October 27, 2010
Dopamine Gene Variant Predisposes To Liberalism

Blame genetic defects for the folly of your political opponents.

Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study's authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views.

So is the liberal version of DRD4 a genetic defect or is the conservative version a genetic defect? Which version needs to be wiped out of the human race with offspring genetic engineering? Will wars be fought to control offspring genetic engineering practices? If such wars are fought which side will be evil?

Combine a specific variant of DRD4 with an active social life in adolescence and the risk of liberalism goes up. So then if you send your kids to a remote small town in adolescence can you compensate for that dangerous mutation they got from, say, your genetically defective ex-wife?

Appearing in the latest edition of The Journal of Politics published by Cambridge University Press, the research focused on 2,000 subjects from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. By matching genetic information with maps of the subjects' social networks, the researchers were able to show that people with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults, but only if they had an active social life in adolescence.

Imagine how many genetic influences on political beliefs and values will be found as genetic sequencing costs keep falling. The flood of genetic sequencing data is going to revolutionize the way we see human nature in the next decade. Then comes the Genetic Inquisition. Nobody expects the Genetic Inquisition (unless they read FuturePundit).

Novelty-seeking is a genetically driven risk factor for unrealistic political views that endanger the Republic?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter affecting brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Previous research has identified a connection between a variant of this gene and novelty-seeking behavior, and this behavior has previously been associated with personality traits related to political liberalism.

Lead researcher James H. Fowler of UC San Diego and his colleagues hypothesized that people with the novelty-seeking gene variant would be more interested in learning about their friends' points of view. As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition who have a greater-than-average number of friends would be exposed to a wider variety of social norms and lifestyles, which might make them more liberal than average. They reported that "it is the crucial interaction of two factors – the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence – that is associated with being more liberal." The research team also showed that this held true independent of ethnicity, culture, sex or age.

I'm still waiting for reports on the genetic factors that cause libertarianism and Objectivism. Also, what genetic defect causes some people to set their horns to beep when they lock their car? I want to call the Genetic Inquisition in on that one.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 October 27 10:43 PM  Brain Politics

hbd chick said at October 27, 2010 11:35 PM:

ask and ye shall receive, eh? u wuz askin' (jokin') about this just the other day! (~_^)


jaytee said at October 27, 2010 11:43 PM:

"If such wars are fought which side will be evil?"

The side that loses, obviously.

Mthson said at October 28, 2010 12:01 AM:

It's always seemed cosmically amusing that many people are genetically predisposed to deny the role of genetics.

john personna said at October 28, 2010 6:52 AM:

I've tried, when talking to libertarians or socialists, to suggest that it isn't so much that they have a fringe answer everyone should accept, but that they might just be different.

In general, it might mean that democracy is more about population dynamics than "blank slate" minds reaching the "best" answer. If you've got more of those dopamine genes in a population, then you'll get a more socialist consensus (and some lesser number of libertarians will be sad).

The best thing to come out of this, though it could take generations, would be for people to shift their view of democracy, to something that works with all of us heterogeneous citizens. It would be great if the adolescent "everything would be fine, if everyone thought like me" was left behind. Less "false consciousness" and more acceptance of varied personal natures.

john personna said at October 28, 2010 6:56 AM:

(The common assumption today, among libertarians or socialists, being that everyone is just like them - but deceived.)

Lono said at October 28, 2010 8:48 AM:


There is no doubt some truth to that - but the fact IS most people are easily manipulated and willfully ignorant - that's really just the default state of man as a social animal.


I would think a greater understanding of different views would lead to a more enlightened Human, and indeed there is a well established positive correlation between intelligence and liberalism.

Knee jerk conservatism is much more animalistic - and while not wrong - per se - it is clearly a throwback to our more primitive natures.

Now I think the true future of Humanity is with those who are liberal and idealistic in nature - but also realistic and knowledgable about Human behavior. They will be the open-minded and easily adaptable transhumanists who will lead our nations to the next level of civilization.

I would imagine in a few centuries that Republican style "conservatism" will seem ludicrously luddite and barbaric to the average citizen.

