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Science Politics

Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene' 841

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-flame-war-begin dept.
An anonymous reader writes "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."
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Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:00AM (#34047724)

    Now "they" will be able to make a drug to counter-act the receptor and cure liberalness. Just what we need, a pharmacated electorate.

    • by vlnc (211067) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:03AM (#34047756)

      after reading the title, that is exactly what i was hoping for.

      • Re:Oh, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ByOhTek (1181381) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:22AM (#34047924) Journal

        Maybe they'll use it to create a gene therapy to cure conservatism instead?

        Seriously, it's good to have both sides of the coin, because BOTH sides have made a lot of mistakes. Liberals move us forward to try new things, and keep us from falling into some of the traps conservatives seem to favor, and have a flexible/adaptable position. Conservatives keep us from moving to fast, or doing too much of the leap-before-you look, and drop-old-start-new plan before the old plan is done, senselessness that you can see with liberals.

        Hmm... Criticism of both. I think that I shall be well flamed now.

        • Re:Oh, just great (Score:4, Interesting)

          by zero.kalvin (1231372) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:26AM (#34047968)
          Actually, I remember reading (forgot the name of the specific book) that being liberal or conservative has roots in our evolutionary history. So if this news is absolutely true, it would lend credit to that said theory. As far as a personal opinion, I would think so, being either is influence not just by nurture but by nature as well(if not more nature then nurture).
          • by BlueScreenO'Life (1813666) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:49AM (#34048182)

            Here we go again with that evolutionary thingy. Everyone knows the world is 6000 years old and all that evolution stuff is rubbish.

            Whoever disagrees must have something wrong, like, a genetic defect or something.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by jrumney (197329)
              OK, so being liberal has roots in our evolutionary history, while conservatives were created out of thin air 6000 years ago (minus 5 days).
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Khyber (864651)

          "Conservatives keep us from moving to fast, or doing too much of the leap-before-you look, and drop-old-start-new plan before the old plan is done,"

          Guess you haven't seen Meg Whitman in action.

          She's the one responsible for the current global Paypal bullshit. Without her, Paypal wouldn't exist.

          Remember, PayPal fucks people over for their own gain, pretending to be a bank while following NONE of the USA regulations.

        • Re:Oh, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:44AM (#34048874) Journal

          It's a nice idea to think that conservatives and liberals are flip sides of the coin, and we need both. Yadda yadda. But it just doesn't work out that way. Conservatives are on the wrong side of history. Consider Afghanistan for instance. There are liberals there, and there are conservatives there. Do they really need those conservatives holding them back? What good does it do them? From our modern perspective we can see just how wrong-headed they are. But left and right over there is the same thing as left and right over here, just centered around a different origin. There's no reason to believe our conservatives are any better than theirs, and in the future we'll look back and see just how wrong-headed they are today. The people calling for the persecution of homosexuals and drug users and mexicans today are no different from the people calling for the persecution of women, blacks, and catholics 100 years ago.

          Now of course liberals aren't perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. But at least liberals make new mistakes, instead of glorifying the same old mistakes. At least liberals look to a future where everyone is better off instead of conservatives who simply try to maintain a power structure that is favorable to them alone.

          • Re:Oh, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

            by readin (838620) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:03AM (#34049110)
            Conservatives by definition "conserve", they try to keep things the same. That is why "conservatives" in Afghanistan are so different from "conservatives" in America, the status quo in the two places is different, so "keeping things the same" or "going back to the old ways" means very different things, so conservative Afghans are very different from conservative Americans.

            You are right that throughout history "conservatives" have usually opposed positive change - they oppose change by definition. By that same definition, "conservatives" almost always oppose negative change as well. Conservatives opposed communism, Nazism, eugenics, and a lot of other things that they were right to oppose.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hatta (162192)

              Conservatives opposed communism

              In favor of Tsarism. Great principled stand there guys.

              Nazism

              Hitler was a liberal? Yeah, he did confiscate guns, but nothing characterizes Nazism better than extreme nationalism, a conservative trait.

              eugenics

              Eugenics was supported by both sides. Progressives who thought they could make humanity better, and conservatives who wanted to use genetics to enforce the class structure. Notice how it was always the lower classes who got sterilized.

