November 27, 2022

Study hits back at “genopolitics”

A couple of years ago political scientists from the University of California at San Diego made a media splash with their theory (published in Science!) that political preferences are, in part, genetically determined. Whether you vote Democrat or Republican is literally in your DNA. “Genopolitics”, as this theory was dubbed, was supported last year with a report that your politics is related to the structure of your brain. But in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review academics from Duke and Harvard rubbish the notion that two genes could be responsible for the way you vote.

A couple of years ago political scientists from the University of California at San Diego made a media splash with their theory (published in Science!) that political preferences are, in part, genetically determined. Whether you vote Democrat or Republican is literally in your DNA. “Genopolitics”, as this theory was dubbed, was supported last year with a report that your politics is related to the structure of your brain.

But in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review, academics from Duke and Harvard rubbish the notion that two genes could be responsible for the way you vote.

“How could one common gene variant possibly predict so many diverse behaviors?” Evan Charney, of Duke University, asked. “And what are the odds that the very same handful of genes — out of an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 genes — will miraculously turn out to be the genetic key to all of human behavior?” 

“The study of Fowler and Dawes is wrong,” Charney said. “Two genes do not predict turnout. We reran the study using all of their assumptions, equations, and data and found that their results were based upon errors they made. When we corrected the errors, there was no longer any association between these two genes and voter turnout.”

Charney and his colleague, William English, of Harvard University, also document how the same two genes that Fowler and Dawes claimed would predict voter turnout are also said to predict, according to other recently published studies, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, anorexia nervosa, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, epilepsy, extraversion, insomnia, migraines, narcolepsy, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, postpartum depression, restless legs syndrome, premature ejaculation, schizophrenia, smoking, success by professional Wall Street traders, sudden infant death syndrome, suicide, Tourette syndrome, and several hundred other behaviors. They point to a number of studies that attempted to confirm these findings and could not.

HT to Biopolitical Times

Michael Cook
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genetics