View the article online at http://citywire.co.uk/money/article/a483099
Bankers' behaviour explained by 'greedy gene', study finds
A gene which prevents its carriers from feeling empathy or shame is found in 84% of bankers, according to a new study conducted by scientists at University College London. (Update: yes, it's an April Fools' joke)
Update: As all of you realised, this is an April Fools' joke. Still, we need to make it clear: Richard Dawkins does not advocate sterilising bankers. As far as we know.
Scientists have identified a gene, abnormally prevalent among bankers, which restricts production of a neurotransmitter which is required for social co-operation.
Dubbed the 'greedy gene', or 'the gene that caused the credit crunch', AFL11 – which also creates unusually high testosterone levels – makes its carriers unable to empathise with other human beings.
Dr Phil Jester, who led the two-year study at University College London, hailed the findings as a 'breakthrough'.
'Genetics has historically focused on physiological predispositions such as the "tall gene" or the "ginger gene" - this is the first time we've been able to make reliable predictions about a person's psychological traits, and likely career path, based on their DNA', he said.
'About 2.7% of the population possesses the greedy gene, whereas among bankers it's an astonishing 84%. In normal life these people are shunned or sent to mental hospital; in the City, they get promoted.'
Prevalence of the 'greedy gene' among different professions:
Percentage carrying AFL11 gene
*Source: UCL. Based on a sample size of 10411 subjects
'Stop these people breeding'
The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins said the increasing banker population was an example of modern social conditions distorting the evolutionary landscape. 'Just as the Ice Age favoured the hairy, the Finance Age favours those who lack the ability to feel empathy or shame,' he explained, adding that the wave of Thatcherite financial deregulation in the 1980s had been the equivalent of 'giving power tools to carpenter ants – give them enough time and they'll destroy everything'.
'The neurotransmitter in question, contritamine, was instrumental in our development as a species – it's what enabled us to co-operate with each other in the development of civilisation. If society continues to favour those who lack contritamine, the consequences could be dire.'
On his personal blog Dawkins put the same point more bluntly: 'We must stop these people breeding.'
The bank always wins
Bankers welcomed the news, however, suggesting it could pave the way for anti-discrimination legislation that would prevent government and regulators from interfering with bankers' bonuses.
'It's fantastic news, frankly,' said one source. 'For us this is the equivalent of blue badges for disabled people. It will make recruiting people much easier as well – up till now we've screened out insufficiently ruthless applicants with questions like "how much is your mother worth?", but it's not an infallible process.'
'DNA tests don't lie.'
Meanwhile the actor Bill Nighy, who has been a vocal campaigner for tougher bank levies, said the findings had made him feel 'ashamed'.
Nighy in Robin Hood Tax campaign video 'The Banker'
'To be honest I just feel awful,' he said. 'All this time I've been trying to appeal to bankers' social consciences, and now we discover that they literally don't have one. Just bloody insensitive of me.'
Nighy said he would be resigning from the Robin Hood Tax campaign, and urging fellow actors Sir Ben Kingsley and Noel Clarke to do the same.'I just want to give Bob Diamond a big hug,' he added.
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