Don't Hate - Voters Were Born That Way, Say Psychiatrists
    By Hank Campbell | May 24th 2012 04:00 AM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    We tend to associate with people we like and that like us because they are like us - so it's no surprise I hang out with wickedly smart, outrageously attractive people. Long-term relationships, even non-sexual ones with women as ridiculously awesome as me, are part of what separates us from food...I mean, other animals.  Well, sort of. Maybe birds do that too.

    That old proverb, "Birds of a feather flock together", even has a science-y term attached to it;  homophily, coined in the 1950s by sociologists who felt a need to jargon up old-timey proverbs, it means, basically, 'love of the same'. Though the researchers in a new review get medieval, mostly as a way to endorse an anti-Catholic sentiment, quoting the Olde English “Byrdes of on kynde and color fok and fyeallwayes together.”

    This group of researchers contends that because people who exhibit certain types of behaviors, like drug addiction, smoking, juvenile delinquency, ADHD (and more!) tend to hang out with and even marry other people who also do that stuff, it is because they have the same gene for a disorder called "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS) and not because they just don't want to be judged for getting hammered drunk and missing work the next day.  People who get drunk a lot and eat too much, for example, tend to have the DRD2 A1 allele, while voter turnout and ideology are linked to 5HTT, MOA, DRD2, and DRD4.  Are you a rich, Republican white guy?  You must have the DRD2 A2 and the DRD4 7R alleles.

    Holistic Darwinism, at last!  Let's start testing. Wait, you're skeptical? It's a review in a journal, people, and it must be accurate because they invoke Rachel Maddow's television show. If they had mentioned Bill O'Reilly for credibility, you might have cause to worry about the science in the paper, but Maddow probably has the correct genetic makeup in her brain. Heck, someone could write a whole book on this topic if they found some social psychology surveys to flesh it all out.

    They say that the specific genetic traits they list may predispose people to preferences for all kinds of religious, political and social behaviors - which means we might someday be able to breed out people who get Emo haircuts or become Hare Krishnas.  And it may explain some odd things right now. Perhaps former Senator John Kerry was born a Catholic Democrat who nonetheless supports abortion and likes to buy gas-guzzling SUVs. It's not his fault, he just has a bunch of different reward gene polymorphisms bouncing around.

    This review has led the authors to create a New Evolutionary Theory, which always delights evolutionary biologists.

    Luckily for Europe and Asia, since the biological outcomes are Democrats and Republicans, this New Evolutionary Theory only applies to America.  That means other parts of the world are safe from what I call "Americanepigenetics", at least until we start seducing their women.  Credit: Genetic Syndromes &Gene Therapy

    Their findings also suggest that this genetic information may predict presidential outcomes more than the actual issues or even the candidates themselves. Let's hope so, because if the science positions of Romney and Obama were the determining factor all of academia would vote Other - but since it is apparently genetic and only Democrats are born super-smart enough to be scientists, I predict that once again Barack Obama will get 90% of the university vote. 

    But even fiscal conservatives should regard that notion, and this review article and its New Evolutionary Theory, as good news; since both candidates are refusing public financing this time around (instead of just the winner in 2008 doing so and outspending his opponent two-to-one) we may be looking at a $2 billion presidential election.  If we can simply map the genome of everyone and pick a winner based on that it would be much cheaper and we could instead buy essential stuff with the savings, like Navy Railguns and more studies of Everquest 2.

    According to the paper, they can link voting, voter turnout and political ideology to these various reward genes, possibly predicting liberalism or conservatism.  I won't rehash the entire list of studies reviewed to make their claim, the paper is open access (thank you for that) and you can see the details for yourself in the link at the bottom.

