Genes Don’t Control People

[From a discussion about whether there’s a ‘natural’ tendency to be monogamous or polyamorous.]

The whole idea of it being ‘natural’ or not is specious. We’re humans. We can think about these things. We can judge that some of our inborn ideas are actually not good — or flawed — and we can change our responses to them.

We frequently go against our inborn desires:

  • hunger (Most people don’t eat when they’re hungry. Many people overwrite their hunger signals and are either too thin or too fat.)
  • pain (People sometimes enjoy the pain of exercise. One can often ignore pain. Some women cite “pain is beauty” when they wax their body hair.)
  • sex (As William Godwin pointed out: you can be completely into it, but if someone tells you your father has died, you’ll forget all about it, because reason says your father dying is more important than sex.)

These examples are the most basic, direct things we’d expect evolution to spend most of its resources on. We’d expect these to be the strongest, most important inborn imperatives. Evolution has to get this right before it moves on to other, more minor things.