One article in Science Daily happened to catch my eye of late, Two Genes Do Not Make a Voter. The implication, apparently dispelled, was that a couple of genes, or four, or five, could determine a specific human behaviorial trait.
They use as an example a 2008 study by James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes of the University of California, San Diego which claimed that two genes predict voter turnout. Charney and English demonstrate that when certain errors in the original study are corrected — errors common to many gene association studies — there is no longer any association between these genes and voter turnout.
If you keep reading you will find that these genes have been credited with having a great many unfounded attributes. Sloth on the part of citizens is not the only negative quality, vice is still too strong a word to use in this instance, some researchers would find inherited.
Charney and English also document how the same two genes that Fowler and Dawes claimed would predict voter turnout are also said to predict, according to other recently published studies, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, anorexia nervosa, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, epilepsy, extraversion, insomnia, migraines, narcolepsy, obesity, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, postpartum depression, restless legs syndrome, premature ejaculation, schizophrenia, smoking, success by professional Wall Street traders, sudden infant death syndrome, suicide, Tourette syndrome, and several hundred other behaviors. They point to a number of studies that attempted to confirm these findings and could not.
Hmmm, I wonder how “extraversion” and “success by” “Wall Street traders” got thrown in there? I think it amusing how these are the exceptions that prove the rule. Our researchers don’t tend to be searching for success genes, but rather they tend to be looking for failure genes instead. I wonder why this is? I don’t get the impression that they’ve managed to remove many of these failure genes from the human gene pool yet.
“There is a growing consensus that complex traits that are heritable are influenced by differences in thousands of genes interacting with each other, with the epigenome (which regulates gene expressivity), and with the environment in complex ways,” Charney said. “The idea that one or two genes could predict something like voting behavior or partisanship violates all that we now know about the complex relationship between genes and traits.”
So much for the hunt for the non-voter gene. I imagine that would be the first step in determining which genes vote republican, which genes vote democrat, and which maverick genes out there happen to vote independent. Now what arrangement of thousands of genes, plus interactions, cause people to avoid the voting booth, and what arrangement of thousands of genes cause certain people to receive a “mental illness” label.
This kind of senseless endeavor could go on for a spell. Do you have forever? If you don’t know, flip a coin, and call the side you favor forever. The other side of the coin, of course, you can call never.