    "For example, people with a particular genetic makeup may be more trusting and therefore more likely to join a political party than people with a different genetic makeup," explained Marlene Oscar Berman, PhD, Professor of Anatomy&Neurobiology, Professor of Psychiatry, and Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (and also Affiliate Professor of Psychology at Suffolk University). "Further, this genetic association with partisanship also mediates an indirect association with voter turnout, and also might help to explain similarities in parent/child and child partisanship and the persistence of partisan behavior over time. In addition, it explain the prevalence of generations of die-hard republicans and equally entrenched democratic legacies."

    So go on and believe in free will if you want, but if you continue to dispute the clear relationship between political persuasion and biology, you are probably a Holocaust (and Global Warming)-denying Flat Earther who only understands complex concepts in a False Equivalence way and is outside the reality-based community; i.e., you are a Republican who couldn't understand all my important science words anyway. 

    But there is hope.  Democrats intend to be benevolent biological overlords.  "The study of genes potentially promises a better understanding of the constraints imposed on basic political behavior. Thus, biologists and political scientists must work together to advance a new science of human nature, and we encourage large scale studies to confirm the results of our reports," said Berman. 

    I don't want psychiatrists to think my title is picking on them; so I will note that one of the authors is instead a holistic addiction therapist in Miami.

    Citation: Kenneth Blum, Marlene Oscar-Berman, Abdalla Bowirrat, John Giordano, Margaret Madigan, Eric R. Braverman, Debmayla Barh, Frank Fornari, Joan Borsten and Thomas Simpatico, 'Neuropsychiatric Genetics of Happiness, Friendships, and Politics: Hypothesizing Homophily (“Birds of a Feather Flock Together”) as a Function of Reward Gene Polymorphisms', Genetic Syndromes&Gene Therapy doi: 10.4172/2157-7412.1000112


    "...Thus, biologists and political scientists must work together to advance a new science of human nature, and we encourage large scale studies to confirm the results of our reports," said Berman.
    If they had really hit on something significant, they wouldn't have to openly encourage "large scale studies"! They would automatically ensue.

    It's a New Evolutionary Theory. Entrenched Big Science Dogma will be Resistant to it because it overturns their Longheld Beliefs. :)
    John Hasenkam
    Thus, biologists and political scientists must work together to advance a new science of human nature, and we encourage large scale studies to confirm the results of our reports," said Berman.  

    Can't be done. Too many variables. Thus ....

    The nature of man is thus intrinsically and eternally problematic: we must make and continually remake our own nature, we must constantly be in search of ourselves. But we cannot discover the nature of ourselves in the same way that we can discover the nature of things 'outside' us. ... The truth about people, about human nature, then, is not something that is awaiting discovery, ready made, like something under a stone on the beach: it can only be made by people in dialogue, as the product of a social act, in continual mutual interrogation and reply.

    ibid, page 134,5

    Shotter, Images of Man in Psychological Research. 1975, page 133


    One thing I find very puzzling about elections though, the result in democracies is typically within very narrow windows, 2-3%. As I suggested to a friend the other night, this perhaps reflect causal agents of which we are ignorant. 

    Not sure what you mean by causal agents, but to me it says that to get to the top of a political party, you have to be a lot like the other guy mentally, but believe in stuff that 45% on your side of the line believe.   If elections were won by more than 10%, then there would be a problem, since there are only two parties.  California is nearly 70% Democrat and it is on the verge of bankruptcy - politicians don't need to listen to the opposition members, they simply voted in rules that allow them a simple majority to change things, and they don't need to listen to constituents because they know they aren't going to vote for Republicans.

