The Corpus Callosum

I wasn’t sure whether to put the quotes around “Ruthlessness Gene,” or
“Discovered.”  I suppose I could have just left them out
entirely, but I have this urge to spice things up a bit with
punctuation marks.  Don’t blame me…it’s genetic.

Now, there is yet another correlation between a snippet of DNA, and a
behavioral trait:

gene’ discovered

Dictatorial behaviour may be partly genetic, study suggests.
Published online 4 April 2008 |
Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.738
Michael Hopkin

Selfish dictators may owe their behaviour partly to their genes,
according to a study that claims to have found a genetic link to
ruthlessness. The study might help to explain the money-grabbing
tendencies of those with a Machiavellian streak — from
national dictators down to ‘little Hitlers’ found in workplaces the
world over.

Researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem found a link between
a gene called AVPR1a and ruthless behaviour in an economic exercise
called the ‘Dictator Game’…

The gene under study, AVPR1a, codes for vasopressin receptors
(specifically, arginine vasopressin 1a receptors).
 Vasopressin does more that one thing.  One thing is
does in some creatures, in some circumstances, is to promote prosocial

I suspect most readers here will know enough to refrain from reading
too much into this.  

If you have any large set of numbers, even a perfectly random set, and
start comparing it to things, you will find some correlations.
 In the case of a random set, the correlations are meaningless.

The human genome is a large set of numbers, although not a random one.
 Still, there will be many correlations that don’t mean
anything.  The AVPR1a correlation with behavior in a game may
turn out to mean something, but that is far from established.

What is interesting about this is what people can read into it.
 For example, from Theoreo:

gene’ discovered
April 5, 2008

Posting this as a sign of the times..

Here is an effort to say that dictatorial behaviour is not a result of
sin, but because of genetics, as though people just cannot help
themselves.  The bible says that “There is none
righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none
that seek after God,…..there is none that doeth good, no,
not one…all have sinned and come short of the glory of
God” (Romans 3:10,11,12, 23)  People sin because
they are separated from God! They do not have a
“gene” to make them behave in a certain way..

I am reasonably confident that the authors of the AVPR1a study do not
intend to make excuses for ruthlessness.  

The original article is here:

differences in allocation of funds in the dictator game associated with
length of the arginine vasopressin 1a receptor RS3 promoter region and
correlation between RS3 length and hippocampal mRNA

There is nothing in the article about genetic material being morally
exculpatory.  Describing something is
separate from judging it.  

Yeah, I fiddle with punctuation sometimes.  Sometimes it is
grammatically correct; other times not.  Is that a good thing?
 Does the presence or absence of a genetic correlation make
any difference in what judgment you make?


  1. #1 Jason Failes
    April 7, 2008

    Ah, the evil gene: Hitler had it, Walt Disney had it, and this man has it.

  2. #2 JM Inc.
    April 18, 2008

    What’s this you say? Morally exculpatory genetic material? Oh, I’m there. Now I know what to say when somebody tells me I’m a sinner who needs Jesus.

    “Well, I’m sorry to hear that sir, but if you’d consult my manual, I’m quite confident that you would find that my model configuration clearly does not include assurances against the varieties of behavioural variability you claim against me. I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir, but you’ll have to take this up with the manufacturer.”

    Ahh, if only life were that simple in the really real world.