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Biotech Science

Possible Monogamy Gene Found In People 440

Posted by kdawson
from the walking-the-line dept.
Calopteryx sends in a New Scientist summary of research from Sweden pointing toward the existence of a gene that influences monogamy in men. (The article doesn't mention women, and the study subjects were all men at least 5 years into a heterosexual relationship.) "There has been speculation about the role of the hormone vasopressin in humans ever since we discovered that variations in where receptors for the hormone are expressed makes prairie voles strictly monogamous but meadow voles promiscuous; vasopressin is related to the 'cuddle chemical' oxytocin. Now it seems variations in a section of the gene coding for a vasopressin receptor in people help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands."
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Possible Monogamy Gene Found In People

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  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnergyScholar (801915) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:10PM (#24848027)
    Just as a guess, which strategy works better (from a 'survival of the genes' perspective) probably varies in different circumstances. This would explain why neither gene sequence has dominated.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:11PM (#24848049)

    monogamy in general seems to be a mirage

    Are you saying that it doesn't exist, or that it's just rarer than we pretend?

    Consider that if ~ 50% of married people are adulterous, then there's a huge fraction (~ 50%) who are monogamous.

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Millennium (2451) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:15PM (#24848127) Homepage

    Shouldn't evolution sided with either monogamy or polygamy? I mean even if there is only a one percent difference between the successor rates should that have not been reflected by now?

    If monogamy or the lack thereof were genetic and there were an evolutionary advantage to either strategy, then you're right: that should have been reflected in the general population.

    Since it doesn't seem to be, that would seem to indicate that perhaps there is no evolutionary advantage to either side. With no advantage, there is no pressure for humanity to tend in one direction or the other. That could yield a pattern closer to what we are seeing now.

  • by Altus (1034) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:19PM (#24848219) Homepage

    Just because someone has the desire to be non-monogamous does not mean that they cheat on their significant others.

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:20PM (#24848257) Homepage

    And like winning the lottery twice, the slashdot men that do marry are quite unlikely to find another. A predisposition for involuntary celibacy is a predictor for monogomy.

  • by t0rkm3 (666910) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:31PM (#24848441)

    Hrmmmm...

    As far as I can tell, from literature in polygamist cultures, the jealousy gene is 100% present in females and males of the species. Therefore, it would seem that a barter system would evolve. The higher your wealth is above the mean of the society that you live in, the more likely that you will be able to entice potential partners into a 'mutually beneficial' relationship. The wealth assuages the greater portion of the jealousy, while other services alleviate the remainder.

  • by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:40PM (#24848585) Homepage

    One researcher found that the overwhelming contribution to the increased rate of divorce is the modern concept of marriage for love instead of position/wealth. The current divorce trend is simply the end result of a curve started in the years following the civil war.

    So if these conservatives want to go back to an idyllic time with low divorce & happy families - I say bring back arranged marriages.

  • Re:Disablites Act (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The End Of Days (1243248) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:45PM (#24848665)

    The day nerds become a protected subspecies is the day I give up on humanity.

  • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:47PM (#24848693)

    Why would a man not screw around as much as possible?

    In short, because our young are vulnerable after birth, require a fairly large energy investment, and are few in number.

    Monogamy actually appears in a number of different animal species.

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:52PM (#24848779) Journal

    And the women, they're looking for a powerful man to knock them up, and a nice dedicated man to stick with her and raise a family.

  • by AP31R0N (723649) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:53PM (#24848797)

    If humans were meant to be monogamous, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It would be a given and a non-issue. Non-monogamy would be something lesser beasts do and would strike us as odd and curious behavior.

    Asking humans to be monogamous is like asking a cat to NOT chase a mouse. "Did you SEE her tits? Of COURSE I hit that. I'd be gay if it didn't!"

    Marriage is a system invented by men with power to make alliances and to manage inheritance of power. The whole love thing is very 20th century.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @03:55PM (#24848827)

    Let's say that we go 10,000 years back. Why would a man not screw around as much as possible?

    Lots of reasons...

    Inability to find good mates... Ideal mothers for your children would reject you knowing that you wouldn't provide for them?

    Low chance of offspring surviving... mothers would be unable to care for your children, and unable to find mates willing help them?

    Societal acceptance... e.g. The other men would stone him? Stone the women he cheated with? Stone his offspring?