    We have had back-to-back mandate-level votes, not the 2-3%, win with 45% of the vote kind we had all through the 1990s.  Bush trounced Kerry in 2004 but he was an incumbent in a war and Kerry was a weak candidate. Obama is the first president in 40 years to not use public financing so he was able to raise and spend twice as much money as McCain, and advertising may be a causal agent, and McCain was not a very good candidate.  This election, we will have to see.  Republicans are also turning their back on election reform, so the money will be the same and Romney is a weak candidate but Obama has not done well, so it this one may be back in the 2% range with a winner at 47%.
    John Hasenkam
    Not sure what you mean by causal agents

    Hey, I said I was ignorant of the causes! Politics is so weird. Here in USA's little brother land, the Australian public is daily being subjected to all sorts of claims about a former Union rep now Labor Party MP(Left wing) who apparently has gone on a rollicking good ride through some brothel with the union credit card. He's been declared guilty by the opposition and media in all but words yet hasn't even been charged. He's probably guilty but the muck raking done by all and sundry, even if he deserves it, does great harm to his family but no worry, we just want a political win and damn the rule of law or common civility for that matter. The Labor govt here will be smashed at the next election, replaced by a bunch of people who for the sake of political expediency abandoned the rule of law. This is a today example of how something that is largely irrelevant to running a country dominates the political debate for weeks on end. That's weird. 

    I think Obama will win, narrowly, but only because Romney is a bad choice for a candidate. In most countries though, whether you are left or right, the incumbents are getting their arses kicked. So if the GOP loses this one, it has only itself to blame. 

    Gerhard Adam
    The problem with such studies is that they can say absolutely anything they want because at its core, it is a reductionist argument.  In other words, at some level we can reduce almost everything biological to a specific chemical reaction.  That doesn't necessarily tell us anything relevant, but it can create the impression that we have something fundamental to work with or that we have an understanding of the fundamentals.

    Similarly, since genetics is the necessary ingredient responsible for the development of a human being, one could employ a reductionist argument that since genes are responsible for the construction of your brain, then no matter what you're exposed to regarding culture or learning or anything ... ultimately it is the genes that are responsible for the structure of the brain into which these ideas are introduced.

    Since these genes are also responsible for the underlying biochemistry, then it gives room to argue that these are ultimately responsible for the behaviors that are manifest.

    Obviously that's a lot of assumptions and it is clear that the actual biological interactions that produce long-term evolutionary changes are far more complex.  Despite the dislike of Lamarck, there is a tiny element of truth in those original claims.  In other words, while the genes produce the individual, the success of the individual determines which genes make it into future generations.  Therefore culture, behavior, learning, epigenetic influences, will all affect the ability of the individual to survive, which in turn determines which genes go into the future.

    Therefore, the question becomes more complex, because can we truly argue that the genes are responsible for the organism's success?  or is it the organism's success that is responsible for the genes being represented?  In that way, we find that culture, behavior, etc. CAN influence the genome despite not directly modifying the DNA involved.  Despite claims to the contrary, the underlying assumption has always been that genes are destiny.  This is clearly wrong, and what should be evident is that the genes often express a range of capabilities [i.e. brain for learning, muscles can be exercised and developed] precisely so that the organism is capable of "adapting" during its life to varying circumstances.  As a result, the genes provide the framework against which the organism's activities will determine success or failure [all things being equal].

    In the end, the problem is linked to the idea that we want to pretend as if biology is just a variation of engineering.  If we identify enough of the parts, then we know how we can manipulate them and produce the desired results.  If anything, we should have learned by now that biology is far more complicated than that and Orgel's Second Law; "evolution is cleverer than you are" is something that we should all seriously keep in mind.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I am an less-than-intelligent, below-average looking alcoholic. Can I still vote? your digits please, I would like to catch up.

    Well, since you must be one of the wickedly smart, outrageously attractive people despite your above claims otherwise (because I hang around with you due to our apparent genetic similarity) I will!
    John Hasenkam
    <i>This is clearly wrong, and what should be evident is that the genes often express a range of capabilities [i.e. brain for learning, muscles can be exercised and developed] precisely so that the organism is capable of "adapting" during its life to varying circumstances.  As a result, the genes provide the framework against which the organism's activities will determine success or failure [all things being equal]. </i>

    I hate the instruction set analogy for genes. Genes are response sets, allowing adaptability to the environment. If genes were just instructions sets blindly programming a body into creation it would require an unrealistic level of precision on the part of evolution. So good genes may not be those that create certain specific phenotype features but rather allow phenotype ongoing adaptation to changing environmental contingencies. That's why humans are strange, we are adapted to adapting. we are specialist generalists. One could argue that the environment sets the framework to determine which genes shall be passed on. 

