Why are we in love with not being in love?
It feels like it has not been many years since I used to read something in science and think, “So what?  I knew that.”  Now I tend to think, “Hooray.  They haven’t changed that one yet.  This is such a case.

A grave spoken professor at Harvard Medical School once mentioned that the likelihood of a heart attack during sex was greater if the encounter was adulterous.  He went on, “That’s not because the pleasure is so intense.  When you talk to one who survives, he’ll tell you that he (Women didn’t smoke much in those days and heart attacks were pretty much a male problem.) was feeling so guilty he couldn’t think of anything else.” 

It’s still true.  (Rebecca Coffey Some Like it Too Hot SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 307 no. 1 July 2012 page 23)  And guilt seems to be the big factor.

Here is this guy engaged in adulterous sex and he feels bad about it.  Nature says, “You’re having sex with the wrong woman,” and may back it up by killing him.

One still reads that as far as evolution is concerned, there is no such thing as a wrong woman to have sex with.  The male is spreading his genes essentially at no cost.  The cost will be born by the woman if she gets pregnant.  But the guilt is there, and evolution had to put it there for a reason.

From out perspective, it’s pretty obvious.  Normal fertility requires optimal outbreeding; the mate should not be closer than first cousin nor more distant than about seventh cousin.  That lesson has had time to sink in the world over.  Yes, there is such a thing as a wrong mate.  In fact ones choices of right mates is extremely limited.  But this most crucial of all facts remains unknown and mostly ignored by those who know.

That’s not the first time.  Several years ago it was pointed out that primates, us, monkeys, lemurs, apes and so forth can be divided into two groups.  Some species are habitually promiscuous.  Some are habitually loyal.  The species that are promiscuous have strong immune systems.  The loyal ones have weak ones.  The cause seems pretty clear.  If one is going to be loyal, one does not need so strong an immune system as one would employing a strategy of promiscuity.  The resources can be used elsewhere. 

Humans have the weak immune system of faithful primates.  All those promiscuous ones have died out so consistently that we have not evolved the immune system that would support the behavior.  In the big picture it is the promiscuous ones that are the losers from a biological perspective as well as most other issues you care to bring it. 

That notion didn’t exactly go viral.  In fact, the title, if memory serves, was “An Advantage of Promiscuity.” Even the writer of the title just could not understand the implications. 

So there is ample scientific evidence that we all need to keep our pants up except under very specific circumstances.  But we continue to act, and indeed to believe, that the opposite is true.

If this were simply ignorance, then the first person you told it two would immediately grin, “Ahah.  I see.  I’ll tell everybody I know.”  Instead the usual response is silent hostility.  Something in our brains seems to be sabotaging us.  And it is something that evolution has put there.  Does that mean that as far as nature is concerned we are a write off?  If you have an alternative idea, do let me know.

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