Jeremy Hardy thinks… about genes

Are our political opinions in the blood?

November 30, 2010 · 2 min read

I recently read a story in the Guardian that reported in all seriousness that scientists have discovered a liberal gene. This would mean that certain people are hard-wired to hold certain beliefs because of a propensity encoded in their DNA. It would mean they have innate liberal values because of a gene . . . a gene, presumably, that disappears when they are offered power.

Could there be a more illiberal view than the notion that political opinions are in the blood? In reality, the left can safely stand by our traditional, rational view that environment is usually the determining factor in how we turn out and what we believe. Science is not revealing that human behaviour is governed by genes; people are just choosing to interpret science that way. In reality, whatever we do inherit is subject to environmental influence immediately.

True, there are all those stories about twins separated at birth, but the ones who are completely dissimilar don’t get much press, just as no one ever answers the phone and says, ‘That’s weird, I wasn’t thinking about you just now.’ The behaviour of the people around us has a huge influence on us even before we are born. Little about the human personality can be identified as innate because it’s impossible to have a personality immune from human contact – unless that’s what causes estate agents.

My point is that what happens to us as we grow up, and the circumstances in which we grow up, are the things that shape our outlook. That is why we oppose faith schools and the religious indoctrination of children. Children will believe anything, and it’s not fair to exploit that. Let the god who made them make them with innate belief, and let their educational environment be secular.

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about Lexit

'The left case for Brexit was an interesting exercise, a bit like a Marxist review of The Very Hungry Caterpillar or one of those games where you work out whether it would be better to have no arms or no legs'

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about the language around Corbyn

'After winning an open contest with massive support, Corbyn has been accused of "seizing power"...'

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about Trident

'Nuclear weapons cannot be seen purely as a source of jobs'

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about solidarity

'Not many people would stand by and watch someone drown if they had the chance to rescue them, but that is what Europe’s governments are doing'

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about the Labour leadership

'The highlight began when it looked as though Corbyn could win, and continued thereafter'

Jeremy Hardy thinks… about Tony Blair

'No, it’s not time to rehabilitate Tony Blair.'