Could biology be to blame for the US government shutdown?

Amy Hodges

Could biology be to blame for the US government shutdown?
Rice political scientist suggests individuals are biologically ‘hardwired’ to be either liberal or conservative

HOUSTON — (Oct. 4, 2013) — As the U.S. government remains shut down for a fourth day, Rice University political scientist John Alford is available to discuss how biology may be to blame for the current political impasse in the nation’s capital.

Alford, an associate professor of political science, specializes in research of the biology of political behavior, including brain science, genetics and the role of evolution in shaping human political beliefs. In his new book, “Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and the Biology of Political Differences,” Alford and his coauthors argue that the “universal rift” between conservatives and liberals endures not because of societal or familial influences, but because people have diverse psychological, physiological and genetic traits.

These biological differences influence much of what makes people who they are, including their orientation to politics, Alford said.

“It is our biology, and not always reason or the careful consideration of facts, that predisposes us to see and understand the world in different ways,” Alford said. “These predispositions are in turn responsible for noteworthy moments of political and ideological conflict that mark human history.”

Alford said the key to getting along politically is not the ability of one side to see the error of its ways but rather the ability of each side to see that the other is different, not just politically, but physically.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Alford, contact Amy Hodges, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 713-348-6777 or


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Related materials:

John Alford bio:

“Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and the Biology of Political Differences”:

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.