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In favour of the death penalty?
June 18, 2001 1:49 AM   Subscribe

In favour of the death penalty? Don't worry, it's in the genes
posted by twistedonion (10 comments total)

 
"Although attitudes are learnt, scientists in Canada believe individual differences may arise, at least in part, because of our genetic makeup. "

Genetic makeup: lipstick that stays on.

Anyway, parties that live by poll results would do well to watch this and similar research. You may be (if the researchers are right) born with attitudes that will make you right wing or left wing. Party X is for position Y, person Z is born with a similar attitude toward position Y, so person Z will consistently vote for party X candidates starting a couple of decades later.
posted by pracowity at 2:54 AM on June 18, 2001


Yay! Another step closer to Aldous Huxley's nightmare!
posted by Ezrael at 3:51 AM on June 18, 2001


Some questions left unanswered by the story: Identical or fraternal twins? Both? Male and female fraternal? What was done to eliminate identity-creating reactionism, in which a twin takes an opposing viewpoint or attitude in order to create individuality?
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:07 AM on June 18, 2001


Let me get this straight.

Top five attitudes with genetic connection:
-- Reading books
-- Abortion
-- Playing sports
-- Rollercoaster rides
-- Death penalty for murder

Top four attitudes without genetic connection:
-- Separate roles for men and women
-- Playing bingo
-- Easy access to birth control
-- Being assertive

Oh. OK. It's all as clear as glass.
posted by bilco at 5:35 AM on June 18, 2001


Umm.. I may be oldschool in my sociology studies, but isn't it concievable that parental influence may have quite a bit to do with the formation of opinions and preferences?

Next time, please have these guys pay me for a study. I've got a few hours to waste, and a wacky concept to forward..
posted by Perigee at 6:35 AM on June 18, 2001


when i took sociobiology, the main schtick seemed to be that genetic--"innate"--behaviors were more along the lines of "people exhibit sexual attraction towards something" or "people eat every now and then." and even then, it's very difficult to demonstrate in humans. in some animals, it's a little clearer. sparrows, i believe, have this thing about red feathers: they attack on site. it has to do with some red tufted bird, but anything red usually works at bringing out the aggression of the sparrow.

the "twins" study they site seems pretty vague. most successful twins studies along this line involve people who have been seperated for most of their lives, but that is not mentioned here--if these twins in fact lived together for most of their lives, it's quite possible similar environmental pressures produced similar attitudes. still, i'm a pretty firm believer that genetics do play a role; it's just a really, really complex one, and you simply can't say "well, if you switch this gene here, you suddenly are in favor of the death penalty." it just doesn't work that way.
posted by moz at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2001


Abstract of the study the BBC was reporting on.
posted by claxton6 at 8:25 AM on June 18, 2001


At this point I'm convinced that the current hysterics surrounding genetics is about as valid a theory as phrenology. "Ah yes, here's the bump that makes one post to Metafilter. Fool!"

I'm not suggesting that genetics don't influence behavior, but its a flimsy/complex/whatever relationship and has little in common with animal "no-think" instinct. There's this crazy notion of trying to connect the two like moz just pointed out about sparrows. The importance they give to the psychological makeup of the individual seems like lip service to me. Please note I'm not trying to trivialize real genetic research like gene therapy just the DNA = behavior ideas.

I don't know why there's this undercurrent of 19th century scientific determinism coming about, but its just wrong. The excitement and flashiness of finding the GATTCTADTAA cocktail that will turn me from Jekyll to Hyde, or Hyde to Jekyll is producing some shoddy research.
posted by skallas at 10:14 AM on June 18, 2001


skallas: The last paragraph is the best I've read all month. Thanks. Just correct the "its" and you have a masterpiece. And it probably has nothing to do with genetics.
posted by raysmj at 10:53 AM on June 18, 2001


Just to add to skallas' excellent comment:
Surveys finding statistical regularities among identical twins separated at birth are not worth very much if there is no causal explanation. We are very far away from being able to trace *how* a particular allele somewhere in the genome might influence anybody's attitude towards the death penalty. And I am willing to bet that whatever causality exists will not be linear and involving just one factor. (Not to mention the fact that, though people have probably been killed in every human society, not every human society has an institution known as the death penalty.
posted by Rebis at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2001


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