Perspectives on Politics

Comment

Twin Studies, Molecular Genetics, Politics, and Tolerance: A Response to Beckwith and Morris

John R. Alforda1, Carolyn L. Funka2 and John R. Hibbinga3

a1 Rice University. E-mail: jra@rice.edu

a2 Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University. E-mail: clfunk@vcu.edu

a3 University of Nebraska-Lincoln. E-mail: jhibbing@unl.edu

Abstract

Beckwith and Morris raise concerns about the value of twin studies for understanding the role of genetics in complex human behavior, but virtually all of their concerns have been raised and rebutted before. When it comes to the equal environments assumption (EEA), the best approach is to test for and control possible violations of the EEA on heritability estimates rather than merely rejecting all empirical evidence because of the possibility of EEA violations. In many respects, since the study of the genetic basis of complex human behaviors now includes many methods in addition to twin studies, Beckwith and Morris's critique applies more to the behavioral genetics of a quarter century ago than to today's multifaceted behavioral genetics. Twin studies establish that there is a sizeable genetic component to political orientations, thereby giving cause to look further at the nature of that role by using other methodologies, including molecular genetics. We conclude by pointing out that the normative implications of the relevance of genes to human behavior are not nearly as worrisome as Beckwith and Morris seem to believe.

Footnotes

John R. Alford is Associate Professor of Political Science, Rice University (jra@rice.edu). Carolyn L. Funk is Associate Professor in the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University (clfunk@vcu.edu). John R. Hibbing is the Foundation Regents Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (jhibbing@unl.edu)

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