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Could our Politics All be Genetic?

In the June 21st New York Times, Nicholas Bakalar reportsthat our politics--whether far right, far left ormoderate--are NOT the result of our upbringing or even of acareful scrutiny of the issues: they are genetic. Whether weare Republicans or Democrats, are for or against abortion,higher taxes, gun control or school prayer, can be found inour genetic code.

To arrive at this theory, geneticists John Hibbing, JohnAlford and Carolyn Funk looked at studies of 8,000 sets oftwins, both identical twins (who have identical DNA) andfraternal twins (who share a womb but have different DNA).They studied the answers to survey questions that tend toreveal personality traits and beliefs that reflect ourpersonal politics. In this way, they were able to determinethat identical twins often agreed on issues, compared withhow often fraternal twins did so. The researchers took intoaccount the fact that both types of siblings would have beenreared in households where the parents were either religiousor agnostic, conservative or liberal, etc.

They found that opinions about issues like school prayer,property taxes and the draft are the most likely to beinfluenced by our DNA. Opinions on modern art and divorceare less likely to be genetic. The researchers think thatDNA accounted for a little more than half of the responsesto questionnaires.

When we join a political party that does not fit our DNA, wemay later defect and join another one, with opposite views.This also explains why some people are raised as Republicansbut later become Democrats, and vice-versa, and also whysome members of conservative parties hold more liberal viewsthan their colleagues (and vice-versa). For instance, JohnMcCain may officially be a Republican, but he undoubtedlyhas Democratic DNA.

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