(an no - of course I didn't vote for Obama - I am not an easily deceived plebian)

Phillep Harding said at October 28, 2010 11:05 AM:

A number of my "liberal" friends act a bit like they are under the influence of drugs when they are on a speel. Hmmm...

("liberal" in quotes because they act more "so open minded their brains fall out" than classical liberal)

Simfish InquilineKea said at October 28, 2010 11:13 AM:

"I'm still waiting for reports on the genetic factors that cause libertarianism and Objectivism"

I'd actually think that DRD4 would also predispose people to libertarianism. High novelty-seeking behavior often leads to unconventional beliefs (like libertarianism) and a high level of tolerance to risky and unconventional actions (drugs, sex, driving without seatbelts, etc...) that many liberals+conservatives want to restrict

john personna said at October 28, 2010 12:52 PM:

Good point, Lono. "Consensus" isn't a simple social concept either.

refuse2lose said at October 28, 2010 1:37 PM:

Which one needs to be wiped out? The one that makes people think it's ok to kill innocent unborn children,have sex with animals and think that they came from some mystic puddle of mud.

th said at October 28, 2010 5:14 PM:

"The dopamine D4 receptor DRD4 gene has been implicated in psychotic, mood, addictive, personality, movement and behavioral disorders [e.g. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)]. Now, there is convincing evidence to support the genetic association of DRD4 polymorphisms with ADHD. The particular polymorphism, a 5′ 120-bp duplication, might be functionally active. These findings suggest that manipulation of the DRD4 gene pathway could offer more selective pharmacological approaches to the treatment of ADHD."

Not to mention substance abuse and a whole list of other unibomber type behavior, nice goal to aspire to, I went from an alcoholic to a psychotic to a liberal.

Sione said at October 29, 2010 2:01 PM:

Of course! The religion of Predestination was correct all along! Determinism writ large!

Assuming every individual's ideology, they way they think, form values, pursue those values and act, is all down to their genetic sequences, then there would not be free will in these things- only the appearance or illusion thereof. Two consequences. First, as no-one is reponsible for what they do not control, they are not reponsible for their thinking and consequent actions. Hence they should not be penalised for what they do- for their actions which are, after all, nothing more than the expression of their thoughts. Second, there are those who are genetically caused to consider it apt that in order to prevent the emergence of certain ideologies or behaviours it is right and proper that some genetic types are exterminated. That all leads to a problem which on the face of it seems trivial. Which genetic types should be eliminated? Trivial enough it would seem, until the inevitable follow up question is asked. Who decides?

Given the ruthlessly consistent record of wreck, ruin, disaster, impoverishment, violence, theft, crime, rape, fraud, malinventment, misallocation of resource, destruction, hatred, racism, predjudice, injury inflicted upon others, pig-ignorance, dishonestry, stupidity and plain daftness of various collectivists (modern-day liberals, socialists, facists, progressives, religionists, conservatives, nationalists, Marxists, Salinskiests, Obamarroids, Bushettes, Keynesians, banksters, mercantilists, centrists, welfarists etc. etc. etc.) the ideas of libertarian individualists, such as ancaps or even certain of the Objectivists, are a far, far, far safer prescription to adopt. After all, their primary rule is to let each person alone so long as he or she initiates no force, fraud or coercion upon any other individual- very tolerant and a safer option for all the minorities including we Islanders. All the others (modern-day liberals, socialists, facists, progressives, religionists, nationalists, Marxists, Salinskiests, Obamarroids, Bushettes, Keynesians, banksters, mercantilists, centrists, welfarists etc.) have big plans for everyone. Real big plans and deeply hidden tendancies. They'd surely would employ this "research" as exactly the justification to exterminate.


