02 February 2012

Shocking Discovery: Arguments about Biologically Determined Political Values are Stupid

Why - why? - does The Guardian persist in publishing this kind of nonsense?
But this research also suggests that when David Cameron and his ministers sit in the House of Commons and look over at the faces of the opposition they are more likely to experience a sense of threat and disgust than their political rivals do when looking back at them. It is going to be far harder for conservatives to bury the hatchet and cooperate for the good of the country than it is for the exasperated socialists on the other side of the chamber.

It is often alleged, falsely it turns out, that Winston Churchill once said: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." As the Churchill Centre notes:

There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: "Surely Churchill can't have used the words attributed to him. He'd been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!
The surprising point, of course, that we may derive from these "Churchill-ian" facts, is that people change. Apparently The Guardian has trouble recognizing that people change their political values over time. I know: its shocking, shocking to discover that people change their minds about things.


  1. so?

    don't you think it's much more fun to show that science has "proved" that those on the right are cowards and those on the left are not?

    The connection is delicious - the rich (who are hard wired to vote on the right) send the children of the poor to war. The Children of the poor, being open minded (more proof) not only save the rich from the enemy but also come back and accept that the war was possibly just.

    I mean, really, who cares about the science!



  2. I know - I know. And its just the press. But the thing is that this kind-of crap is not only polarizing its also just plain stupid. Like - if you are going to make a story up, come up with something half-imaginative. Like "there is a correlation between garlic eating and party identification" which has vaguely vampirish overtones. Or "the children of conservatives love pork, but the children of progressive love fish, which explains why decerning voters suspect both of hypocrisy". I'm tired of banality, stupidity, etc...

  3. I think the Guardian is clutching at straws here. I believe that 'nurture' and social factors are far more important when it comes to political affiliation. It is a choice you make. Politicians actively chose to join a particular party - their genes didn't tell them to. It is the same in voting behaviour. For example, you have the local area effect - if you live in a working class area, you vote Labour (socialists) because they are the 'party of the working people'. People also tend to form their political affiliations along the lines of what their parents vote. That is nothing to do with biology - that is because they have witnessed these behaviour and are adapting to local customs.

    There is a bigger biological argument going on under the surface in politics, which no-one seems to discuss. In the run up to this farce of a Scottish independence referendum, David Cameron and Alex Salmond both believe that it should only be 'Scottish' people who should be allowed to have a vote. It leads me to question, how are they defining Scottish? On locational grounds or biological? There was talk about giving people who live at the other side of the world a vote on Scottish independence because they have Scottish parents - essentially, determining the electorate on biological grounds. However, because I currently live in England, I would not be allowed? Both of my biological parents are 'Scottish' and I lived in Scotland for 23 years before moving to Oxford. I have the same biological ties to people living in Scotland but I am not allowed to vote? It is just weird, weird, weird...can't wait to see the resolution of this one.