The Sociobiology of Conservatism and Liberalism

by Dr K R Bolton

Sociobiology was the ‘new’ scientific synthesis that emerged to challenge decades of liberal and Marxist control of the social and anthological sciences with the publication of Harvard biologist E O Wilson’s The New Synthesis: Sociobiology in 1975.[1]

Sociobiology did not emerge from a vacuum. While the biological sciences that had spawned eugenics and the genetic basis of IQ for e.g.. had been largely supplanted and driven to the catacombs by the onslaught of a cabal of social anthologists with Left-wing political motivation, headed up in the USA by Franz Boas, with counterparts in the USSR headed by Lysenko, a significant number of geneticists remained to put up a rearguard action in the interests of science rather than dogma.[2]

When Sociobiology mounted its challenge to what is popularly called Political Correctness it had a number of eminent partisans apart from E O Wilson, and one of the primary and most vocal of these has remained Richard Dawkins[3]. Prior to both, Robert Ardrey popularised sociobiological concepts in books such as The Territorial Imperative and The Hunting Hypothesis.[4] The sociobiologists were met not with reasoned argument or a dialectic that engaged all sides in a debate with the desire to reach the truth regardless, but with a barrage of hate, including mobs of Leftist students trying to silence the Sociobiologists by force.[5]

While Political Correctness remains the dominant force in academe, and academics are often still forced from their positions or pilloried because of what amounts to a new heresy; the influence of Sociobiology as a general movement among scholars is such as to manifest across a variety of disciplines.

Sociobiology, as the term succinctly implies, explains human social behaviour from the viewpoint of biological imperatives, more specifically of the imperative of an organism to ensure the best chances for the survival and perpetuation of its own genes.

While Darwin is a starting point, Sociobiology states that genetic survival is one of group or social dynamics rather than hyper-individualism, or at least the imperative of the individual organism to perpetuate its genes or genes most akin to it, manifests in a social manner. Wilson called it “group survival.” Therefore, the individual’s genetic inheritance is best passed on through future generations not by means of the survival of the individual organism, but by the survival of the individual organism’s genes, which might – and often does – amount to the self-sacrifice of that organism. The survival of the individual organism is therefore not paramount, but subjected to a higher instinct. An organism will sacrifice its own life to ensure the survival of other organism’s whose genetic inheritance is most akin to it own.

Such a paradigm runs counter to the doctrines of Marxism and to orthodox sociology and cultural anthropology, which discount the importance of genetics, or even any contribution of genetics, in determining human behaviour. These view humans as purely economic beings that might shape and be shaped by their environment at will.

The ideologues of the Left, for decades immediately prior to World War II onwards the dominant factor in academe, argue that genetic doctrines are sociopathic in their outcomes, leading inevitably to racism and genocide. However, practise has demonstrates that it is economic and environmental determinism that has resulted in prolonged terror, on the assumption that by changing the environment human nature can be modified. Hence when the theory doesn’t accord with practise, the ideologue will resort to ever more authoritarian control mechanisms concluding in the most brutal expressions of tyranny, from the mass suicides of Jim Jones’ “paradise on earth”, to the Red Terror of the communists, and the Revolutionary Terror of France[6].

Given the fundamental genetic character of all living organisms, including the human, and therefore the genetic basis of social dynamics, it shouldn’t be surprising to find that ones’ political ideology is likely to be shaped by genetics rather than environment and social learning processes. Ideology is a reflection of how one looks at society and one’s place in it, and that conception implies, if one accepts the Sociobiological interpretations, one’s chances of perpetuating one’s genetic inheritance to future generations.

It has been said that one is ‘born’ a certain way as far as disposition and outlook go. If personality for e.g. is genetically shaped, as twin studies indicate, along with dispositions, likes and dislikes etc., then it is not too far a leap to conclude that maybe one’s political identity is likewise genetically based.

