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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  June 2005

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE June 2005

Subject:

Re: All in the genes

From:

Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 21 Jun 2005 11:08:06 -0700

Content-Type:

multipart/alternative

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text/plain (232 lines) , text/enriched (282 lines)

We are likely to see an increasing number of these twin studies that 
come to sweeping conclusions about the genetic components of traits and 
opinions, based entirely on the difference in correlation among pairs 
of identical vs. fraternal twins.

It used to be such studies focused on twins raised apart, but current 
studies instead look at twins raised together. One fairly common 
observation seems to be forgotten, however: identical twins raised 
together are likely to form tighter bonds with one another than 
fraternal twins. this may be simply because outsiders cannot tell them 
apart, or who knows what, but what it certainly does mean is that 
identical twins will be more likely to share opinions on key issues, 
especially ones with deep emotional content.

Another factor to consider is that conservatives against abortion tend 
to have more children than liberals. they then raise them as 
conservatives, and among these large families are likely to be more 
twins..... A recent claim I saw is that 70% of the growth of Christian 
fundamentalism comes from procreation, rather than evangelism; the same 
article suggested fundamentalists are better at holding onto their 
tribe than other religious groups. A possible ethnic component: as 
Michael Linde argued in his book Made in Texas (about GW Bush) the 
majority of white southerners are of the single Scotch -Irish ethnic 
stock  so if there is a genetic component, maybe that's it?

What is disturbing about this kind of science getting such publicity, 
at a time when science is under attack on more important issues, like 
global warming and evolution, progressives must maintain a critical and 
careful stance in response , yet still push reason, rationality, and 
natural explanations of the world  when they make sense.


Best,
Michael
On Jun 21, 2005, at 9:33 AM, Phil Gasper wrote:

