Saturday, May 17, 2008

The American Gene

I found out what Michael Medved has been up to lately over at Crooks and Liars, who apparently got the signal from Pharyngula.

He's been reading some popularizations by Eminent Psychologists that have given him new reason to believe that America's Specialness stems from genetic causes. In this chapter, it turns out that there is a special gene that makes people more adventurous, self-confident, optimistic, and gritty. That's the gene that makes you leave your old soggy downtrodden country of origin and come to America. According to Medved, only two percent of people have that gene, and they are the perfect definition of self-selection for American Exceptionalism. All the people with boring old genes stayed home, but we got all the Live Wires.

Unfortunately for the Negroes, they were dragged here against their will, so they didn't inherit the Power of The Gene, and that's why they're so inferior.

One of Medved's sources (and there were two!) was this guy Peter C. Whybrow (and I won't comment on that name), who reportedly identified the special American Genetic Factor as the "exploratory and novelty-seeking D4-7 allele" in the dopamine receptor system. When I read that, I thought to myself, "Woo, sciency", and I went off to see about it.

There are quite a few scholarly papers that talk about the DRD4 alleles, in reference to historical world migration patterns, ADD/HD, schizophrenia, and assorted other subjects, but I could not find one that discussed the distribution of D4 variants among the races in the USA. The closest I got was a study about smoking that broke down the D4 variants among its subjects by race. It was a small sample, but among them, there was a slightly higher incidence of the D4.7 variant among African Americans than among Caucasians. For what that's worth.

I'm not sure why I bothered to look for data, because the whole premise of Medved's silly tripe is so far distant from anything like science that it's just silly. I probably don't need to explain, but just for example, how does Medved reconcile the "adventure" gene with the "running away" motive? And so forth.

Anyway, I expect this bullshit to become a Talking Point soon, since we have an African American Democratic nominee, and I'm looking for equally sciency ammunition to shoot it down with.

Can anyone point to a study that purports to estimate the distribution of this magical D4.7 allele among the races in the US?

Enquiring minds want to know.

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