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Genopolitics and the Science of Genetics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2013

Duke University
Harvard University
Evan Charney is Faculty Fellow, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences; Faculty Researcher, Duke Institute for Genome Science and Policy; and Associate Professor of the Practice of Public Policy and Political Science, Duke University, Rubenstein 250, Durham, NC 27708 (
William English is a Lab Fellow, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (


In an earlier article we challenged the findings of Fowler and Dawes (FD) that two genes predict voter turnout as part of a more general critique of “genopolitics.” FD now acknowledge that their finding of a “significant” direct association between MAOA and voting was incorrect, but claim to have replicated their finding of an “indirect” association between 5HTT, self-reported church attendance, and self-reported voting. We show that this finding is likely driven by population stratification and omitted variable bias. We then explain why, from the standpoints of genetics, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology, genopolitics is a fundamentally misguided undertaking; we also respond to FD's charge that some of our previous statements concerning genetics are “highly misleading,” “extremely disingenuous,” and “even incorrect.” We show that their criticisms demonstrate a lack of awareness of some basic principles in genetics and of discoveries in molecular genetics over the past 50 years.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2013 

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