Twin studies, molecular genetics, politics, and tolerance: A response to beckwith and morris

John R. Alford, Carolyn L. Funk, John R. Hibbing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Beckwith and Morris raise concerns about the value of twin studies for understanding the role of genetics in complex human behavior, but virtually all of their concerns have been raised and rebutted before. When it comes to the equal environments assumption (EEA), the best approach is to test for and control possible violations of the EEA on heritability estimates rather than merely rejecting all empirical evidence because of the possibility of EEA violations. In many respects, since the study of the genetic basis of complex human behaviors now includes many methods in addition to twin studies, Beckwith and Morris's critique applies more to the behavioral genetics of a quarter century ago than to today's multifaceted behavioral genetics. Twin studies establish that there is a sizeable genetic component to political orientations, thereby giving cause to look further at the nature of that role by using other methodologies, including molecular genetics. We conclude by pointing out that the normative implications of the relevance of genes to human behavior are not nearly as worrisome as Beckwith and Morris seem to believe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-797
Number of pages5
JournalPerspectives on Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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