Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Perspectives on Politics, Volume 6, Issue 02, Jun 2008, pp 321-328. Published by Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


In the past, most political scientists have been oblivious to the growing empirical evidence challenging environmental determinism. Professor Charney, apparently as a result of the fact that genes and the environment interact in a complex fashion, advocates that this passive unawareness be replaced by active denial. Science, however, does not advance by avoiding important relationships merely because they are complicated and, fortunately, science is not heeding Charney’s ideologically-based fears. Molecular geneticists, often working in tandem with political scientists, are quickly moving beyond twin studies to identify the specific suites of genes and biological systems that predict variation in core political preferences, whatever labels those preferences might be given in a particular culture at a particular time.We sympathize with the fact that our empirical findings, like those of so many behavioral geneticists, make Charney uncomfortable; still, his critique serves up nothing new—empirically or otherwise. Just as analyses of the roots of sexual preferences cannot presumptively ignore genetics, neither can analyses of the roots of political preferences.