates in the article presumably come from modern America. There’s no reason to believe that those have much relevance to early 1900’s Japan. Alcoholism is surely genetically influenced, but a heritability study in the US would be useless at explaining the drinking culture in Riyadh.

          The psychologists in the article believe that there’s a single latent trait behind various ‘conservative’ predispositions. That would mean that everbody falls on some sort of 2D scale. If this trait isn’t very strongly tied to IQ or conscientiousness or something else strongly associated with leadership, here’s a prediction: movements that look like everyone went bonkers (e.g. Juche and Nazis) should appeal to traditionalists and progressives in roughly equal proportions. Thinking about it for two minutes, that seems to be the case.

          1. I can’t remember whether it was in The First Circle or

            1. Damn server squirrels ate 90% of my note.

              Should read:

              I can’t remember whether it was in The First Circle or

              1. WTF is happening? Two cut-offs at exactly the same point?

                1. Teh skwerls hate Solzhenitsyn.

          2. Got to it late, but thanks for your reply, Sidd. I believe I understand this better now, though I’m still skeptical RE: “conservatism” since broad political philosophy has a variety of different reasons and emotions to justify that philosophy’s conclusions. I see no reason to think that, say, being more analytic predisposes one to any particular philosophy (as an example).

  14. Genes didn’t change, yet political beliefs did.

    I think genetic testing of belly buttons would actually be more productive.

  15. “self-expressive individualism” defined as “uses bodily fluids as art supplies in developing his senior thesis project on the history of transgender oppression in pre-revolutionary France,” but not as “publicly expresses support for conservative or libertarian political positions not usually appreciated in large urban areas or on most college campuses.” That second kind will get you in trouble.

    1. Or “opens a business that sells unapproved homemade products”.

      Why isn’t making your own shit and selling it considered self-expression?
      Most people’s live revolve around work. If you want to open a shop selling artesianal fucking cupcakes (or cheese, or sausage, or raw milk), why isn’t that considered a form of self-expression?

      1. It’s self expression if you do it for no payment, or maybe if you just break even.

  16. I never quite understood this genetics determines political crap junk hypothesis.

    For example, I started as fairly non-political. When I was young I just didn’t care about it or even understand what was at stake.

    Once I was a teenager/college student, I thought the Democratic Party wasn’t left enough and we needed something like communism to fix all the problems of the world (ha!).

    And then I graduated, got a job, and a bought a house. And then I started to swing fiscally conservative once I had to pay property taxes. And then 9/11 hit and I went temporarily full ‘tard neocon.

    A year or two of that and I was like WTF is going on with this? There was a realization that Democrats are pretty much crooks with the Republicans an extremely close second. It took a bit longer until I found Reason, which honestly – thanks to many commentators, not necessarily the articles – made me rethink politics through the lens of freedom.

    But I’ve always been an anti-social contrarian…

    1. I made a hard swing after the 2008 thing with Georgia and Russia, when it became painfully obvious I didn’t want McCain or his inner circle to have any influence over foreign policy. Now I feel the same way about establishment Democrats (and Hillary in particular), in that I want careers and influence to end.

    2. A determinist would say that your reaction to each of those events was predictable.

      1. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

        It’s Thursday, people.

    3. I suspect that most libertarians aren’t going to fit neatly into this sort of thing. Some people are more predisposed to actually think about the consequences of things.

  17. I don’t think it’s genetic, but certain traditions do influence our thinking over very long periods of time. In prehistoric times, people were fit and had a strong work ethic, because they ate lean meat and had to run to catch it. Then with the rise of pastoral societies, the herd instinct seemed to rub off on people’s behavior and thinking.

  18. Democrats support the primacy of self-expressive individualism – thus why Democrats have such trouble defining the party. Where the GOP is a tribe of groupthink much like Islamists (culture, ethnicity, and religion first).

    1. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

      It’s Thursday, people.

      1. Into the Valley of Death rode Restoras…

        1. I must be silenced for the good of the GOP!

          1. Don’t. Don’t lock eyes with it.

            It’s Thursday, people.
            ? Restoras

          2. They’re better served if you speak freely and often.

        2. Trolls to the right of him!
          Trolls to left of him,
          blathered and blundered!

      2. IT wants cake and it’s HUNGRY!

    2. Right, which is why people on the left are always castigating this, that, or the other random person for saying something racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, “triggering,” or just plain old insensitive: ecause they believe in the primacy of self-expression.

