Shakespeare got it right, again. Our fate lies not in our stars but in ourselves.The new book by Jonathan Haidt, “The Righteous Mind,” discusses the latest findings in brain research. Genes, it appears, contribute to every aspect of our personalities and several genes make the difference between liberal and conservative thinkers. (“Why You Vote the Way You do,” excerpted in “This Week” 6/1/12,) The center of the differences relate to:
“…the function of neurotransmitters, particularly glutamate and serotonin, both of which are involved in the brain’s response to threat and fear.” (Haidt pg. 40)
Conservatives, apparently, react more strongly than liberals to signs of danger. Liberals react more strongly to novelty. A second difference is found in “characteristic adaptations.”
These are traits that emerge as we grow… [and} are called adaptations because people develop them in response to the specific environments and challenges that they happen to face. (Haidt pg. 40)
In sum, genes are what Haidt calls the “first draft” of the mind and then environment leads us down different life experiences to different moral subcultures. That morality binds us into ideological teams with different world views is not new information. That genes are the source of these divisions is.
What Haidt wants us to remember is that good people reside on either side of the genetic code.