Some researchers at the University of California and Harvard University suggest that they have found the genetic source of liberalism. Despite the temptation to conclude that being a lefty is a genetic disorder, there are many reasons for skepticism.
According to the New York Daily News:
“Scientists say there’s a biological reason why some people favor big government, oppose the death penalty and think Sarah Palin is the devil – it’s called the liberal gene.
It’s a variant of a gene associated with novelty seeking, researchers at the University of California and Harvard University say.
“‘We hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal,’ scientist James Fowler writes in the latest issue of the Journal of Politics.
“People with the DRD4 gene would be more exposed to a wider variety of lifestyles and beliefs – making them more liberal, Fowler and his team suggest.”
This sounds suspiciously like the researchers are making a value judgment, that being exposed to a “wider variety” of lifestyles and beliefs automatically makes one believe in appeasement abroad and socialism at home, the two main tenets of modern liberalism. The researchers say that liberals tend to have more friends in high school than conservatives.
Personal experience makes this writer really skeptical of the assertion made by Fowler. I am to the right of Tamerlane, and have been quite exposed to all sorts of lifestyles and beliefs. Yet I think I have the judgment to decide which are valid and which are not and to make the appropriate conclusions.
My own observation of liberals has led me to conclude that, contrary to what James Fowler asserts, liberals tend to be reluctant to expose themselves to alternate beliefs and lifestyles and really have no understanding of them. From people who fulminate against conservative Christians to people who literally run from the room if there is a television tuned to Fox News within it, the picture of liberals one gets is of a group of people who are insular, provincial, and intolerant. They are certainly unwilling to be exposed to anything about which they feel uncomfortable.
The recent experience of Juan Williams is a great illustration. Williams was fired by NPR for expressing a viewpoint on Fox News that the publicly funded network found onerous. Fox News, on the other hand, gave Juan Williams a $2 million contract specifically to articulate his liberal, albeit nuanced, viewpoint.
Tammy Bruce, the gay conservative writer, has noted that righties tend to be very tolerant of her homosexuality but liberals intolerant of her conservatism.
The theory of genetic predisposition also does not explain how one can be a liberal when young, but turn to the right upon getting age, experience, and wisdom. Nor does the theory explain how many families can contain a wide variety of political beliefs, a phenomenon that sometimes makes Thanksgiving dinner entertaining. Ronald Reagan’s two younger children, Patty and Ron Jr., are committed lefties.
So, I tend to take this theory with a grain of salt. Political beliefs have more to do with nurture rather than nature. To the extent that it tends toward the latter may have more to do with the ability to process information and the level of intellectual curiosity than with how popular one was in high school.
Source: Being a liberal and hating Sarah Palin may be genetic trait, scientists say, Corky Siemaszko, New York Daily News, October 29th, 2010
Juan Williams Fired by NPR for Something He Said on Fox News’ ‘O’Reilly Factor’, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, October 21st, 2010
Tammy Bruce, Official Website