      Nice rhetoric. Very well-crafted. And you can tell because people on the left actually believe it despite it’s shaky connection with reality.

    3. Yes, that’s why they want to stop people from renting their rooms out on AirBnb.

  19. Jim A.C. Everett, a doctoral candidate in experimental psychology at Oxford who was a visiting scholar at Yale earlier this year, writes in a 2013 paper that there has been “a marked increase in research suggesting that there may be consistent differences in the way liberals and conservatives think and perceive, and that these underlying differences may actually nudge individuals toward one end of the political spectrum or the other.” In particular, Everett notes, the need for “order, structure, closure, certainty, dogmatism, and discipline are often shown to be more central to the thinking of conservative proponents, whereas higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity and greater openness to new experiences appear to be associated with liberal cognitive styles.”

    If this is the case, and I think it is, then both parties are dominated by “conservative” cognitive styles in voters prone to the widespread economic errors that Bryan Caplan describes–both are afraid of immigrant labor & trade threatening existing industry, both view an economy as something that needs to be managed by experts, and both view jobs as primary rather than production. It also explains why both parties have consistently created bad legislation to these ends at every turn, as they both operate in the same Overton window.

    1. The “liberal” qualities Everett describes are politically Hayekian, as openness to new experience and tolerance of complexity are both features of evolving markets, not massive bureaucracies that cater to established power structures. Creative destruction through market processes is probably the most liberal idea ever conceived (Darwinism is a close second), and it takes a liberal mind to recognize that society grows and evolves without a boss to guide it and without a recognizable telos. For someone who’s accustomed to thinking of order as the creation of a ruling class–which is almost everyone–that’s a frightening and incredible idea, which is why we libertarians have a hard go of it.

      This whole backpatting idea that NYT-reading “liberals” who love to go skydiving and who once went to a swingers club in grad school are the backbone of the Democratic party is massively silly. The Democratic Party is mostly conservative to the FDR tradition of big-state social democracy led by authoritarian leaders like FDR and LBJ; so is the Party of Medicare Part D, although they play up a few bits like gun control or the desirability of war to ensure that the electorate stays motivated. The idea that creative, open people are drawn to one rather than the other is ridiculous, as a popular party by definition has to cater to the popular prejudices of the day.

      1. Jim A.C. Everett, a doctoral candidate in experimental psychology

        Well, that would explain his erroneous conflating of his prejudiced opinions with actual science.

        1. Behaviorism stands up to the experimental method pretty well, but the rest of psych is only slightly more scientific than economics. Social psych is particularly awful, which is why people like Everett would rather call himself an experimental psychologist.

      2. Just so. The soi-disant “liberal” mindset is not much in evidence among supporters of our status quo Total State.

        I can put a “strawberry jam” label on a can of cat food, but that doesn’t make it a can of jam. Putting a liberal label on a crypto-authoritarian statist doesn’t make them a liberal.

    2. “higher tolerance of ambiguity and complexity and greater openness to new experiences”

      Too bad they can’t seem to fit that ambiguity and complexity on their bumper stickers, or include it in their political slogans.

      We are the 99%!

      Let’s give America a raise!

      Tax cuts for the rich!


  20. FWIW, I have ancestors who were Masons and/or militant atheists and/or socialists. But I suppose those could be recessive traits.

    1. Come to think of it, I’ve been those things myself (except the Masonic part).

      1. I would like to learn how to lay bricks properly. I don’t think it’s genetic.

      2. and then you discovered cute animal videos and realized 1. there is a God and 2. there are benefits to capitalism after all?

  21. New York Times ownership is 100% genetically determined.

  22. Wow, they ought to make these GOP voters wear some sort of identifying mark or something so we can see them coming.

    What a load of garbage. People get paid to produce this stuff?

  23. As others have noted, this stinks of Soviet-style unpersoning, and more fundamentally to the dehumanizing of the Enemies of the Progs.

    1. Don’t worry. They just want the intellectual freedom to concoct a justification for murdering and enslaving their enemies Megalo.

  24. I think people are making a mistake in looking at what the actual policies supported by the major parties, and the outcomes that they lead to, here. I don’t think that is really relevant to this study. What is relevant is what people believe they support. And I think it is true that most people who identify as liberal and vote Democrat believe that they support individual self-actualization and that sort of thing. And conservatives think that they believe in traditional social structures and the primary importance of family and traditional values. That is what is relevant, and I don’t think they study is too far off the mark as far as that goes.