> Hilarious, particularly the final paragraph. --PG
>
>
> http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/21/science/21gene.html
>
> June 21, 2005
> Some Politics May Be Etched in the Genes
>  By BENEDICT CAREY
>
>  Political scientists have long held that people's upbringing and 
> experience determine their political views. A child raised on peace 
> protests and Bush-loathing generally tracks left as an adult, unless 
> derailed by some powerful life experience. One reared on tax protests 
> and a hatred of Kennedys usually lists to the right.
>
>  But on the basis of a new study, a team of political scientists is 
> arguing that people's gut-level reaction to issues like the death 
> penalty, taxes and abortion is strongly influenced by genetic 
> inheritance. The new research builds on a series of studies that 
> indicate that people's general approach to social issues - more 
> conservative or more progressive - is influenced by genes.
>
>  Environmental influences like upbringing, the study suggests, play a 
> more central role in party affiliation as a Democrat or Republican, 
> much as they do in affiliation with a sports team.
>
>  The report, which appears in the current issue of The American 
> Political Science Review, the profession's premier journal, uses 
> genetics to help answer several open questions in political science.
>
>  They include why some people defect from the party in which they were 
> raised and why some political campaigns, like the 2004 presidential 
> election, turn into verbal blood sport, though polls find little 
> disparity in most Americans' views on specific issues like gun control 
> and affirmative action.
>
>  The study is the first on genetics to appear in the journal. "I 
> thought here's something new and different by respected political 
> scholars that many political scientists never saw before in their 
> lives," said Dr. Lee Sigelman, editor of the journal and a professor 
> of political science at George Washington University.
>
>  Dr. Sigelman said that in many fields the findings "would create 
> nothing more than a large yawn," but that "in ours, maybe people will 
> storm the barricades."
>
>  Geneticists who study behavior and personality have known for 30 
> years that genes play a large role in people's instinctive emotional 
> responses to certain issues, their social temperament.
>
>  It is not that opinions on specific issues are written into a 
> person's DNA. Rather, genes prime people to respond cautiously or 
> openly to the mores of a social group.
>
>  Only recently have researchers begun to examine how these 
> predispositions, in combination with childhood and later life 
> experiences, shape political behavior.
>
>  Dr. Lindon J. Eaves, a professor of human genetics and psychiatry at 
> Virginia Commonwealth University, said the new research did not add 
> much to this. Dr. Eaves was not involved in the study but allowed the 
> researchers to analyze data from a study of twins that he is leading.
>
>  Still, he said the findings were plausible, "and the real 
> significance here is that this paper brings genetics to the attention 
> to a whole new field and gives it a new way of thinking about social, 
> cultural and political questions."
>
>  In the study, three political scientists - Dr. John Hibbing of the 
> University of Nebraska, Dr. John R. Alford of Rice University and Dr. 
> Carolyn L. Funk of Virginia Commonwealth - combed survey data from two 
> large continuing studies including more than 8,000 sets of twins.
>
>  >From an extensive battery of surveys on personality traits, 
> religious beliefs and other psychological factors, the researchers 
> selected 28 questions most relevant to political behavior. The 
> questions asked people "to please indicate whether or not you agree 
> with each topic," or are uncertain on issues like property taxes, 
> capitalism, unions and X-rated movies. Most of the twins had a mixture 
> of conservative and progressive views. But over all, they leaned 
> slightly one way or the other.
>
>  The researchers then compared dizygotic or fraternal twins, who, like 
> any biological siblings, share 50 percent of their genes, with 
> monozygotic, or identical, twins, who share 100 percent of their 
> genes.
>
>  Calculating how often identical twins agree on an issue and 
> subtracting the rate at which fraternal twins agree on the same item 
> provides a rough measure of genes' influence on that attitude. A 
> shared family environment for twins reared together is assumed.
>
>  On school prayer, for example, the identical twins' opinions 
> correlated at a rate of 0.66, a measure of how often they agreed. The 
> correlation rate for fraternal twins was 0.46. This translated into a 
> 41 percent contribution from inheritance.
>
>  As found in previous studies, attitudes about issues like school 
> prayer, property taxes and the draft were among the most influenced by 
> inheritance, the researchers found. Others like modern art and divorce 
> were less so. And in the twins' overall score, derived from 28 
> questions, genes accounted for 53 percent of the differences.
>
>  But after correcting for the tendency of politically like-minded men 
> and women to marry each other, the researchers also found that the 
> twins' self-identification as Republican or Democrat was far more 
> dependent on environmental factors like upbringing and life experience 
> than was their social orientation, which the researchers call 
> ideology. Inheritance accounted for 14 percent of the difference in 
> party, the researchers found.
>
>  "We are measuring two separate things here, ideology and party 
> affiliation," Dr. Hibbing, the senior author, said.
>
>  He added that his research team found the large difference in 
> heritability between the two "very hard to believe," but that it held 
> up.
>
>  The implications of this difference may be far-reaching, the authors 
> argue. For years, political scientists tried in vain to learn how 
> family dynamics like closeness between parents and children or the 
> importance of politics in a household influenced political ideology. 
> But the study suggests that an inherited social orientation may 
> overwhelm the more subtle effects of family dynamics.
>
>  A mismatch between an inherited social orientation and a given party 
> may also explain why some people defect from a party. Many people who 
> are genetically conservative may be brought up as Democrats, and some 
> who are genetically more progressive may be raised as Republicans, the 
> researchers say.
>
>  In tracking attitudes over the years, geneticists have found that 
> social attitudes tend to stabilize in the late teens and early 20's, 
> when young people begin to fend for themselves.
>
>  Some "mismatched" people remain loyal to their family's political 
> party. But circumstances can override inherited bent. The draft may 
> look like a good idea until your number is up. The death penalty may 
> seem barbaric until a loved one is murdered.
>
>  Other people whose social orientations are out of line with their 
> given parties may feel a discomfort that can turn them into opponents 
> of their former party, Dr. Alford said.
>
>  "Zell Miller would be a good example of this," Dr. Alford said, 
> referring to the former Democratic governor and senator from Georgia 
> who gave an impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention 
> last year against the Democrats' nominee, John Kerry.
>
>  Support for Democrats among white men has been eroding for years in 
> the South, Dr. Alford said, and Mr. Miller is remarkable for remaining 
> nominally a Democrat despite his divergence from the party line on 
> many issues.
>
>  Reached by telephone, Mr. Miller said he did not see it quite that 
> way. He said that his views had not changed much since his days as a 
> marine, but that the Democratic Party had moved.
>
>  "And I'm not talking about inch by inch, like a glacier," said Mr. 
> Miller, who makes the case in a new book, "A Deficit of Decency." "I'm 
> saying the thing got up and flew away."
>
>  The idea that certain social issues produce immediate unthinking 
> reactions comes through in other political research as well. In 
> several recent studies, Dr. Milton Lodge of the State University of 
> New York at Stony Brook has shown that certain names and political 
> concepts - "taxes" or "Clinton," for example - produce almost 
> instantaneous positive or negative reactions.
>
>  These intensely charged political reflexes are shaped partly by 
> inheritance, Dr. Lodge said.
>
>  It may be the clash of visceral, genetically primed social 
> orientations that gives political debate its current malice and fire, 
> the study suggests.
>
>  Although the two broad genetic types, more conservative and more 
> progressive, may find some common ground on specific issues, they 
> represent fundamental differences that go deeper than many people 
> assume, the new research suggests.
>
>  "When people talk about the political debate becoming increasingly 
> ugly, they often blame talk radio or the people doing the debating, 
> but they've got it backward," Dr. Alford said. "These genetically 
> predisposed ideologies are polarized, and that's what makes the debate 
> so nasty.
>
>  "You see it in people's eyes when they talk politics. You can hear it 
> their voices. After about the third response, we all start sounding 
> like talk radio on some issues."
> The researchers are not optimistic about the future of bipartisan 
> cooperation or national unity. Because men and women tend to seek 
> mates with a similar ideology, they say, the two gene pools are 
> becoming, if anything, more concentrated, not less.

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