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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Genetic Marker for Monogamy

It never ceases to amaze me how much of who we are is preinstalled in our genes. Watching Camryn and Ella from the very earliest months of life, it's clear that from the get-go, they are two very different people and will always be so. They both came preinstalled with a personality, and though they're being raised in much the same way by the same parents, they're two very different people.

Now researchers find that switching one gene in a vole will change it's behavior from promiscuous to monogamous. Can you imagine if that translates to humans? You go in for gene therapy and have a little modified virus injected and suddenly, you're days of polyamory are done, because there is a cure. It's a lot scary, and certainly the stuff of a good sci-fi novel. Are we that easily controlled by our biology? What are the long term effects of all the unintentionally acquired viruses on our genetic makeup? Curiouser and curiouser...


  • Are we that easily controlled by our biology?Not really. There's a fad for pop-sociobiology; where one study on a rat shows modified genes change behavior, and suddenly everyone's talking about clearly that behavior in humans must be fixed by our DNA at conception. T'aint so. People are more like bonsai--some things about us are fixed from the start, but so much of us is shaped and chosen as we grow.

    Of course, that's not as much fun as playing read-the-genes as though they were horoscopes....

    By Blogger mythago, at 8:32 AM  

  • I don't remember if this was in the article, but the behavior in question is social monogamy, not sexual monogamy. Sexual monogamy is incredibly rare among animals; even animals previously thought to be monogamous "cheat".

    So the gene therapy cures you of that desire to live in a great big free love hippie commune, but you still get to be in an open couple. Not a bad deal, really.

    By Blogger Anthony, at 8:51 AM  

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