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  1. #1
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Genetic basis of monogamy and marriage

    Sorry to interrupt the fascinating Bristol Palin story with some news, but there's a fascinating story in the WaPo about some scientists who discovered a gene which occurs in 40% of men, which has strong control over whether a man will be monogamous or promiscuous.

    Men with two copies of the gene are twice as likely as men no copies to experience severe marital dischord or divorce as men without it. 34% of married men with two copies of the gene had experienced marital dischord in the past year, compared to 15% of married men with no copies.

    Women in relationships with men who had the gene were much more likely to report that they were distant and disagreeable.

    The researchers looked for this gene in humans after discovering that in two closely related species of vole, the species without the gene mates for life while the species with the gene does not exhibit long-term relationships between mates.

    So if common genes have such a strong determining influence on our behavior, what are the implications for morality and free will?

    [EDIT: The primary paper is: Hasse Walum et al., , "Genetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) associates with pair-bonding behavior in humans", PNAS Early Edition, 2-5 September 2008.
    Here's a link to the paper: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/20...1105.abstract]
    Last edited by Fredke; 09-03-2008 at 10:35 AM.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  2. #2
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    Quit trying to throw everyone off track here.

    Unless it was determined that 100% of the time having that particular gene created marital dischord don't think you can say that it affects free will.

    We all have things that push us one way or another that are created from within (physically, psychologically) and from outside sources. But ultimately we do what we want to do. A man will not cheat on his wife if he doesn't want to. Nothing makes a man faithful or unfaithful except for himself. There is a decision before there is action.

    As far as morality: I don't see how this changes anything. What's the difference between having genetic influences and psychological influences? Some are stronger than others and sometimes our minds and bodies do things that are beyond our control. But I don't think that it happens enough for it to be something common enough that a large percentage of the population can claim that they don't have control over their actions. If anything it's something that, if people are aware of it they might be more understanding of why they feel a particular way. Having a deeper understanding of oneself is a good thing, and it can help people make the "right" decision.


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  3. #3
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    What is the primary source - i.e., peer-review journal - of that study? I didn't find it in the article.

    Edit; Nevermind. Found it. "The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." I'm still curious if it was a sponsored article or peer-reviewed.

  4. #4
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    Free will is certainly not absolute.

    We're not automatons, but there's a lot of stuff that we do that's greatly influenced by our genes...

    I'm not sure what to contribute to this thread yet but I'm interested in where it goes.
    Formidable Pharmacologically

  5. #5
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_John
    What is the primary source - i.e., peer-review journal - of that study? I didn't find it in the article.

    Edit; Nevermind. Found it. "The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." I'm still curious if it was a sponsored article or peer-reviewed.
    PNAS doesn't seem to have put the paper on line yet. The DOI posted by New Scientist is dead. I'll add a linky to the head of the thread when PNAS publishes it.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  6. #6
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeDaddio
    We all have things that push us one way or another that are created from within (physically, psychologically) and from outside sources. But ultimately we do what we want to do. A man will not cheat on his wife if he doesn't want to. Nothing makes a man faithful or unfaithful except for himself. There is a decision before there is action.
    I agree that we're not 100% predetermined nor 100% free, but it's a pretty serious matter that such a major part of the core of our personalities is controlled by a single gene.

    When we argue about gay rights, there is a standard line from the left that sexual orientation is genetically determined, so to deny gays and lesbians equal rights would be to discriminate against them for something they cannot control.

    To me that's nonsense, because I can't see a good reason why people who choose to be gay should have any fewer rights than those who can't help it, but the mainstream argument follows the "They can't help it" line.

    If we discover that there is a stronger genetic basis for adultery than there is for homosexuality, what does this do to our notion of marriage and fidelity?

    Does this discovery potentially open the door for defining the the anomalous gene as a disease and some day offer parents the option to test for the condition in their and treat it by suppressing the gene or aborting affected pregnancies as we commonly do with Down's?

    Do people start demanding that their prospective partners get genetically tested, just as they get tested for STDs?
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredke
    I agree that we're not 100% predetermined nor 100% free, but it's a pretty serious matter that such a major part of the core of our personalities is controlled by a single gene.

    When we argue about gay rights, there is a standard line from the left that sexual orientation is genetically determined, so to deny gays and lesbians equal rights would be to discriminate against them for something they cannot control.

    To me that's nonsense, because I can't see a good reason why people who choose to be gay should have any fewer rights than those who can't help it, but the mainstream argument follows the "They can't help it" line.

    If we discover that there is a stronger genetic basis for adultery than there is for homosexuality, what does this do to our notion of marriage and fidelity?

    Does this discovery potentially open the door for defining the the anomalous gene as a disease and some day offer parents the option to test for the condition in their and treat it by suppressing the gene or aborting affected pregnancies as we commonly do with Down's?

    Do people start demanding that their prospective partners get genetically tested, just as they get tested for STDs?
    That is a pretty clinical approach to marriage, very few human beings think of it on the same level as buying a car.

  8. #8
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snakebit
    That is a pretty clinical approach to marriage, very few human beings think of it on the same level as buying a car.
    Well said. I hope they don't, but I worry that science is pushing us in that direction. It would not be a good thing.

