A Different Pair Of Genes

People (especially those who’ve been to college) like to promote the concept of critical thinking. I’ve written about the benefits of critical thinking on this blog. But when it comes to political beliefs many Americans won’t change their minds, regardless of how deeply they examine the issues.

Recent research has shown, in fact, that our political beliefs may be determined for us before we leave the womb. Our brains, the studies suggest, are hardwired so strongly that what we often view as our “choice” is merely the acting out or fulfillment of our genetic makeup.

On ABC’s Nightline last month, I saw a story about two ways one can assess whether a person is a conservative or a liberal just by asking a couple of questions. Do you like maintaining a neat and orderly house? If so, you’re more likely to be a republican. Is your home in disarray most of the time? This means you’re probably a democrat.

The story went on to assert that democrats often respond favorably to abstract paintings, while most republicans prefer straightforward, traditional art. The logic here, I’d assume, is that conservatives like clear-cut, concrete answers, while liberals enjoy the gray areas where things can get a little messy.

I’m not sure that I buy into this theory, but I do agree with the notion that who we are (which has a lot to do with our genes) affects how we see the world. Our worldview, in turn,  influences our politics and thus our voting habits.

As great as critical thinking appears on the surface, the truth is that most republicans will continue to see the world through conservative eyes at the same time that democrats will maintain liberal viewpoints. That’s the politics of examining political beliefs on the eve of the 2012 presidential election.