    Monogamy exists in nature. There are reasons for why it works where it exists.

    And if love existed, who's to say that it lasted for long periods?

    Indeed. Monogamy isn't necessarily 'till death to we part' in modern society at least it simply means not cheating on your partner. It is entirely possible to marry, raise a child, separate, marry someone else, and even raise another child, all within the confines of monogamy.

    Hell when I was a teen, most of us were pretty monogamous; its not that we all married our first crush, but rather that our teen years were a succession of monogamous relationships of varying lengths, some quite brief, and punctuated with periods of being 'single'.

    And yes some people who were supposedly 'in a relationship' cheated, and when caught it carried a stigma, one that I would say definitely impacted their dating prospects in the circles where it was known that they cheated (applied to both males and females).

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:01PM (#24848921)

    Hate to kick the barstool out from under y'all, but Jeebuz, you folks act like a gene sequence removes all thought from the equation.

    I don't sleep around because I love my wife and extra-marital affairs have a tendency to remove MARRIAGES. Quite frankly, it is my head, and the thoughts within, that decide my actions, not the genes passed on to me. Genes may have some effect, but if the result is not acceptable to the thinking part of me, they are simply over-ridden.

     

  • by KGIII (973947) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:03PM (#24848959) Journal

    They lie to you. Oh man do they lie. They probably do it so that you will join them in their misery, misery loves company and all that.

    Anyhow, now that there's a gene for it and I obviously don't have it, I have a scientific excuse. ;)

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by megaditto (982598) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:03PM (#24848977)

    I think you might be wrong there.

    In a welfare/socialist society, polygamy and promiscuety make more (evolutionary) sense for men.

    Which would you rather be: 1) the guy that sleeps around with lots of women and gets lots of kids, or 2) the guy that stays with a single woman and gets taxed to death to support all the single mothers, left over from the first guy.?

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:23PM (#24849305)

    Genetics is becoming the new astrology. Seriously. It's a good analogy too, sure stellar bodies affect our natural worlds, and sure genetics affects our bodies and minds, but I have not seen any proof that theses genetic changes are significant to human behavior on a day to day level.

    Sure an animal living on instinct, slave to the chemicals sloshing around in it's brain pan, has it's mating style dictated by genes, but humans are just a little smarter then that.

    I used to be a Beta male and used to pursue monogamy through out high school and early college for exactly the same reason you describe. Then I started working construction, got buff and learned how to quote "play the field" and have done things that belong on Tucker Max, not /., but I changed and I didn't need gene therapy to do it, why? because I think, and I can rationalize and weigh consequences against rewards, so while I may feel guilty for sleeping around, I know it's way funner than having to put up with some cow.

    Humans are led by their frontal lobe and will ignore all those little subconsciouses chemicals in favor of what ever is easiest. I'm sure this gene might have an affect, but I'm sure on full blast the best difference it would make would be to cause a guy to buy his wife flowers after he cheats on her. Smoking a cig has a stronger kick.

    The reason the gene is still around and hasn't gone one way or the other is because it's just genetic kruft that doesn't matter.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:23PM (#24849319) Homepage

    Or rather : in different circumstances monogamy may provide an evolutionary advantage. If you intend to wage unceasing war ("live off the land" (and the passersby)), for example, monogamy would be a bad idea, since lots of men will die, leaving behind women, even though some limit would be good (say you expect 50% of the men to be involved in war, then you should allow 2 women to one man, if you expect between 75 and 90% of your society to be dedicated to war, then 4 women to 1 man seems appropriate (and obviously only to men who can afford not to be on the frontlines, who should basically stay away from women, except the occasional rape of a succesful raid) (then again, in war, are limits like these really going to be respected ?). If you allow without limit (or allow polygamy + concubines) then clearly you expect to do nothing else than warfare, and marriage means nothing except for inheritance.

    In peace, you'd need to prevent men remaining behind alone without partner (because for every extra woman one man has, another has to do without, 4 women to one man would become 75% of men without contact with women in extremis, realistically, say 50% of men, 4 women + unlimited (and exclusive) concubines would mean something like 999/1000 of men without partner, in some cultures that is normal, or was normal not too long ago), as that will certainly not be helpful in helping them build instead of destroying society, therefore in a peaceful setting, you'd want monogamy.

