Interaction between genes and culture

The explanation offered below for the correlation between genes and culture is highly speculative and need not detain us. What is interesting is the demonstration that there is a genetic influence on behavioural traits that have clear political importance. There is plenty of existing research to show that genetic inheritance has a large influence on political orientation but the research below goes one step further by identifying specific genes that appear to be involved.

The findings fit well with what we already know: People with genes that promote negative emotions tend to live in authoritarian societies such as China and it is Leftists who build such societies. Leftists everywhere promote big government. And Leftists are also full of the premier negative emotion: Hate. They hate a great range of what is in the world about them. And people with the opposite genetic pattern are happier and therefore more likely to be spontaneous individualists -- as in the USA. Many surveys have shown conservatives to be much happier than Leftists overall

Culture, not just genes, can drive evolutionary outcomes, according to a study released Wednesday that compares individualist and group-oriented societies across the globe. Bridging a rarely-crossed border between natural and social sciences, the study looks at the interplay across 29 countries of two sets of data, one genetic and the other cultural.

The researchers found that most people in countries widely described as collectivist have a specific mutation within a gene regulating the transport of serotonin, a neurochemical known to profoundly affect mood. In China and other east Asian nations, for example, up to 80 percent of the population carry this so-called "short" allele, or variant, of a stretch of DNA known as 5-HTTLPR.

Earlier research has shown the S allele to be strongly linked with a range of negative emotions, including anxiety and depression. Critically, it is also associated with the impulse to stay out of harm's way.

By contrast, in countries of European origin that prize self-expression and the pursuit of individual over group goals, the long or "L" allele dominates, with only 40 percent of people carrying the "S" variant.

The study, published in Britain's Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, offers a novel explanation as to how this divergence might have come about. Setting aside discredited ideas linking genetics and race, the researchers suggest that culture and genes may have interacted over time to shape the process of natural selection, helping individuals -- and the societies in which they lived -- to survive and thrive.

Ancient cultures in Asia, Africa and Latin America highly exposed to deadly pathogens, they conjecture, may have tended toward collectivist norms in order to better combat disease. That social transformation, in turn, could have favoured the gradual dominance of the risk-avoidance S allele. "We demonstrate that evolution is operating at least two levels," said Joan Chiao, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and lead author of the study. "One is biological, which is well understood. But there is also a level where cultural traits may have been selected for themselves, emerging in congruence with the selection of different types of genes," she explained by phone.


Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

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