Furthest Right

Traits Are Heritable, So Culture Is Genetic

Francis Galton formulated the division between “nature” and “nurture,” with the former side advocating mostly genetic determination of traits, where the latter claimed that traits could be inculcated through propaganda, education, punishment, and repetition.

It turns out, as usual, that there is a mix of the two, but that one side clearly carries the bulk of the burden, as we might expect from the ideas of Charles Darwin. Traits that persist between generations endure and are selected for, so even “nurture” traits eventually become “nature.”

That offends our modern egalitarian notion, based in the class warfare tearing up the West, that all people are “equal” meaning roughly comparable in reasoning ability, moral character, and talents. All data suggests otherwise, but the egalitarians refuse to see it.

As it turns out, science is bearing out the “nature” side. It turns out that “nurture” can mostly harm traits from being expressed, and when the institutions that create “nurture” change, so does the influence of that nurturing.

Only nature persists between generations and through social upheaval. This view forces us to stop seeing humans as “blank slates” upon which we can imprint political values, legal systems, economic reasoning, and behaviors as if they were products in a factory.

Recent science gives us an insight into the predominance of nature. Twin studies — famously used by Schopenhauer — show us that most traits are mostly heritable:

We report a meta-analysis of twin correlations and reported variance components for 17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits. Estimates of heritability cluster strongly within functional domains, and across all traits the reported heritability is 49%. For a majority (69%) of traits, the observed twin correlations are consistent with a simple and parsimonious model where twin resemblance is solely due to additive genetic variation. The data are inconsistent with substantial influences from shared environment or non-additive genetic variation.

An important factor here is additive genetic variation, or how the coding for a trait can exist in multiple places, causing it to become either expressed because it was in common between both parents, or more strongly expressed because each had some coding for it.

In other words, the more a population is similar, the more that shared similarities express strongly, despite having been recombined during the reproductive process. The overlap in genetic code provides strong similarities without identical coding, or the exact same genes expressed exactly the same way, as many previous studies used as a limit to their analysis.

Nonetheless, science shows us that consistently, nature outperforms nurture in determining traits, which leads to a consistent series of scientific observations affirming heritability of traits:

In the context of current concerns about replication in psychological science, we describe 10 findings from behavioral genetic research that have replicated robustly. These are “big” findings, both in terms of effect size and potential impact on psychological science, such as linearly increasing heritability of intelligence from infancy (20%) through adulthood (60%).

From the “nurture” camp, we often hear that what we see as inherited traits are in fact artifacts of growing up wealthy or poor. This hypothesis assumes that all people are basically equal, and those who are wealthy are that way by factors of nurture alone.

The nature hypothesis says that wealthy people tend to be more intelligent and capable, and therefore have more capable and intelligent children. Instead of wealthy children getting ahead because of advantages they have, their primary advantage is a higher IQ and abilities.

As it turns out, science has looked into this one, too, and it turns out that socioeconomic influences play a negligible role in intelligence:

We used matched birth and school records from Florida siblings and twins born in 1994–2002 to provide the largest, most population-diverse consideration of this hypothesis to date. We found no evidence of SES moderation of genetic influence on test scores, suggesting that articulating gene-environment interactions for cognition is more complex and elusive than previously supposed.

Socioeconimic Status (SES) provides a convenient way to explain the differences in the scores that proves to be almost invisible. If poor people have lower IQs, then of course their children have lower results, and both are poor.

On the other hand, if you believe the SES nurture theory, anyone with a high score got there by having advantages and privileges, and therefore, their genetics are unimportant. At some point, it depends on the assumptions you take.

Luckily, the default assumption is nature and not nurture, mainly because we can see throughout history and across different disciplines that approaches to life are heritable. That includes general outlook, which turns out to be mostly heritage (citation):

A single higher-order factor, indicating a general life history strategy, composed of three lower-order factors, was replicated. Factor analyses were then performed on the genetic variance-covariance matrices. We found that (a) a single higher-order factor explained the preponderance of the genetic correlations among the scales and (b) this higher-order factor was itself 68 percent heritable and accounted for 82 percent of the genetic variance among the three component lower-order factors.

This turns out to be wholly consistent with a survey of knowledge to this date, which finds that heritability beats out indoctrination and wealth every time for determining the abilities of offspring in terms of psychological traits (citation):

There is now a large body of evidence that supports the conclusion that individual differences in most, if not all, reliably measured psychological traits, normal and abnormal, are substantively influenced by genetic factors.

Eugenicists and Darwinists — the orthodoxy of nature-over-nurture thinking — argued that this would extend to pathologies and habitual behaviors, including those adopted by criminals, suggesting that some traits could be “bred out” (or removed) from the gene pool.