Nebraska study

A recent study undertaken by a team at the University of Nebraska. Led by Douglas Oxley, has concluded that our political views are shaped by biology, and that also accounts for why one’s views seldom change. The disposition to be a liberal or a conservative, is as deep seated a biological trait as any of the other biological imperatives involving the survival of the organism.

A report in the Dominion Post, citing The Times, states that biology could be an important factor in moulding liberal or conservative beliefs. The study indicates “a persons’ political leanings tend to correspond remarkably closely with physiological traits, indicating that nature, as well as nurture, could play a defining role.”[7]

“… A likely explanation is that genetic differences in brain activity may affect bodily responses and political outlooks.”

Twin studies show that identical twins who share all their genes are more likely to have the same political and social views than fraternal twins who have the same upbringing but only a proportion of their DNA.

In the study 46 Nebraskans with strong political views were asked for their opinions on a range of controversial issues. They were then subjected to frightening or unexpected stimuli and their physiological responses recorded. The results published in the journal Science, showed significant differences in the physiological responses of the two groups which corresponded with broad political categories.

Those with “markedly lower physical sensitivity to sudden noises and treating visual images” tended to support liberal positions, while those with strong responses tended to be conservative.

“The scientists considered it likely that ‘physiological responses to generic threats and political attitudes on policies related to protecting the social order may both derive from a common source.’”

“This was unlikely to be indoctrination by parents and peer groups, they said, because involuntary reflexes could be altered only with systematic training, which usually involves punishment. More probable was that political outlook and startle responses were affected by differences in brain activity…”

Dr Roger Highfield, writing as Science Editor for the Daily Telegraph[8], states on the study that:

“People who blink the hardest in response to a startling noise or sweat the most when they see a shocking image, tend to endorse political positions that are more protective of their own social groups.”

Attitudes considered by the Nebraska study included those on patriotism, military spending, and the death penalty, opposition to pacifism and immigration, gun control, gay marriage and abortion rights.

Most significantly Highfield describes those with a set of instinctive attitudes called ‘conservative’, as holding political ideas reflecting ‘protection of their own social groups.’ Conservatism is a protective response mechanism that the study indicates is inherited, and has genetic survival value.

This is what Highfield succinctly refers to as “gut instincts.” It is reminiscent of E O Wilson’s description of Sociobiology as “group survival.”

Prof. Matthew Hibbing, University of Illinois, part of the team, comments:

“Though we would all like to believe that our preferences are a more or less rational response to the evidence we see around us, it may be that traits of which we are not aware (in this case, the degree of response to threat) predispose people (no matter where they live in the world) toward a certain type of political beliefs."[9]

Conservatism as protective mechanism vs Liberalism as atrophied instinct

What one might tentatively conclude from these findings is that liberals and Leftists are an aberration of nature. They have not inherited basic defence and survival mechanisms that optimise the survival of their genes. The basic survival mechanisms are lacking, and this could well explain why liberals and Leftists generally consider it a matter of individual ‘choice’ regarding such issues as abortion, and “gay marriage” e.g., rather than as a matter for the entire social organism, reflecting its chances of genetic continuity.

Conservatives, and often religious, attitudes that are ridiculed by the Liberal (and the Leftist generally) as “moralistic”, self-righteous, “old fashioned, etc. arise from an instinct no less vital to survival than that of any instinct among other organisms for the protection and survival of their offspring, and of their herd or flock.[10]

In fact the Nebraska study included questions on abortion, gun control and the death penalty, questions that ultimately can be interpreted as matters of optimal genetic survival of the social organism. Likewise the way the conceptions of family and of nationhood, as collective biological survival mechanisms have little or no value to the liberal and the Leftist. Pacifism might also be another such reflection of an aberrant lack of basic genetic survival traits. Supportive attitudes toward Feminism and “gay rights” would be salient e.g.s of genetic self-abnegation, or a minimal regard for genetic perpetuation.