            • Re:Oh, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

              by david_thornley (598059) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @12:59PM (#34053176)

              Conservatives opposed Communism? In general, yes, although that also meant supporting some pretty unsavory regimes. One could argue that supporting the Tsarist regime or the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek radicalized the opposition, so they were forced to the extreme.

              Conservatives certainly did support National Socialism. Hitler was given power (as Chancellor) by right-wing politicians who thought they could control him. One reason for his rise to power was Goering's association with the industrialists, who tend to be conservative. Outside Germany, many conservatives supported Hitler's rule, even if they deplored some aspects.

              Eugenics? Both ways. Conservatives opposed eugenics movements, and opposed the move away from eugenics.

              On the whole, the world has been becoming a better place for a long time. The role of conservatives in this has been to generally slow down change, which on the good side has often meant restricting changes to ones people were confident would be good.

          • by pnuema (523776) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:09AM (#34049206)
            In the final analysis, liberals always win. If we didn't, we'd still be living in caves. Always remember that.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CAIMLAS (41445)

            Conservatives are on the wrong side of history.

            First, I'm going to disagree with this statement due to the unspoken premises which evidently lead to it being made.

            Your view of 'Conservative' appears to be quite myopic and castigating, cast along a specific political divide, not a first-belief like 'liberalism' or 'conservativism'. What is 'conservative' in your mind? Was it a conservative mindset that kept us out of WWII until Pearl Harbor, or was it a liberal one? Was it a liberal or conservative mindset that led to the British colonizing the world?

            Con

        • Re:Oh, just great (Score:5, Insightful)

          by daem0n1x (748565) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:51AM (#34048958)

          Conservatives keep us from moving to fast, or doing too much of the leap-before-you look

          Yeah, the Iraq war is a good example of that.

      • after reading the title, that is exactly what i was hoping for.

        Awesome, let's make everyone exactly the same! I, for one, welcome our new heterosexual, uniform-skin-toned, drugs-and-alcohol-hating, women-should-be-in the-home-not-working, lets-pretend-the-world-never-changes population! </sarcasm>

        Actually, it seems you should've read the article:

        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

        So, according to the hypothesis, liberals seek out novelty and challenges, have more friends, and gain more life experience. Those are generally acknowledged as positive traits - maybe the true genetic flaw is in those wh

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VShael (62735)

      Look at the sales figures for Prozac and its ilk. We've already got a pharmacated electorate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tuxgeek (872962)
        Don't forget John McCain and his 'little blue pill'
        just what I needed, a visual of an old man with a boner
        • Re:Oh, just great (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:02AM (#34048362) Homepage Journal

          HEY! I'm an old man with a boner, you insensitive clod!

          Viagra's dirty little secrets are 1) it's a performance enhancing drug. It gives you control over the whole damned experience, and 2) old guys need it because old women are fugly. If I'm with Amy or someone her age, I don't need it at all. I do with a woman my own age.

          BTW, sex is like everything else -- the more you do it the better you get.

          However, viagra's not exactly on topic; it doesn't affect dopamine levels, although orgasm does. I wonder if the researchers took into account how much sex the test subjects got? I suspect that liberals get more than conservatives, because liberals are more social than conservatives.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        Prozac and its ilk affect dopamine levels as well, so why aren't these selfish power hungry tightwads loosening up some?

        Maybe the conservatives are off their meds?

        (Yeah, I know how I'll be modded. I don't care.)

    • Re:Oh, just great (Score:4, Interesting)

      by migla (1099771) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:14AM (#34047874)

      Now "they" will be able to make a drug to counter-act the receptor and cure liberalness. Just what we need, a pharmacated electorate.

      Ever heard of medicine that will numb your feelings? That cure that bleeding heart, so to speak? They're way ahead of you...

      Seriously, though: Prozac and the like are a life-saver for some people, while being too liberally prescribed to other people.

      And another point: Once one is thoroughly indoctrinated in the liberal/socialist or whatever morals, one doesn't need to feel liberal feelings to do the right thing. One can think liberal thoughts without feeling.