As it turns out, the evidence mostly supports this viewpoint, with not just criminality but the specific type of criminal behavior being heritable, giving credence to the nature side:

Specifically, we trace the history of behavioral genetics and show that 1) the Burt and Simons critique dates back 40 years and has been subject to a broad array of empirical investigations, 2) the violation of assumptions in twin models does not invalidate their results, and 3) Burt and Simons created a distorted and highly misleading portrait of behavioral genetics and those who use quantitative genetic approaches.

Not only behaviors, but attitudes, are also passed along. This can be as broad as general political outlook or determine the stance an individual will take on specific issues. Since politics reflects philosophy, and that reflects abilities and inclinations, this makes sense.

One study found that certain genes correlate with political outlooks when analyzed in the context of social relationships. The choice to be Leftist or conservative comes about in part through genes:

Here, we hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal, but only if they are embedded in a social context that provides them with multiple points of view. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we test this hypothesis by investigating an association between self-reported political ideology and the 7R variant of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4), which has previously been associated with novelty seeking. Among those with DRD4-7R, we find that the number of friendships a person has in adolescence is significantly associated with liberal political ideology. Among those without the gene variant, there is no association. This is the first study to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification, and it highlights the importance of incorporating both nature and nurture into the study of political preferences.

A further survey of the literature was able to find a higher degree of precision in the interactions between genes and experiences, suggesting that politics is hardwired in our genes (see also) but requires environmental influences to develop:

However, over the past decade, an unprecedented amount of scholarship utilizing genetic models to expand the understanding of political traits has emerged. Here, we review the ‘genetics of politics’, focusing on the topics that have received the most attention: attitudes, ideologies, and pro-social political traits, including voting behavior and participation.

This follows up on an earlier study which found that genetics determine attitudes toward issues but (not surprisingly) not party identification. This research found that more specific political views are more genetic while general views and identifications relied on a number of factors:

Employing standard methodological approaches in behavioral genetics—specifically, comparisons of the differential correlations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins—we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes.

Some have found that, in particular, it is easy to identify conservatives by their genes (citation):

Preschool children who 20 years later were relatively liberal were characterized as: developing close relation-ships, self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under-controlled, and resilient. Pre-school children subsequently relatively conservative at age 23 were described as: feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable. IQ during nursery school did not relate to subsequent liberalism/conservatism but did relate in subsequent decades. Personality correlates of liberalism/conservatism for the subjects as young adults were also reported: conservatives were described in terms congruent with previous formulations in the literature; liberals displayed personality commonalities but also manifested gender divergences.

None of this should surprise Darwinists, who recognize that aesthetics and personal preferences tend to be genetic, which is how nature selects for different traits in animals. A mouse that likes round seeds may die out before those which like any shape of seed.

Since nature does not recognize things like “Republican” and “Democrat,” this means that traits will encode for more basic and specific things. For example, attitudes toward homosexuality are mostly inherited:

Genetic modelling showed that variation in homophobia scores could be explained by additive genetic (36%), shared environmental (18%) and unique environmental factors (46%). However, corrections based on previous findings show that the shared environmental estimate may be almost entirely accounted for as extra additive genetic variance arising from assortative mating for homophobic attitudes. The results suggest that variation in attitudes toward homosexuality is substantially inherited, and that social environmental influences are relatively minor.

Such specific preferences reflect the tendency of genes to code for situations or objects we encounter in life, and how we will deal with them, through a combination of aesthetics (disgust) and practical methods (behaviors).

This shows us how much of culture is encoded in genes. It turns out that each culture has a bell curve for political orientation, and that the center of this bell curve determines how conservative or Leftist the culture is, or at least, how we interpret its behaviors as.

That means that not just politics but culture is encoded in our genes:

In psychology, there are a few standard personality traits that have been measured across truly diverse human groups. They belong to a well-tested and widely accepted inventory called the “Big Five” personality dimensions. Specifically, these traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (it’s easy to remember them because they spell out OCEAN). The first three dimensions (O, C, and—to a lesser degree—E) correlate fairly well with left-right voting. Therefore, these traits can serve as a universal yardstick for measuring the dispositions of disparate cultures, which would otherwise be difficult to compare in reference to specific political issues.

Psychologist Robert McCrae, with the help of his colleagues from numerous countries, has collected measures of these Big Five dimensions from nearly 28,000 people from 36 distinct cultures around the world. The participants represented the Indo-European linguistic family, as well as the Uralic (Finland, Hungary, Estonia, etc.), Dravidian (South India), Altaic (Turkic, Mongolic, etc.), Malayo-Polynesian, Sino-Tibetan, and Bantu (Sub-Saharan Africa) ethno-linguistic groups.

Variation in these Big Five personality traits was greatest within cultures. This finding makes intuitive sense, since a given population has a bell-shaped distribution of left-right political orientation. Moreover, Big Five dimensions such as Openness and Conscientiousness also form bell-shaped curves within a population.

