Study suggests tendency to unfaithfulness and divorce is genetic.

Graph of U.S. divorce rates, 1950-2000 

One of the miracles of modern science is how consistently reporters gravitate toward findings that tend to absolve people of responsibility for their actions. Making the leap from "possible" to "likely," journalists continually take complex scientific issues and boil them down to explanations that favor the dominant contemporary antinomian point of view.

Case in point: the Daily Telegraph—a basically conservative newspaper—reports on a Swedish study of more than 550 twins and their partners or spouses, which "looked at a protein in the body which responds to a chemical called vasopressin, which is central to human bonding. The scientists looked at DNA that flanks the vasopressin receptor."

They found the following:

[M]en with one version of the gene – called the "334" version, or allele – had low scores and were less likely to be married.

The wives of those who were married were also less satisfied with their marriage than women whose husbands did not have that genetic variant. Those with two copies of it were twice as likely to report having had a marital crisis in the past year, the team report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition, the story notes, other studies have suggested a genetic component to unfaithfulness:

Previous studies of twins suggest that both the tendency to be unfaithful and the likelihood of divorce are more likely to be inherited than major illnesses such as high blood pressure and cancer.

Even so, the story notes that the genetic component is not entirely predictive:

Mr Walum stressed that the gene could not be used to predict with any real accuracy how someone is likely to behave in a future relationship.

Nonetheless, the story strongly suggests that unfaithfulness is just something some people are stuck with, and the real solution is "the highly speculative possibility that scientists could one day develop drugs to target the gene in an attempt to prevent marriages from falling apart."

What is fascinating about this is the relentless and seemingly gleeful reduction of human beings to a pile of chemicals, as reporters and others embrace the idea that people have little choice in what they do. The notion that we make conscious choices is entirely absent from this story and a multitude of others such, as is any attention to the countless other chemicals in the body and mind that might have an effect on the characteristics studied here.

In addition, take a look at the graph above. If genetics are so important in rates of unfaithfulness and divorce, how can they vary so radically over so short a period of time? What massive genetic change overcame the population to cause a radical jump in divorce rates? Of course, the raw numbers don’t tell how happy or unhappy these people were in their marriages, but as I’ve noted earlier, divorce statistics match up very strongly with social and legal factors. Obviously, the genetic component is just that—a component—and clearly a rather small one.

The tendency to reduce the complexity of human behavior and motive to nil and to see people as hopelessly reactive to external stimuli and internal chemistry is a thoroughly deterministic and demoralized point of view. That so many people embrace it so wholeheartedly shows them as cowards who want to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

A society full of such people will be an awful place indeed.