    1. I think it is true that most people who identify as liberal and vote Democrat believe that they support individual self-actualization and that sort of thing.

      Thus why I am appalled that the D’s manage to get away with portraying themselves as such. They are the most anti-self-actualization party out there.
      They want to control what you eat, think, read, work at, how you do you work, and where, what you spend your money on, how it is made, and how much it costs. For your own good. They only think you have a choice about is what to do with your genitals.

    2. Zeb, people’s lack of self-awareness and delusions may be relevant to some things.

      What do you think its relevant to in the context of this study?

      1. In this context, I think it suggests that many, if not most, people lack self awareness and are good at deluding themselves. Or just use politics as social signaling.

  25. The philosopher Schopenhauer made the astute observation that we can’t control what appeals to us. I can’t tell you why I like this or that, I just know I do. What I and every other human being does control, however, is how we act on those preferences. This can be as mundane as choosing not to eat a lot even though I enjoy it because I don’t want to be fat or having the common sense and wisdom to understand that my vision of a perfect world might not work so well in practice.

    Apparently genetic scientists have forgotten the fact that just because we prefer something doesn’t mean we are compelled to act on it or are incapable of understanding that our preference might be self destructive or down right evil. So even if it is the case that genes make some people prefer small government and other people prefer big government, that doesn’t excuse either group from using their rationality to temper those preferences to fit reality. Perhaps it is the case that your genes could make you naturally find communism appealing. That fact doesn’t mean your mind can’t decide that that preference is not a particularly good one just like my mind understands my desire to drink a quart of beer and eat good food every night is a bad one.

    So this research doesn’t tell us anything really. It can’t because at most all genes do is dictate our preferences. They don’t dictate our actions.

    1. We have to believe in free will – we have no choice!

      1. If we don’t believe in free will, then we no longer can morally justify punishing people for their actions. You don’t punish people for having blue eyes or being six feet tall do you? Without free will all of our actions are no different in nature and no more under our control than our physical characteristics. And that is chaos.

        It is also completely counter to experience. And even if it were true, I don’t see how you could ever prove it was true. Even if you believe genes determine natural preferences, they still don’t determine actions. For example suppose neuroscientists figured out a way to rearrange my brain such that I no longer liked vanilla ice cream. It just tasted horrible to me and I felt no desire to eat it. Okay, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still prefer to eat it. It just means I will choose to eat it for a different reason, like the pleasure of proving the scientists who rearranged my brain wrong, rather than because it tastes good. They can at best change my intuitive reaction to a choice. They cannot change my will’s decisions based on those.

        1. If we don’t believe in free will, then we no longer can morally justify punishing people for their actions.

          I don’t know that that is as obviously true as a lot of people seem to believe. If there is no free will, then the punishments and moral justification is just as natural and necessary as the actions being punished.

          I find the question of free will very boring (and mostly unanswerable). I do what I will myself to do, so I have free will. What else can you really say about it?

          Without free will, everything is exactly the same as it is with free will.

          1. If I can’t help doing it, how can you punish me? Maybe you keep me away from other people so I am not a danger, but you can’t punish me.

            And the question of free will is important for the reasons I outline below. Thinking we are a slave to our preferences justifies our minds becoming part of the body politic just like our actions are.

            1. If you can’t help doing it, I can’t help punishing you.

              Don’t get me wrong, I want to believe in the sort of free will you do, but I can see no way to demonstrate that that is the case. Just because I would prefer the world to be a certain way that best agrees with my personal philosophy doesn’t mean that is how it is. I don’t know and I don’t think it is possible to know.

              1. I can’t help punishing you.

                Sure. But that just means we need to keep people like you with the immoral desire to punish people out of positions of authority. Just because you can’t help punishing me doesn’t make doing so right. It just means you are not responsible for doing it.

                You are correct that it is not an issue that can be definitively settled. So the question is which answer is more likely and which answer makes the universe more sensible? The answer in both cases is that we have a free will. If we don’t have a free will, life becomes completely unintelligible, because there is no self anymore. There is just various stuff randomly happening in our heads. If there is no self then there is nothing to observe the world or make any sense out of it.

                Perhaps the universe is really that absurd. We will never know. Since we can’t, it would seem to me that the default position should be that it is intelligible and that we do have free will.

                1. I think part of the problem here is that we are not defining whether free will is compatible with determinism or not. See below for a bit more on that from me.
                  Thanks for the lively discussion.