    The epigenetics stuff is all the rage at present but if want another fascinating twist on this look at the ideas of Susan Lindquist regarding hsp90 as an evolutionary capacitor. Heat shock proteins are very ancient and often highly conserved across species so this process may be a fundamental strategy that has been kicking around for a few billion years.  See this from Wiki

    PS: Lindquist had suggested to Big Pharma that hsp90 might be a good target for cancer treatments. 10 years ago they laughed at her, now they are making the hsp90 inhibitors .... 

    Lindquist worked on the PSI+ element in yeast (a prion) and how it can act as a switch that hides or reveals numerous mutations throughout the genome, thus acting as anevolutionary capacitor. She also proposed that a heat shock protein, hsp90, may act in the same way, normally preventing phenotypic consequences of genetic changes, but showing all changes at once when the HSP system is overloaded, either pharmacologically or under stressful environmental conditions. Most of these variations are likely to be harmful, but a few unusual combinations may produce valuable new traits, spurring the pace of evolution. Cancer cells too have an extraordinary ability to evolve. Lindquist's lab investigates closely related evolutionary mechanisms involved in the progression of cancerous tumors and in the evolution of antibiotic-resistant fungi. 


    Gerhard Adam
    Here's another interesting article

    Another indication of the foolish optimism by presuming that genes were "selfish" and that the human genome project would provide everything we need to have a "blueprint" for human biology.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ROTFFLMFAO. A worthy successor to Deconstruction and Post-Modernism! As the Universe expands, so apparently does the local supply of bovine waste products...
    How do minds work?
    Take a number of newly-hatched cuttlefish in a tank and drop a small shrimp (longer than the cuttlefish!) in - they start stalking it immediately! (Not interested in eating each other, and will die if they do not get the hang of hunting shrimp). (The cuttlefish hatched from eggs washed up on a beach)
    A hand-tame Robin sat in a bush 2 metres away and would not come, I followed his gaze and realised that a hawk was circling in a thermal above us! When the hawk had drifted beyond the house the Robin came to feed.
    How many chances does a Robin have to learn that a silhouette like that, high above, is dangerous? (more dangerous than something weighing 5000 times its own weight nearby!)

    Gerhard Adam
    ... not sure what your point is.
    Mundus vult decipi
    he's asserting that instinct or genes governs some behavior
    Well, yeah, but that is no secret.  Genes do not tell plants how to vote or plants would vote.  Genes do not dictate our preference for country music instead of classical.  The gene fetish harkens back to the early 1900s when progressives committed really grievous ethical sins because their definition of 'science' (confirmation bias for their intolerance and bigotry) matched their kooky beliefs.  And we are seeing a resurgence today - by lots and lots of people, except no one in actual biology.  So psychologists and political writers who want to engage in woo, yes, but people who know what they are talking about, no.

    Well genetics is still relevant. Political choices are not rational(I know, I am a successful politician (retired)). There are dispositions on the individual vs. communal scale and on the risk vs. security scale which while I am certain upbringing has some role in, I am also certain are largely genetic as EXPERIENCE DOES NOT CHANGE THEM regardless of what the experience is. Something permanent about a person’s decision-making obviously is NOT voluntary on their part and must be genetic.

    Of course disposition by itself  does not determine what people will do nor does it stand in the way of getting them to choose the opposite of their disposition, if the issue is framed in the way that will do that. Trust me this is what politicians do. As most political choices available to ordinary people are of little relevance to their own daily lives, except as they may pile up over a long period, in the short run it’s not a problem. In the long run it’s probably what causes the occasional revolution: things go on as they do until the system is so unbalanced that a combination of external defeat and internal pain causes the people to smash the system…