The conservative, conversely, sees all these elements, the importance of family, of children, and an abhorrence of abortion, etc., as very much part of the process of ensuring one’s genetic survival.

The genetic foundations of one’s political outlook are not surprisingly often poorly articulated by the individual conservative. The liberal (Leftist) by contrast has an overly rationalised response to his environment that is detached from instinct. The conservative ‘thinks’ instinctively. He feels he is right, but might not quite be able to express exactly why. It is what Dr Highfield has termed one’s “gut instincts”. The conservative is therefore the subject of liberal lampooning in the Archie Bunker, Alf Garnett mode. However, Sociobiology is increasingly showing in an expanding number of areas that Man is still the product of his genes; that the outlook of the Left is a rationalised expression of instinct in an atrophic state. That what is instinctively recognised as healthy and unhealthy in every other living organism is reversed in the human by dominant political ideologies maintained by people literally of atrophied instinct.

In short: it might be said that the liberal is an aberration of nature, a revolt against his own self as an organism, an aberration bereft of the will to genetic perpetuity; that liberalism (and its variants of communism and feminism) literally means “death”.

The conservative has an innate sense of the will to perpetuity that pervades all healthy organisms in nature. His “gut instincts” on issues such as immigration control, gun ownership, and opposition to abortion and to “gay rights”[11], etc. emerge from a genetic predisposition to recognise what is detrimental to the social organism.


[1] Wilson E O, The New Synthesis : Sociobiology, Harvard University Press, 1975.

[2] The Left-leaning social and cultural anthropology of Columbia University’s Franz Boas was given impetus by the defeat of Hitlerism, as the aftermaths of World War II resulted in anything of a genetic nature being condemned as leading to racism and hence to genocide. Franz Boas taught a generation of stalwarts of anthropology such as Ashley Montague and Margaret Meade, and the hitherto genetic basis of anthropology was pushed aside.

[3] Dawkins, R., The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, 1976, 1989.

[4] Robert Ardey, although a playwright and screenwriter, had an academic background in anthropology. He pre-empted Sociobiology with African Genesis, 1961; The Territorial Imperative, 1966; The Social Contract, 1970. Konrad Lorenz’s ethology also laid the groundwork for Sociobiology. Interestingly, Lorenz was a patron of the French New Right.

[5] In one incident, members of the International Committee Against Racism, a front for the Leftist organisationScience for the People, poured a pitcher of water on Wilson’s head and chanted “Wilson, you’re all wet” at a conference in 1977. It is reminiscent of the disprution of lectues of Nobel Laureate Dr William Shockley, a physicist who devoted himself to expounding the genetic basis of IQ.

[6] The French Revolution had its scientific rationale in the form of the pre-Darwinian and pre-Mendelian evolutionary theories of Lamarck, which stated that acquired characteristics in one generation are passed on to subsequent generations. The theory, because it accorded with Marxism, was revived in the USSR via Lysenko, while geneticists were disgraced and exiled. The New Left and orthodox sociologists and cultural anthropologists continue to believe in substantially the same theories.

[7] Reaction to spiders gives clue to political views, Dominion Post, Sept. 20 2008, B2.

[8] Highfield, R., Laws of nature: how to spot a conservative, Daily Telegraph, 18 Sept. 08.  Dr Highfield is a scientist in his own right, and is editor of New Scientist.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ironically, one of the first pioneers of a Sociobiological perspective was the Anarchist philosopher Kropotkin, whose Mutual Aid, based on his observations as a naturalist, postulated the survival of the group, rather than an individualistic fight for survival. He expounded the instinctive nature of “morality” and altruism as a survival mechanisms. Such a concept is more akin to conservatism than anything now being pushed by the Left, including the self-styled “anarchists”, whose positions are now indistinguishable from those of the liberals.

[11] Might not support for the death penalty” be an instinct to excrete toxins from the social organism?

Kerry Bolton is the editor of Restoration Magazine.