    The fact that genes start expressing it is not very surprising. Polygamous cultures are known for being more than a little agressive, and genes are how humans adapt to their environment. If the environment or the culture changes to be less suitable for agriculture (or the culture doesn't know, or incorrectly conducts agriculture, e.g. predatory agriculture, or not doing anything about overpopulation, or ...) the genes will adapt to become less monogamous.

    If raiding is basically impossible, for whatever reason, building things will become important, and monogamous relationships become an evolutionary advantage. Certainly after 10 generations the effects will be very noticeable.

    Since this gene will very much influence how agressive people are against "other tribes", it is one of the prime parameters that will determine the layout of the resulting society, and may introduce all sorts of limits (e.g. agressive societies will never have any population density for obvious reasons, which can easily translate in a very low maximum population limit)

  • Re:Hhhmm, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:42PM (#24849721) Homepage

    Which would you rather be: 1) the guy that sleeps around with lots of women and gets lots of kids, or 2) the guy that stays with a single woman and gets taxed to death to support all the single mothers, left over from the first guy.?

    How about 3) the guy that sleeps around with lots of women and has no kids?

    Effective birth control exists. Use it.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:47PM (#24849835) Homepage

    Genes may have some effect, but if the result is not acceptable to the thinking part of me, they are simply over-ridden.

    The point is that the genes determine, or at least influence, what the "thinking part" of you find acceptable.

    You are not consciousness inhabiting a body. You are consciousness generated by a body. The nature of that consciousness is determined by the nature of the body. The nature of the body is determined by genetics and by environment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:57PM (#24851055)

    The poster didn't say anything about marriage. He just said "monogamous relationships."

    "Living together in sin" qualifies as a monogamous relationship, and it very well may include frequent sex and home-cooked meals. In fact, remaining unmarried in such a relationship could be quite fulfilling for both partners while avoiding the marriage tax penalty and other legal complications.

    Furthermore, each partner will feel free to leave should things turn sour (rather than trapped by a contract and economic devastation from an expensive divorce). This could cultivate a much healthier state of mind (while avoiding the "I don't have to work so hard to please you now, because we're married!" mentality) which will keep the couple together even longer than if they got married.

    I am curious to know, however, why you think marriage is misery. Worse than a car accident? In what way? Is it because your spouse pulled a bait-and-switch on you, becoming someone entirely different once the contract was signed? Sounds to me like you just picked the wrong person....

  • by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:40PM (#24851675)

    They lie to you. Oh man do they lie. They probably do it so that you will join them in their misery, misery loves company and all that.

    Actually it's not a lie. Like everything, there are of course exceptions, so I'm sure some people do lie, but I get all of the above. And my wife is wonderful. I love being married. So yeah, if you wanna delude yourself out of the fun, go ahead... but consider the fact that you haven't tried being married, so how would you know the truth? Married men are inherently credible when talking about this issue, and unmarried men are without credibility, for the following reason: all us married men have been both single and married, and I personally can say that after trying both, marriage is far superior.

    Anyhow, now that there's a gene for it and I obviously don't have it, I have a scientific excuse. ;)

    Sorry, but as a creature of reason and logic (which your appeal to science shows that you are), you are still without excuse. Anyone who claims reason has the tools necessary to rise above base animal instincts and live differently. Whether this alleged gene actually is proven to be true or not, the "serial non-commiters" still have no excuse to use the women around them.

    As humans, we have to rise above this non-commitment, because regardless of a specific gene, societies in which commitments are made and upheld are inherently more stable and peaceful than those in which no one can trust anyone's word. As humans, our goal should be to form stable societies that are best for us, not to follow our genetic dispositions.

  • Re:Disablites Act (Score:3, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @08:30PM (#24852945) Journal

    Oh yeah nerds in PR are going to hurt the company a lot more than the narcissistic PHBs in management will.

  • by zobier (585066) <zobier AT zobier DOT net> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @03:25AM (#24855847)

    As humans, we have to rise above this non-commitment, because regardless of a specific gene, societies in which commitments are made and upheld are inherently more stable and peaceful than those in which no one can trust anyone's word. As humans, our goal should be to form stable societies that are best for us, not to follow our genetic dispositions.

    Except that we're talking about monogamy, not commitment. It is possible to be in a committed relationship, have sexual relations with more than one person and not be dishonest about it. Since we're talking about logic, reason and whatnot. It is also quite possible to have a stable and trusting society where this behaviour is not taboo.

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