Matt said at October 31, 2010 10:14 AM:

GSS seems to indicate that Liberals have slightly fewer close friends on average (comparison of means; variables: FRINUM, POLVIEWS), though it doesn't look like a large of significant difference (and doesn't mean to say they don't have a larger pool of shallow friends):

2: LIBERAL 7.46
4: MODERATE 7.27


Sex of best friend doesn't seem to be very different either (crosstabulation of frequencies; variables: FRISEX, POLVIEWS; control: SEX), i.e. it doesn't seem to indicate that Liberals are more or less interested in having a close friend of a different sex (which I guess I would expect for people who like different perspectives). Race and religion of close friends seem like they would be good ways to test whether people enjoy having friends with different perspectives, but I can't find good variables for those.

The variable FRDKNOWS does seem to show some association between the idea that is important for a friend to understand you and Liberalism, however, but I'm not sure whether this is significant, and it isn't exactly "other centred" as such (although one would assume they would behave reciprocally)...

Matt said at October 31, 2010 10:19 AM:

I read an interesting alternate parallel/orthogonal theory linked through MR:


Essentially the theory is that Liberal people tend to have small social circles and tend to suffer a lot of shocks in life, and so develop a worldview that prioritizes trust over competence, while Conservatives display the inverse tendency. Although I'm not quite sure I'm summing it up correctly.

Mthson said at November 2, 2010 1:21 PM:

Interesting article on the current state of the science of political temperaments, Matt.

Dov Henis said at October 31, 2011 10:26 PM:

It's culture>genes>addiction...
It’s the horses pulling, not the wagon pushing them…
Pavlov’s Smile
Culture>genes>addiction (2 July 2009)
Ameisen Olivier, Imagination Medicine,
Placebo, Addictions, God-Religion, Virtual Reality
(recapitulation of earlier posts re genes’ lifehood)
A. Anti-Depressants, like
Ameisen Olivier’s “end of my addiction”
B. Imagination Medicine
Brain imaging reveals the substance of placebos. Expectation alone triggers the same neural circuits and chemicals as real drugs.
“It all boils down to expectation. If you expect pain to diminish, the brain releases natural painkillers. If you expect pain to get worse, the brain shuts off the processes that provide pain relief. Somehow, anticipation trips the same neural wires as actual treatment does.
Scientists are using imaging techniques to probe brains on placebos and watch the placebo effect in real time. Such studies show, for example, that the pleasure chemical dopamine and the brain’s natural painkillers, opioids, work oppositely depending on whether people expect pain to get better or worse. Other research shows that placebos can reduce anxiety.”
C. Placebos: some background info
The concept of a placebo comes from medieval times, when professional mourners were paid to stay by the bedside of. deceased person, reciting a psalm beginning “Placebo Domino…” or “I shall please the Lord.”
“Placebo” gradually became the word used for the paid mourner, whose grief was, in fact, false.
D. From “Life’s Manifest”
Genes are the primal, 1st stratum, Earth’s organism and genomes are 2nd stratum organisms, multigenes consisting of cooperative communes of their member genes.
Life is a real virtual affair that pops in and out of existence in its matrix, which is the energy constrained in Earth’s biosphere.
E. From “On Science and Religion”
“Evolutionary Biology Of Culture And Religion”
The concept “God” is a human virtual reality artifact, experienced only through sensory stimuli. Preoccupation with god-religious matters within a scientific frameworks contributes to corrosion and corruption of science and scientism by manifesting or implying acceptance of virtual reality as reality.
Everything is discussable scientifically. No limit. Including virtual matters and affairs. But for a scientific discussion the framework must be clearly defined. The totality of subjects that come under the classification “virtual” are not an exception. You can include in the discussion Pavlov and the modes and manners of exploiting virtuality in any area and towards any end.
F. So why Pavlov smiled in 2008?
Pavlov demonstrated effecting placebo phenomena in multicelled organisms by manipulation of their drives-reactions. Now placebo and imagination phenomena are demonstrated also in the smallest, base organisms, in the genes and genomes of multi-celled organisms, in our primal first stratum and 2nd stratum base organisms.
A very good reason to smile.
Now an interesting chain is exposed to our view, the Genes-Virtual Reality Chain, a most intriguing cultural evolution chain extending from the genesis of our genes to nowadays, throughout life, a virtual reality existence, and by virtual reality phenomena, exploitations and manipulations.
Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
Life Genesis From Aromaticity/H-Bonding

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