Behaviour, Genes and the Strange Antics of the "Daily Mail"

A two-and-a-half year old study by scientists in Northwestern University in Illinois which confirms that group behaviour is genetic in origin, has suddenly and almost inexplicably been given prominence in a March 2012 edition of the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.
The newspaper article, which can be found here, says that “Common traits like British individualism and Chinese conformity could be attributed to genetic differences between races according to a new study.”

However, the study was in fact published in 2009 by Joan Chiao, Assistant Professor, Brain, Behavior, and Cognition; Social Psychology (and herself of Chinese origin) at the American university.

The study, which proved that group behaviour, so often excused as “environmental” in origin, is actually hard-wired in the genetic make-up of individuals.

“Here, we demonstrate for the first time a robust association between cultural values of individualism–collectivism and allelic frequency of the serotonin transporter gene, controlling for associated economic and disease factors,” Professor Chiao wrote in the paper, published on 28 October 2009.

“Importantly, we also reveal a novel and surprising negative association between individualism–collectivism, frequency of S allele carriers of the serotonin transporter gene and global prevalence of anxiety and mood disorder.

“Across nations, both collectivism and allelic frequency of the S allele negatively predict global prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders.

“Critically, our results further indicate that greater population frequency of S allele carriers is associated with decreased prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders due to increased cultural collectivism,” the paper said.

In essence, the paper, which can be downloaded and read in full here, says that one version of the serotonin chemical (which regulates moods and functions in the brain) is far more common in “western” populations. This particular serotonin, professor Chiao and her colleagues wrote, was associated with individualistic and free-thinking behaviour.

“Our results provide novel evidence that geographical regions characterized by collectivistic cultural norms have a higher historical and contemporary prevalence of infectious diseases due, at least partially, to genetic selection of S allele carriers.

“Taken together, these findings dovetail nicely as two examples of how cultural values serve adaptive functions by tuning societal behaviour so that social and environmental risk factors are reduced and physical and mental health of group members is maintained.

“Importantly, in the current study, we found that population frequency of the serotonin transporter gene was a singular predictor of cultural values of individualism–collectivism across nations, even when controlling for historical and contemporary pathogen prevalence.

“Hence, our findings illustrate that gene frequency plays a unique role in explaining global variation in the adoption of cultural norms and is fundamental to any comprehensive understanding of culture,” the paper said.

None of this is any news to realists who have long dismissed liberal delusions about “environment” being the cause of certain behaviours.

This delusion is most often seen when liberals try to make excuses for Third World immigrant population behaviour in Western nations.

For example, the firmly established high rates of criminality, delinquency and other social problems associated with Third World immigrants in Europe, are always “explained” away by liberals as having been caused by “white racism,” “unequal opportunities” etc. etc.

The study by professor Chiao shows that group behaviour is inherent and genetic in origin.

In reality, only a madman would have thought otherwise. Third World nations are Third World because of the people who live in them, not for any other reason. And the same goes for the First World.

Only a deranged lunatic would think that a Third World population who live in a First World country “suddenly become” First World simply due to the accident of their environment.

Even more bizarre is why the Daily Mail would decide to give publicity to a two-year-old study which refutes everything else that newspaper’s editors have said about race and environment for the last forty years.

Realists will hope, possibly in vain, that it represents an acknowledgement by that newspaper that is has been wrong all along.

More likely, however, is that it is just sloppy journalism. But in this particular case, let us hope it is the former rather than the latter.