Friday, December 10, 2010

Biologists Do It In Their Genes

Thanks to some dude at Binghamton U in New York, we now have a reason other than our Daddy issues to be promiscuous. It’s in our genes.

Seriously, there was science involved! Beakers and test tubes. Lab coats. Cotton swabs. Sexy, right? Apparently. Science guy Justin Garcia has found a link between a variant of dopamine-receptor-affecting DRD4 and drinking, jumping out of airplanes, and casual sex.

Headline: Science supports sex, drugs, rock and roll.

Justin ‘Bill Nye’ Garcia goes on to moralize his discovery by asserting that this proven predisposition is no excuse for partying and infidelity. Peruse the Internet for ‘slut gene’ and you find a plethora (that’s right) of outbursts at its isolation. Easy now, prudes. Social evolution is in our midst. Which is not to say that morality is devolving – quite the contrary. Think about it: ‘mores’ is Latin for ‘customs’, extrapolated from generations past. “The moral person lives in terms of his or her emotions and needs unless and until this interferes with the rights and interests of others” (hey thanks, I think we can all agree that infidelity is unacceptable. Eroding the values of others is cruel. Morality, unlike promiscuity, is not biological. And while genetic determinism might be a fashionable excuse, notandi sunt tibi mores (inside-joke alert: ganesh, ganesh). If Bio328 taught me anything, it’s that animal behavior is the evolved result of interactions and environment. An environment with a moral compass that replaces instinctual promiscuity with monogamy. So while some of us may be genetically predisposed to one-night-stands and infidelity, probity keeps it in check. We express our biology in the context of our 21st century society.

Wait a tick. 21st century society where commitment is all but scorned? Canada in 2010, where 50% of marriages end in divorce? Where 99% of the men in this city own various remixes of the played-out track ‘I Just Don’t Want Anything Serious Right Now’ by I’m An Ass-Hat featuring Madame Ex? What exactly is the morality that Dr. G is trying to preserve here?

Despite that little bit of scorned-woman sass (haha? Oh), I’m no cynic. I believe in a thing called love, and maybe someday it’ll come back into style. But I’m not about to let an outdated and inapplicable socio-cultural paradigm negate the existence of DRD4 and the high-risk/high-reward behavior that quenches it. If I want to, I’m going to jump out of a plane, dammit. And when I land, I’m going to want to go up again. In the appropriate company, I’m going to drink. And after making it through that awkward phase of never-drinking-again and noon, I’m probably going to include beers in my regularly scheduled programming. And the same goes for sex. If guys are out there sailing on the coattails of their sexuality in this modern context, refusing to cuddle and heading to a place with no phones for days afterwards, I don’t have to commit either. If I don’t want to, that is… (Ouch, my feeling.)

Obviously, morality has evolved enough to prompt geneticists like Justin Garcia to search for a biological explanation of the impulsivity and hyper-sexuality that rages today. If it stands that I will be judged on my morals, such adjudication would only be negative in contrast to popular conduct. Conduct that today, for all intents and purposes, is teeming with uncommitted sex. With deductive reasoning on my side, it follows that any prevalence of a ‘slut’ gene is socially acceptable in this 21st century morality. I’m golden.

The ‘slut’ gene? More like the ‘awesome’ gene. Tell your friends.

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