June 26, 2008
Big Genetic Influence Seen Over Political Activity

Just forget about free will. If you are politically active you are just following the dictates of your genes.

Washington, DC—A groundbreaking new study finds that genes significantly affect variation in voter turnout, shedding new light on the reasons why people vote and participate in the political system.

The research, conducted by political scientists James H. Fowler, Christopher T. Dawes (of UC San Diego) and psychologist Laura A. Baker (of University of Southern California), appears in the May issue of the American Political Science Review, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The article is available online at: www.apsanet.org/imgtest/APSRMay08Fowler_etal.pdf.

“Although we are not the first to suggest a link between genes and political participation,” note the authors, “this study is the first attempt to test the idea empirically.”  They do so by conducting three tests of the claim that part of the variation in political participation can be attributed to genetic factors.  The results suggest that individual genetic differences make up a large and significant portion of the variation in political participation, even after taking socialization and other environmental factors into account. They also suggest that, contrary to decades of conventional wisdom, family upbringing may have little or no effect on children’s future participatory behavior.

Relax, no need to teach the kids civic values. They either inherited the right genes or not.

Think you choose to vote? If so, your genes sure have you fooled.

In conducting their study, the authors examine the turnout patterns of identical and non-identical twins—including 396 twins in Los Angeles County and 806 twins in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.  Their findings suggest that 53% of the variation in turnout can be accounted for by genetic effects in the former, with similar outcomes in the latter.

Moreover, genetic-based differences extend to a broad class of acts of political participation, including donating to a campaign, contacting an official, running for office, and attending a rally.  According to Fowler, “we expected to find that genes played some role in political behavior, but we were quite surprised by the size of the effect and how widely it applies to all kinds of participation.”

Are people who have genes that cause them to vote reproducing faster or slower than people who do not carry these genes? Which group is winning the Darwinian struggle? Are people who vote more or less likely to make the babies?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 June 26 10:27 PM  Brain Society

Vincent said at June 27, 2008 4:44 AM:

Sounds like a science fiction novel in the making. What will tomorrow's dictators do with today's advancements?

James Bowery said at June 27, 2008 10:47 AM:

The parable of the politically active caterpillar:

'The fun begins when a female Glyptapanteles wasp comes across a potential host--a moth known as Thyrinteina leucocerae. The wasp inserts a stinger-like probe into the caterpillar's gut body cavity and injects dozens of eggs. The eggs hatch and grow into wasp larvae, which feed on the still-living host as it continues munching on leaves. The caterpillars even moult and pass through three or four stages with the parasites lurking inside them. Finally, when the wasps have finished their living feast, about 80 of them drill escape holes and crawl out of the caterpillar. They move a few inches away, where they spin cocoons on a twig or leaf, where they will develop into adults.'

'Many species of wasps exit their hosts this way, and in many cases the hosts promptly die. After you've just spent a couple weeks with dozens of parasites sucking your insides dry and then drilling their way out of your body, you'd probably feel like dying too. But in the case of Thyrinteina, death waits. The caterpillar stops feeding and crawling and simply sits, still alive, next to the wasp cocoons. When other insects come by, they wave their heads violently around, so violently they can knock the other insects off the tree. (You can download a movie of this behavior here.) Once the adult wasps emerge from the cocoons, the caterpillars finally expire.'


James Bowery said at June 27, 2008 10:53 AM:

Oh, I almost forgot to include this bit of political activism:


Its downright heroic the way the cricket sacrifices his life for his poor helpless refugee friend.

Makes me think of Minnesotans and Somalians.

Mthson said at June 27, 2008 12:28 PM:

James, don't forget gene therapy/embryo selection and the Hotness factor. It will be pretty unifying for society once peope look more like Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, and Halle Berry.

James Bowery said at June 27, 2008 2:39 PM:

Hey, that will be so _cool_ when you have a bunch of organisms that all look like Jolie, Ala and Berry parasitizing each other in an extended phenotypic arms race.

I mean just imagine a politically active Angelina Jolie pregnant with a Jessica Alba clone, indefatiguably campaigning for Jessica Alba Rights in Berryburg right up to the point in time when Jessica #293319a.v2.23 bursts through Angelina's rib cage and starts crying for help from the nearest Hale Berry, who will feel ambivalent toward the apparent human tragedy because, hell, she's a hybrid clone herself so what up? The little bitch got out and has lots of fresh juicy meat to munch on so what does she want from Hale #938823e.v5.15.1? Nigga's got her own problems...

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