Is Human Monogamy Genetic?
Jack Herrera

03 May 2017

A few months ago, I wrote a story about a philosopher defending (and engaging in) "polyamorous relationships"—romantic relationships with multiple partners. The philosopher, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, argued that much of the stigma regarding polyamorous relationships stemmed from obsolete and stifling social standards. 

Recently, I saw a study out of Harvard that suggests humans are "genetically programmed" towards monogamy to ensure that offspring are cared for. I'm always dubious of drawing conclusions from single studies (this one used mice, not people, as subjects), and I'm especially wary of anyone who uses the phrase "genetically programmed."

Nonetheless, reading the study made me want to ask the question: if humans really are naturally inclined toward monogamy, does that have any bearing on the ethics of cheating in a relationship? Or, to phrase the question another way: does our concept of right and wrong require an understanding of human nature (or at least tendencies)? 

Read the original blog post here:

And read about the new study here:

Comments (1)

agamman's picture


Wednesday, May 3, 2017 -- 2:10 PM

I tend to have the philosophy

I tend to have the philosophy of nonmonogamy in the sense that people should be able to make the choice of monogamy or polyamory if works for them and they can build a responsible lifestyle around it. I don't think one or the other necessarily works for everyone. I live a monogamous relationship, but don't think we should require everyone to do so if they choose to get married. If you have children, I also think that has its own implications about taking care of your offspring.