Destinations and origins of politics

Friday, November 3, 2006

Is politics in the genes?

Taking a tip from Aristotle, who wrote in 350 B.C. that "Man is by nature a political animal," a team of political scientists and geneticists are trying to prove that hypothesis with extensive studies of twins, genes and brain scans.

The researchers, including John R. Hibbing of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, used studies in which about 8,000 sets of identical and fraternal twins answered a series of questions about topics such as school prayer, nuclear power, women's liberation and the death penalty.

They found that identical twins, who share their entire genetic code, answered more similarly than fraternal twins, who are no more similar than non-twin siblings.

Of course there are skeptics, who say any similarities found in twins' political beliefs can be attributed to the environment, not genetics.

The researchers aren't giving up, however, and plan to subject subjects to scans of their brains while they are asked questions about political topics. Next, they'll travel to Australia to trace political views among families.

We tend to agree with the skeptics. After all, anyone who lives in McCook -- home to Sen. George W. Norris, Gov. and Sen. Ben Nelson, Gov. Frank B. Morrison, Gov. Ralph Brooks and even Gov. Dave Heineman, knows that politics isn't in the genes -- it's in the water.

Our congratulations and thanks to all of the candidates who turned out for Thursday night's Candidates Forum, sponsored by the Gazette, KICX and KBRL, at the Bieroc Cafe.

While we've editorialized against term limits, we have to admit that the constitutional amendment has injected new blood into the polical process. District 44 legislative candidates Frank Shoemaker and Mark Christensen have matured into seasoned campaigners over the course of the race -- because they have had to. A tough campaign for a wide-open seat, opening as many issues as possible to public scrutiny and debate, serves the voters well.

Term limits aren't involved in the 3rd District race, of course, but U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne's ill-fated gubernatorial run has left it wide open as well.

We should feel proud that President George W. Bush deems our votes important enough for a visit, but we're chagrined that the Republican powers-that-be felt Grand Island was far enough west to be a fair representation of the district.

Kearney would have been a good choice, or better yet, McCook. Bush's visit will perpetuate the eastern Nebraska myth that the state ends somewhere near Wood River.

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