For those of a Darwinist bent, this makes sense because abilities and inclinations vary between groups, starting with intelligence and branching outward to preferences. Since intelligence is heritable, this means that each group has found its own orientation.

While the “nurture” types find this appalling, in fact intelligence is in the genes and this influences culture:

Intelligence is highly heritable1 and a major determinant of human health and well-being2. Recent genome-wide meta-analyses have identified 24 genomic loci linked to variation in intelligence3,4,5,6,7, but much about its genetic underpinnings remains to be discovered. Here, we present a large-scale genetic association study of intelligence (n = 269,867), identifying 205 associated genomic loci (190 new) and 1,016 genes (939 new) via positional mapping, expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) mapping, chromatin interaction mapping, and gene-based association analysis.

For those who see Leftism as a type of neurosis, or confusion of cause and effect with personal emotional expression at the moment of cause, it will not be surprising that neuroticism is heritable like any other trait:

Here we conducted a large GWAS meta-analysis (n = 449,484) of neuroticism and identified 136 independent genome-wide significant loci (124 new at the time of analysis), which implicate 599 genes. Functional follow-up analyses showed enrichment in several brain regions and involvement of specific cell types, including dopaminergic neuroblasts (P = 3.49 × 10−8), medium spiny neurons (P = 4.23 × 10−8), and serotonergic neurons (P = 1.37 × 10−7). Gene set analyses implicated three specific pathways: neurogenesis (P = 4.43 × 10−9), behavioral response to cocaine processes (P = 1.84 × 10−7), and axon part (P = 5.26 × 10−8). We show that neuroticism’s genetic signal partly originates in two genetically distinguishable subclusters13 (‘depressed affect’ and ‘worry’), suggesting distinct causal mechanisms for subtypes of individuals.

These differences are so distinctive that political orientation can be determined by brain scan because the underlying thought processes are so distinct:

John Hibbing is a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Over the years, he’s studied how our political views may also be influenced by our biology.

“We would look at brain scan results and we could be incredibly accurate knowing whether they’re liberal or conservative, just on the basis of that,” he says.

Genes aren’t the only driver behind our political views, though. Hibbing says environment and upbringing play a large role as well. But he has found that, on average, about 30 or 40 percent of our political attitudes come from genetics. And he thinks the idea that our politics may come, at least in part, from our biology may help us to have more empathy for people who disagree with us.

“Our political beliefs are part and parcel of our entire being,” he says.

Just as physical traits are genetic, mental traits are as well, and that includes the approaches toward a philosophy of life that, when translated into the type of civilization that one desires, become political outlooks.

These reveal that the division between conservatives and Leftists is not political so much as a reflection of different adaptive strategies:

“Though the issues may change across time, the underlying trait of liberalism versus conservatism probably has existed since forever,” said Brad Verhulst, a Canadian researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The way that our genes influence us changes over time. The genes themselves do not change, but the interaction between gene and behaviour is dynamic as people age, from puberty through menopause and mid-life crises. It is a generally stable system with crisis points.

Even in physical traits like height, for example, there is obviously a strong genetic component, in that tall parents tend to have tall children, but no one has yet found an actual gene or genes that make people tall.

In other words, genetics codes for inclinations, intelligence, and other mental traits because mental traits are physical traits, or reflections of the construction of the brain. While this savages our sense of free will, it enables us to understand ourselves better.

We may find in the future that political orientation overlaps with time preference, or the ability to delay gratification in order to achieve greater results later:

It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow.

But there’s been criticism of Mischel’s findings too—that his samples are too small or homogenous to support sweeping scientific conclusions and that the Marshmallow Test actually measures trust in authority, not what he says his grandmother called sitzfleisch, the ability to sit in a seat and reach a goal, despite obstacles.

The correlation between general intelligence (g), higher health, longer time preference, and more analytical approaches toward existence has been well-known for some time, and associates with general brain architecture and chemisty, suggesting a further division between cultures and ethnic groups:

After taking into account gender and physical stature, brain size as deter-mined by magnetic resonance imaging is moderately correlated with IQ (about 0.4 on a scale of 0 to 1). So is the speed of nerve conduction. The brains of bright people also use less energy during problem solving than do those of their less able peers.

These traits, too, are heritable. While politics has not yet caught up with it, science has surged ahead to show that the differences in our outlooks are genetic, that they vary with culture and social class, and that these reflect the politics of those groups.

In short, the idea of a “universal human” has died. We are as varied as groups as we are as individuals, and this means that preserving a group preserves its unique culture by preserving its unique genetics.

Without those genetics, the culture cannot be resurrected, because in different brain architectures, the same words and ideas will be interpreted vastly differently. While humans fixate on social concerns, science has shown us that nationalism is inevitable.

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