The Selfless Gene

MaoThat venerable blogger, Mr Plague, is a little concerned that he is losing followers from his august corner of cyber space amid the Georgia pines. (That’s Georgia USofA, not Georgia on the Black Sea, although I’m sure they have pines too.)

I know how he feels, or at least I would do if I were to include one of those followers gizmos in my sidebar which I don’t to avoid feeling too downhearted.

Blogging is essentially a self-indulgent online diary when you think about, but without the boring bits, like dental appointments and family birthday reminders. Whether anyone reads it or finds it remotely interesting is coincidental.

But the one gauge of popularity you can’t ignore is the abundance or dearth of comments that follows a post and I still haven’t worked out why some do and some don’t provoke a response. It’s probably something to do with the phases of the moon.

Take my Democratic Deficit post from yesterday. Admittedly I had my serious head on, but I thought the points raised by the research on why we get the political leaders we deserve was especially topical given the presidential pantomime being played out in the US.

And yet there was just one comment, while my Man Flu complaint prompted eight. Odd isn’t it?

Anyway, at the risk of talking to myself again (or an audience of one) here is another story that relates to what I was on about yesterday, in particular the idea that western-style democracy is a universally good thing.

It is the research that appears to show that people in different parts of the world are genetically programmed to have different cultural values towards individualism and collectivism.

Joan Chiao, from the department of psychology at Northwestern University says there are differences in the genes control levels of serotonin in Asia that promotes a greater willingness to put the common good above that of the individual. This suggests that there are inherent psychological differences as well as physical ones.

And if these differences affect social structures, it isn’t such a leap to see how they might require different forms of government.

You can read more from The Australian or the Daily Mail, or there is the academic paper from the Royal Society.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

10 comments… Add yours
  • Jennyta 12th March 2012

    I think I heard a bit of an interview with her on Radio 4. It’s certainly an interesting take on the subject.. Your post has prompted me to go and read a bit more about it.

  • Comrade Pudding 12th March 2012

    “In England, there are those of us who feel a great commitment to our fellow men and there are those who only pretend it. These poles impacted on our politics throughout the twentieth century. So even within the fabric of a particular society you may find strands of individualism and selflessness woven in close proximity.” – Speech by Comrade Pudding on the steps of Parliament, London March 12th, 2013.

  • Elizabeth 13th March 2012

    I may not always comment, Ian, but I do read and think about what you write. I’m still trying to work out the occupation of that bizarrely dressed gentleman and I’ve been frettin’ about how you’re doing healthwise for days now. Please rest ssured that my enterochromaffin cells have been going full tilt on your behalf. x

  • Elizabeth 13th March 2012

    I even think about how come Jenny and Politician Pudding timed their comments almost an hour before that time arrived. They are obviously so selfless that they not only put you ahead of themselves but time travel in order to do so. Super heroes visiting from a planet with even more refined gene control of seretonin, perhaps?

  • Elizabeth 13th March 2012

    Oh, now I get it!!! Stick my finger in my ear and say ‘red’ backwards time. Blushing profusely! x

  • Elizabeth 13th March 2012

    Oh!!!!!!!! Now, I get it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stick my finger in my ear and say ‘red’ backwards time! Write out one hundred times, ‘I must look at the date of these posts before responding’.

    Blushing profusely, Ian, but at least you got another comment on the post. x

  • Roger Green 13th March 2012

    My blogposts automatically go to Twitter and Facebook. I might get zero comments on the blog but a few LIKEs on Facebook. That said, I’m writing for me, and hope others come along for the ride.

  • Katherine 14th March 2012

    This is intriguing. To be published in the Royal Society Proceedings usually requires vigorous peer review. I’ve started reading the paper, but at this point, it seems that there is certainly a significant association between geographical area and genetically-based serotonin-promoting stressors. But the writers have made a big leap to suggest that the (current) political/ cultural ‘inclinations’ in those areas are attributable to/caused by the gene.
    Additionally, to polarise these differences, reducing them to two (presumably mutually exclusive) inclinations is always a dangerous (but convenient) philosophical or scientific process. As comrade Pud says, there are bits of both in each political/cultural system.

    I suggest the paper’s findings could be explained simply by population shuffling.
    For example of my (extremely independant-thinking, White Russian peasant) Grandmother, got out of Russia, along with millions of others, during the revolution, when others stayed. Extermination (Korea, Africa, New Zealand) or expelling, almost certainly serves to sift and homogenise the population that remains, and presumably, their genes.

    1. Association is not necessarily causal
    2. The definition of cultural ‘inclination’ should not be restricted to to polar opposites.
    3. Current cultural inclinations are not necessarily permanent
    4. Populations of people are often demographically filtered by political change

    Sorry. I think I may have just posted in your comments.

  • rhymeswithplague 14th March 2012

    Well, this post and its ensuing comments are a revelation to me! I am mighty impressed and can feel the serotonin surging upon taking in the foregoing from you, Ian, and the erudite Elizabeth and Katherine and politically involved Comrade Pudding without even a peek at the academic paper from the Royal Society. I chalk it up to osmosis.

    Best of all I learned something new: I didn’t even know I had enterochromaffin cells.

  • rhymeswithplague 15th March 2012

    And the real reason you don’t get many comments sometimes is that Mercury is in retrograde.


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