    Martin Luther King once gave a sermon in which he worried that science and technology were allowing our mentality to outpace our morality, giving us lots of wonderful devices, which we were merely using as "an improved means to an unimproved end." (a line he credits to Thoreau).
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  9. #9
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr_John
    "The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." I'm still curious if it was a sponsored article or peer-reviewed.
    The article is now on line. It's peer-reviewed:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/20...81105.abstract

    Hasse Walum et al., "Genetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) associates with pair-bonding behavior in humans"
    Pair-bonding has been suggested to be a critical factor in the evolutionary development of the social brain. The brain neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) exerts an important influence on pair-bonding behavior in voles. There is a strong association between a polymorphic repeat sequence in the 5′ flanking region of the gene (avpr1a) encoding one of the AVP receptor subtypes (V1aR), and proneness for monogamous behavior in males of this species. It is not yet known whether similar mechanisms are important also for human pair-bonding. Here, we report an association between one of the human AVPR1A repeat polymorphisms (RS3) and traits reflecting pair-bonding behavior in men, including partner bonding, perceived marital problems, and marital status, and show that the RS3 genotype of the males also affects marital quality as perceived by their spouses. These results suggest an association between a single gene and pair-bonding behavior in humans, and indicate that the well characterized influence of AVP on pair-bonding in voles may be of relevance also for humans.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  10. #10
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    Gene or no gene my wife would not buy into it.
    She would cut it off and then divorce me leaving me with nothing to have fun with in the future.

  11. #11
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    other factors?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fredke
    Sorry to interrupt the fascinating Bristol Palin story with some news, but there's a fascinating story in the WaPo about some scientists who discovered a gene which occurs in 40% of men, which has strong control over whether a man will be monogamous or promiscuous.
    Probably has more to do with whether the wife cut the husband off from sex five years ago. A lot of women go completely frigid on the guy and then everyone wonders why he would cheat.
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  12. #12
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fixed
    Probably has more to do with whether the wife cut the husband off from sex five years ago. A lot of women go completely frigid on the guy and then everyone wonders why he would cheat.
    Yeah, but if you were correct, it would raise the question why one particular gene in a man would have such a role determining whether his wife wanted sex.

    Given that men with this gene are much more likely to be described by their wives as cold, distant, and disagreeable you may not be so far off base. Try cooking her a nice dinner. Light some candles. Ask her how her day was and listen attentively. Life may get better
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  13. #13
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by pigpen
    Gene or no gene my wife would not buy into it.
    She would cut it off and then divorce me leaving me with nothing to have fun with in the future.
    I don't see any reason why a woman should put up with being treated badly regardless the cause. I don't see this gene as a get out of jail free card for cheating.

    The laws of gravity mean a rock can't help falling, but I wouldn't recommend using that as a reason to just sit there if you see a boulder dropping toward the place you're standing.

    But the genetic factor does raise tough questions about our inclination to think of our behavior in simple moral categories. I'm not denying that free will plays some part, and I'm not denying that good and evil are real. I'm just interested in the complexities where things aren't clear cut between matters we can control and those we can't.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  14. #14
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    Don't you wonder if we were conditioned from well before the cave to have more than one partner? The evolutionary goal was to mix the gene pool to make it harder for recessive destructive genes to weaken us. Society imposed monogamy to let hunters leave home with some semblance of peace of mind that the mate wasn't tenting up with any buck that walked by the wiki up. Problem is, conditioning is stronger than the cultural standards. I wonder if everyone is just giving into their natural impulse.
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  15. #15
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by walleyeangler
    The evolutionary goal was to mix the gene pool to make it harder for recessive destructive genes to weaken us. Society imposed monogamy to let hunters leave home with some semblance of peace of mind that the mate wasn't tenting up with any buck that walked by the wiki up.
    The problem with evolutionary psychology is that it's easy to come up with just-so stories to explain any human behavior. The difficulty is turning those stories into testable hypotheses.

    What's cool about this genetic study is that it gives us a very clean testable hypothesis.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by walleyeangler
    Don't you wonder if we were conditioned from well before the cave to have more than one partner? The evolutionary goal was to mix the gene pool to make it harder for recessive destructive genes to weaken us. Society imposed monogamy to let hunters leave home with some semblance of peace of mind that the mate wasn't tenting up with any buck that walked by the wiki up. Problem is, conditioning is stronger than the cultural standards. I wonder if everyone is just giving into their natural impulse.
    Evolution is a complex thing and it's hard to say why specific adaptations occur.

    I think monogamy tends to be more common in species with very harsh environments. It's not worth the energy to have involved mating rituals every year when survival is so hard to begin with.

    I wonder if there is any link between monogamy and ethnicity, aka your genetic background?
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by walleyeangler
    Don't you wonder if we were conditioned from well before the cave to have more than one partner? The evolutionary goal was to mix the gene pool to make it harder for recessive destructive genes to weaken us. Society imposed monogamy to let hunters leave home with some semblance of peace of mind that the mate wasn't tenting up with any buck that walked by the wiki up. Problem is, conditioning is stronger than the cultural standards. I wonder if everyone is just giving into their natural impulse.
    If I'm genetically predisposed to have a heart attack at an early age, then I'd be smart to exercise and watch what I eat, right? Doesn't mean I have to accept what's predisposed. Having the information enables us to compensate for it, not necessarily give in to it.
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