                  1. Zeb,

                    Free will is not compatible with determinism in my view. And understand determinism doesn’t necessarily mean predictable. Our actions could be the product of utterly unpredictable and random processes and we still wouldn’t have free will or really even be a self. It would be as Satre put it “not I think therefore I am but there is thinking going on.”

                    1. I think that there are two very distinct questions about free will. One is whether we are free to act as we will and the other is whether we could have done something else. The first one is easy for me. I think the answer is clearly yes. There is some process which has everything to do with whatever it is that makes us individual human beings that leads us to our decisions and choices and once we make those choices, we are free to act on them barring any physical constraints or limitations.
                      The second question is the unanswerable one. Only one thing happens, as far as any individual can observe, anyway. To me that makes the question irrelevant and it really doesn’t bother me beyond typical sorts of regrets about things I have or have not done. To you, that seems to be the whole basis for morality (and I’m not making any value judgement here). I think it might have something to do with the same sort of characteristics that make some people more predisposed to religious faith, or lack thereof and I think you know which way I lean on that. Maybe that means that my political and moral philosophy is based simply on personal preference and not on some higher universal order of things. If so, so be it.

                    2. And let’s not even get started on what exactly the self is or in what sense it exists.

        2. If we don’t believe in free will, then we no longer can morally justify punishing people for their actions.

          If you don’t believe in free will, whether you’re a Zen Buddhist or a fatalistic materialist, you just see that what happens happens. The Freudian version of that is depressing and existential, that you’re a puppet being pushed around by the universe, whereas the zen version is that you’re part of a giant happening, or, as a wise man once put, that you’re what the universe is doing in what we call here and now.

          In political terms, all of that is irrelevant. Anyone who says that the absence of free will means that a judge should go lighter on criminals has committed the elementary error of neglecting that the judge doesn’t have free will, either. The absence of metaphysical free will isn’t just limited to poor inner-city kids who don’t have an ivy league education.

          1. That is retarded. The judge not having free will just means he is not responsible for doing the wrong thing. It doesn’t make it right. If no one has free will, then we need to stop giving judges or anyone else the power to punish people for their actions.

  26. I think this sort of thinking is the root of a lot of problems in our society. The premise of this sort of research is that we are a slave to our preferences. This becomes very damaging when it is applied to undesirable preferences. If someone naturally prefers say settling disputes violently or finds children sexually attractive or have other destructive preferences, since we think people are slaves to their preferences, the solution is to tell these people they are wrong for having such preferences and should repress them rather than learning how not to act on them. Since people only control their actions not their preferences, they never successfully repress these thoughts and end up either loathing themselves or finally becoming so frustrating the reject the entire idea that acting on them is wrong and become very dangerous.

    This idea also is used to justify censorship. If you are a slave to your preferences, then when you see a violent movie or pornography that perhaps brings out a preference in you you didn’t realize you had, you are destined to act on it. Thus, we need to ban rape porn or violent movies. If we are a slave to our preferences, then some thoughts and fantasies must be repressed. This idea literally justifies society owning the insides of our heads.

    1. If however we embrace free will and understand that our actions are different than our preferences and that we can’t control our preferences, then there is no reason to worry about people’s thoughts or expression. We just worry about people’s actions.

    2. Where is the line that differentiates “this sort of research” from research on the heritability of height?

      1. Because I can’t change how tall I am. I can, however, choose to not support policies I feel a natural affinity towards because my rationality tells me they will fail.

        1. So the line is anything related to the brain? IQ research is bad? Studying the heritability of preferring books to movies is bad?

          BTW, proving that a trait has a heritable component is a few light years away from “we are a slave to our preferences.”

          1. It is not “bad”, it just doesn’t really mean what it claims to mean.

            Unless you can show me we are compelled to act on the preference, my response is who cares? The research is true as far as it goes but it doesn’t mean anything. It only means something if you can show me how these preferences dictate our actions.

            1. Some of this stuff is so context dependent that I agree, it doesn’t really mean much.

              I think a lot of this research is hereditarains saying neener neener to the remaining pure environmentalists after being dominated in the media and the dimmer sectors of academia for 50 years.

              1. Anyone who believes in a pure blank slate has never paid much attention. Clearly we get our natural preferences at least partially from heredity. It is just that there is a difference between will and preference.