      I was once prescribed such meds. While the SSRI:s took away my feelings, I didn't feel emotionally about anything, I could still think the "liberal" thoughts I had learned to feel and think during my life. The SSRI:s also took away my fear and care for consequences (maybe they weren't a perfect fit for me?), so I'd often go into 7-11 to steal stacks of ready made meals that I distributed to homeless drug addicts.

      In hindsight, that wasn't very clever and I'm glad I didn't get into trouble.

         

      • A circular process? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mangu (126918) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:31AM (#34047998)

        The SSRI:s also took away my fear and care for consequences (maybe they weren't a perfect fit for me?), so I'd often go into 7-11 to steal stacks of ready made meals that I distributed to homeless drug addicts.

        The funny thing is that if those homeless were addicted to the same SSRI:s that made you steal it would create a positive-feedback system...

        Seriously, maybe your "liberal" thoughts weren't too precise to begin with. Perhaps the solution to homelessness caused by drug addiction should be to cure the addiction instead of feeding the homeless.

        To cure the addiction, the "conservative" way would be to punish drug addicts enough that no one would dare to try to use drugs. The "scientific" way would be to find what happens inside the brain that causes some people to become addicted to drugs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daem0n1x (748565)
      This is incredibly stupid. The word "liberal" doesn't even mean the same thing in different cultures. In my country, "liberal" means right-wing.
  • We're better off if we can encourage rationality rather than a predisposed propensity toward any specific political views.
    • by Rijnzael (1294596) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:06AM (#34047778)
      Supposedly, intelligence correlates strongly with liberal tendencies [sciencedaily.com]. Somehow I don't think we should all persistently imbibe to see if we can fix that little problem. The same applies to "curing" liberalism, as you put it.
      • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:16AM (#34047886)
        Who gets to define "intelligence?"
        • by mangu (126918) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:53AM (#34048248)

          The problem with the word "liberal" is that it can be used for any position in the political spectrum.

          To some people, a "liberal" is someone who believes the government should take care of people who have been left behind someway in the economic process, the unemployed, the homeless, those who are at a disadvantage in some way. Under that point of view, Cuba should be considered one of the most "liberal" regimes in the world.

          To other people, a "liberal" is someone who believes in liberty, in letting everyone do their own thing, in a minimalist government.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Andrew Cady (115471)

            To some people, a "liberal" is someone who believes the government should take care of people who have been left behind someway in the economic process, the unemployed, the homeless, those who are at a disadvantage in some way. Under that point of view, Cuba should be considered one of the most "liberal" regimes in the world.

            Sorry, but no, communism is NOT being more of a democrat than the democrats. Communist politics simply do not fit on this spectrum.

            There's a qualitative difference between saying that

          • by debrain (29228) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:01AM (#34049086) Journal

            To some people, a "liberal" is someone who believes the government should take care of people who have been left behind someway in the economic process, the unemployed, the homeless, those who are at a disadvantage in some way. Under that point of view, Cuba should be considered one of the most "liberal" regimes in the world.

            Ironically, the welfare state (which concept I believe subsumes what you've described as what some people call "liberal") was originally a conservative concept, founded on the idea that if people needn't be concerned about risk (e.g. to their health) they will be able to do more work.

            I don't have a link to that on the web, but I recall reading that in Niall Ferguson's [niallferguson.com] book the Ascent of Money [google.com].

      • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:21AM (#34047914)
        Everybody is acting like everyone's definition of "Liberal" is the same or the definition of "Conservative" for that matter.

        What's "Liberal"?

        What about moderates? Do they only have a "Liberal" gene from one parent?

        I mean come on, this "study" reeks.

        • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:52AM (#34048226) Journal

          Excellent point. Polls shows that most americans are "liberal" when it comes to social ideas (like allowing gays to marry), but "conservative" when it comes to political ideas (government is best when it is small). At present neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent that view. Neither do simple labels.

          For myself: I just want people to stay out of my damn wallet.

          I sweat & labor to earn the wealth, and somebody takes it away for their OWN enrichment. I'm beginning to understand how an indentured servant must have felt (he worked but the wealth went to the landlord). - Yes I'm sorry you ran into a wall and broke your hip, but you've had a job for ~30 years. You have money and should pay the bill yourself out of your personal wages/savings - just like I pay my own bills out of my own account. AFTER you run out of money I'll gladly help you (via welfare, medicare) but nor prior to that.

