Andrew Sullivan highlights a new Political Research Quarterly article by Peter K. Hatemi and a gang of coauthors. They report finding no evidence of a genetic basis for partisan preferences, but argue there is evidence of a genetic component in shaping the intensity of partisanship, regardless of whether individuals are Democrats or Republicans.
Research into the genetic basis of political behavior is one of the latest fads in political science. I can’t say I’m especially fond of it. I think I understand why it’s popular — “penis envy for the natural sciences” is a tempting way of phrasing it — but it seems ultimately unenlightening. There have been no super sexy findings — like a gene that makes you a Republican — only statistical suggestions that certain genes make one more likely to turn out to vote, more likely to feel intensely about issues, etc. But while this is taken by many to be properly pushing the boundaries of the discipline, I find it, in the end, a little uninspired. Genes…affect things? They can lead people to have certain personality traits rather than others? Really?
I think I’m in the minority here, but I see little more than an excuse to dress up the presentation of statistical results in the language of the natural sciences.