                1. One interesting explanation for the popularity of blank slate theories is the rise of the detached elite. People who grew up in small towns went to school with a moron whose parents and grandparents are also morons. And since you went to school and studied and played with that moron, you knew his upbringing was similar to yours. People who didn’t have that experience come up with theories that sound nice but don’t really reflect reality.

          2. Studying the heritability of preferring books to movies is bad?

            No, it is just meaningless. Suppose my father loved sci fi and I inherited that trait. But then my father beats the shit out of me my whole childhood and even though I like Sci Fi, I won’t read it because I hate my father so much.

            Yes, I have the “trait”, but so fucking what? All this research could at best tell us is that these things that arise in our minds we call preferences have a genetic component. Unless it is the case that we don’t have free will and those preferences dictate our actions, it is nothing but curious information.

            1. One useful thing you could do with this line of research is compare heritability in different times and places. Lower heritability would reflect a healthy society that encourages/enables using the rational brain to overcome the monkey brain.

    3. How can one be sure that we aren’t slaves to our preferences, but certain preferences just outweigh others. If, for example, a person likes sex with little kids or beating the shit out of everyone who they don’t like, they probably also have a preference for not being in prison or getting beat up themselves. For some people the latter outweighs the former preference, and for some it doesn’t.

      As I said above, I really don’t think it matters much. People do what they do and other people react to what those people do. Whether everything is deterministic or if we are in some metaphysical sense free to act as we will, it all works out the same and it all appears the same. Is it really possible or sensible to distinguish two states of affairs which are completely indistinguishable? Or do you think that there is something about the world we live in that makes it obvious that free will exists?

      I’m curious how you would define “free will” and how you could possibly distinguish it from any other state of affairs.

      1. but certain preferences just outweigh others.

        That or they choose which preferences to act upon and which preferences to not act upon. Again, if our preferences compel us to act on them, then society has a right to repress certain preferences the same way they repress certain actions. If you believe people are compelled to act on their desires, then something like rape porn or violent movies really do cause harm since they bring out preferences and necessarily actions that people wouldn’t have otherwise had. Someone who never found rape desirable might start to find it desirable if they see it presented in an idealized way. So when someone makes a film like that, they are causing rapes that otherwise wouldn’t occur.

        This is what feminists argue to justify banning pornography. And if you think our preferences dictate our actions, they are right.

        If you don’t believe in free will, good for you Zeb. I can’t prove that you are wrong. But you need to seriously rethink a lot of your political views because the rational implication of thinking that way are a whole lot different than what you probably believe now.

        1. It’s not that I don’t believe in free will. I certainly feel like I have free will. I just don’t think it is as relevant to morality as you do. Morality may well be mechanical and deterministic as well. And whether or not it is, I believe that freedom is the morally superior condition and that people should only be punished for things that harm other people.

          Anyway, this discussion is getting all mucked up with imprecise terminology. I’m sometimes using free will as opposed to determinism and sometimes not. So I’ll quit for now as I don’t think we’re going to sort that all out here.
          I think you may be familiar with it, but see David Hume on freedom, determinism and moral responsibility. A philosophy professor once accused me of being more Humian than Hume.

          1. I am familiar with Hume. And from a strictly empirical perspective, Hume is right about that and a lot of other things. The problem is that once you start reasoning policy based on Hummes observations you wind up with a whole lot of crude materialism and utilitarianism. What is best? Well whatever works best or whatever we happen to like the best.

            Hume is a curious guy in many ways. The problem with Hume is that as right as he is about so many things, he was a good hard working dependable Scot who kind of assumed everyone else was just like him. When you consider evil in Hume’s world and how some people might prefer really abhorrent things, Hume’s universe gets really dark very quickly.

  27. whatever constitutes traditionalism, conservatism and so forth, the attitudes of the American electorate have shifted dramatically…over the past half century. Genes didn’t change, yet political beliefs did.

    Then it may be that genes determine which side of the bus you sit on, though not which route or destination the bus gets driven over. Most -isms are relative.

  28. Interestingly, the famed Twin Study by the University of Minnesota reported on a pair of identical twins, one of whom was a Neo-Nazi raised by Neo-Nazis and one was an Orthodox Jew raised by Orthodox Jews. How do you explain that?

  29. Nothing changes. The scientists of today think they’ve gone past the past when they’ve found novel ways of repeating it.

  30. You lost me at “Columbia University journalism professor”.

  31. “the Democratic Party ? supportive of… the primacy of self-expressive individualism over obligation to family”

    What? Socialism is individualism now?


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