Does genetics determine one’s politics? It’s a provocative question, and the possibility may not be, according to recent research, that far-fetched. From Fred Reed, at theburningplatform.com:
Websites pour forth heated arguments between liberals and conservative about almost everything—or, as is becoming clear due to brain research, what seem to be arguments but in fact are genetically determined reflexes.
Even before the latest results from PET scans and functional MRI, simple observation convinced the sentient that rationality was not involved in political discourse. The chief evidence is that political adherences tend strongly to cluster together. For example, if you tell me that a man favors capitalism, with high confidence I can predict his attitudes toward China, race, immigration, environmentalism, bombing Iran, evolution, abortion, and so on. If you tell me that he advocates socialism, I will similarly know in advance his ideas regarding these things.
This suggests a genetic origin. The various views have no necessary connections to one another. For example, there is no logical contradiction in being in favor of national medical care and simultaneously of sending heavy weaponry to the Ukraine, or being against abortion but for the legalization of drugs. Yet one seldom sees such juxtapositions. Political views are a package.
This suggests that people start with genetically determined conclusions, and work backward to find supporting evidence.
In terms of evolutionary psychology, the genetic explanation makes sense. While saying so will enrage conservatives, it is clear that conservatism is a Darwinian relic, a selective adaptation to primitive times.
Consider the circumstances of the first barely-human tribes as they emerged from simian darkness on the temporally remote savannas. What psychological characteristics would natural selection give them?
First, intense loyalty to the group and hostility toward outsiders. The former allowed the cooperation needed within the group to survive and the latter a wise response to a savage world. Things that go grrrr in the night are not good, and when the chief means of intergroup intercourse is the tomahawk, it is well to be suspicious.
We see all of this in conservatives. They place high value on patriotism and, in the military, loyalty to the unit. They view other tribes with hostility: the Chinese, Moslems, Russians, Mexicans, Iranians, communists, Jews, hippies, and pacifists.
By contrast, liberals are more welcoming, open, and “laid back.“ This may or may not be a good idea, depending on circumstances, but it is a more-advanced evolutionary position and better adapted to survival in a nuclear age.
Perhaps the sharpest difference between Left and Right is that conservatives lack empathy or, in English, compassion. Evolutionarily this was strongly adaptive, in that being compassionate to a man running at you with a spear does not conduce to survival. It accounts for the espousal of capitalism, which provides a justification for working children to death in foreign sweatshops. Conservatives do not hate the children of Bangladesh. They are just genetically incapable of caring about them one way or the other.
The lack of empathy is neurologically verifiable. Harvard psychologists John Halpern and Alexandra Warmme-Coates performed PET scans on self-described liberals and conservatives. (Their motto is “Truth at Five-Eleven Kev”). When shown a photograph of the mangled remains of a puppy run over by a bicycle, the brains of conservatives showed no response.
In liberals, there was strong activation of the lateral caligulate, which mediates strong emotions by communication through the posterior lobe of the sagittal epididymus to the occipital canunculus. This stimulates stress reactions such as high heart rate and sweating. These reactions were in fact observed.
When the photo was of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, liberals showed no response, but in conservatives the prefrontal palpate lit up, an indicator of intense interest.
To continue reading: The Evolutionary Biology of Political Parties