          A safety net should be exactly that - a net. Not an entitlement given to people who are still on the "highwire" of life and don't need it.

          IMHO

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by HungryHobo (1314109)

            Which is perfect if life is fair and people have control over what happens to them.

            unfortunately it tends not to be.
            Shit quite often happens to people effectively independent of their own actions.
            Some drunk swerves onto the sidewalk and hits you or your home floods.
            That's not reasonably within your control.

            If poverty wasn't a highly inheritable affliction then it would be fine.

            unfortunately it tends to be.
            You have to be either extremely unlucky or extremely foolish or inept to be born to rich parents and th

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The "cure" for liberalism is exactly the same as the "cure" for conservatism: elect a lot of it and wait a few years for the electorate to "cure" themselves.
    • If you're asking for a cure, you already are leaning towards a particular view. Your statement of a "cure" is just you stating that you feel people of a particular persuasion need to be "fixed".
  • by careysub (976506) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:38AM (#34048086)

    The gene in question does not "make someone liberal". It is a gene that promotes novelty seeking, and leads to many wide ranging friendships in adolescence, resulting in exposure to many points of view, and this predisposes one to be liberal as an adult (this is all in the TA).

    Without the 'wide ranging friendships in adolescence' there is no effect. It is the life experience of being open to other points of view, the additional knowledge gained, that makes you more likely to be liberal.

    For the conservatives here crowing nonsense about "curing liberalism", perhaps the fact that absence of this gene promotes the opposite - fewer friends and ignorance of other points of view - should make one be less enthused with this finding. Unless, of course "closed mindedness" is considered a conservative virtue.

    • by Bob-taro (996889) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:52AM (#34049988)

      It is the life experience of being open to other points of view, the additional knowledge gained, that makes you more likely to be liberal.

      I guess it depends on your definition of liberal. Most self-proclaimed liberals I know are not very open to other views. The open-mindedness they are interested in is MY open mindedness to THEIR ideas.

      I also don't like the comment about 'curing liberalism'. I admit that's the first thing I thought, too, and I'm sure it was meant in jest, but this recent trend of linking everything to a gene - the "gay" gene, the "smart" gene, the "religious" gene, and now the "liberal" gene. Every time I hear a new one, I wonder how long before someone will use it to justify some kind of "cleansing".

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:44AM (#34048144)
    "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."

    In other words, they had friends and fun times growing up which leads them to be adventurous and outgoing.
  • by DieByWire (744043) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:03AM (#34048374)

    A study a couple of years ago noted a tie between a strong startle response and conservatism. [bookofodds.com]

    Still waiting to see a 'Fearful by nature, conservative by choice' tee shirt.

  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:34AM (#34049662)

    Did the researchers avoid making the mistake of the "chopstick gene"?

    There's a gene that determines how good you are with chopsticks. It's otherwise known as the blue-eye gene...

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @09:53AM (#34050024)

    Let's read that again, so that it's more clear.

    Researchers have found a gene which, when lacking in humans, leads them to be far more likely to fall into conservatism.

    People without the novelty-seeking gene variant would be less interested in learning about their friends' points of view. As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition may be more conservative than average.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @11:16AM (#34051532) Homepage Journal

    from the let-the-flame-war-begin dept.
    science
    politics
    Scrameustache writes "Conservatives may owe their political outlook 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. Lead researcher James H. Fowler and his colleagues hypothesized that people with the novelty-avoiding gene variant would be less interested in learning about other points of view."

  • RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjohn (2991) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @11:30AM (#34051782) Homepage Journal

    This article is yet another example of the media getting science wrong.

    And it's great to see that eugenics appeared in the /. comment thread nearly immediately.

  • by jhantin (252660) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:03PM (#34057110)
    A broken dopamine receptor D4 (the same gene TFA is about) also has a tendency to make one less vulnerable to addiction, and especially stress addiction. For an example of how painful a runaway stress-driven dopamine feedback loop [maetl.net] can be, look no further than Dilbert.

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