The future of love and family. Are there more important things than love and family? I’m sure you will agree with me. Ever since I was a child, I dreamt

about having kids and being a mother. It sounds weird, but I was so eager to care that I used to practice it on my younger brothers.

When I was 19, I fell in love for the first time under the strong fluence of all those bonding hormones. After three years of being together, we got married. And two years later, we got divorced at the age of 28. During my PhD, I started to hear my biological clock ticking.

It’s the real one, not the one on the bench. And, uh, I decided I needed a break. So I, uh, traveled alone in India and Nepal, where, uh, I challenged all my fears and did rafting in one of Nepal’s most beautiful rivers, high on cortisol. I fell from the boat on the first rapid, and the water was very shallow, but I didn’t realize it.

And while I was saying my last words to God, I suddenly felt a strong hand fishing me out of the water. The hand was connected to a charming Nepali guy with the warmest, smiling eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. He saved my life, as far as I am concerned.

So two years later, we got married and brought to the world two gorgeous kids, and divorced six years later. Hi, my name is Liat. I’m a biologist, and I’m one of 200,000 single mothers in Israel. Every third couple in Israel filed for divorce, and every second couple in other western countries.

Since the 70s, divorce rate have soared globally and marriages are in decline. The number of single parent family increases every day. What happened to us? What happened to the happily ever after dream? Are we biologically programmed for everlasting love? What will be the future of love and family in light of these trends, and how will they transform our social structures?

These are very important questions that we must answer. We humans tend to apply a very human centric thinking towards life, unable to comprehend 4 billion years of evolutionary power that shaped everything that we are. And we didn’t invent love, we inherited it. And the answers to all those fascinating questions lies within our biology, and most specifically, in our genes.

Like all creatures on earth, we are reproduction machines. Machines designed blindly by the selfish molecules called genes to pass them on from generation to generation. As Richard docking so wisely put it, all the living creatures are programmed to maximize the genetic variation of their progeny. Machines by mating with several partners along their lifetimes.

So our genes are interested in staying here for hundreds of thousands of years, long after we all vanish to dust. So whatever maximizes the genes ought to survive years longer is strongly imprinted in our brains, this magnificent evolutionary product of 500 million years. So, from the genes perspective, monogamy is a disaster.

Why? To put all the eggs in one basket. That’s why 95% of all species on earth are polygamous or polygynous, which means males compete to fertilize as many females as possible, and females raises their offspring by themselves. This is the default strategy for reproduction on earth. Monogamy, in which one male bond form a stable pair bond with one female and together they raise their offspring, is extremely rare in nature.

Only 5% of mammals and many birds are monogamous.

Monogamy is dictated by the needs of the offspring that are shaped by the environment. We will find monogamy whenever conditions are harsh and many predators lurks around. If Daddy Barnall didn’t stay to take care of his eggs while mommy went to bring food, the chicks are doomed. So the monogamist father adapted to form a pair bond with the female and to behave maternally and raise their offspring.

How this adaptation is represented in the genes level. Is there a gene for monogamy? Is there a monogamy gene, and do we have this gene? In order to address this question, scientists have compared the genomes of monogamist and polygamist species of the same kind. They compare the genomes of the monogamist prairie vole to his cousin, the polygamist Mountain vole

Interestingly, a variation in the regulatory region of one gene makes all the difference and changes the brain structures of the monogamist vol and make it behave maternally. This gene encodes to, uh, the love hormone receptor. And the love hormone receptor will be more expressed, is more expressed in the brain of the monogamous prairie vol.

The love hormones, uh, oxytocin family are a group of hormones that are released from the ancient limbic emotional regions in our brain. They are released whenever we look in each other eyes, whenever we kiss, whenever we touch, whenever we hug, whenever we say to each other warm words, whenever we smile and laugh, and during intercourse and orgasms.

These hormones induce bonding and attachment between creatures, and they are amazingly conserved along evolution from worms to humans. We will find,

we will find the highest level of this hormone in the blood of a female in labor. This hormone will induce labor, breastfeeding and the maternal behavior to form the strong mother offspring attachment. Scientists from the Weizmann Institute have shown recently that these limbic regions that control maternal behavior are bigger in the brain of females than in the brain of males in mice, and that they are doubled during labor in order to increase maternal care and its rewarding effect in the brain of the mother.

That’s explained why we don’t just throw them away. Sometimes our kids

in the monogamous brain, the monogamous creature’s brain, the brain of the male, resembles the brain of the female. Daddy becomes more like mommy. And the big question is, what about us? Do human dads have this monogamy gene? So scientists from Sweden addressed this question and checked this conserved love hormone receptor in 500 male twin, uh, Swedish twin men.

They compared, uh, their genomes and interestingly, they find, ah, a difference in the regulatory, uh, region of the gene between males that were men that were scored high in relationship by their wives compared to men who were scored low in relationship. They also find a high variance between different men, which is very interesting.

This test is now available for $100. I must tell you that as a single woman geneticist, I no longer waste my time on endless dates. I just ask for saliva and blood samples. I run my tests. Ideally I would ask for brain section, but I assume it may cause problem later in the relationship.

So monogamy may hide in our genes, but it’s important to understand that monogamy in nature is not the happily ever after fairy tale that we have in mind. Since the 80s, dna parenthood test became more available and genetic testing of these creatures revealed a world of infidelity everywhere. For example, 25% of the litters of these lovely romantic priori vaults that stay all the time together.

He’s depressed when you take her from him. But anyway, the genetic testing revealed that 25% of the litter don’t share dna with their father. In pigeon, the number is 30% of the eggs don’t share DNA with the father. So a more careful look into these monogamous, monogamous creatures showed us that they stay together only through the breeding season, cheat from time to time when there is an opportunity and then separate.

This is called serial monogamy. Like per project partnership, only about twelve species out of 8 million on earth form long life pair bond. True love exists in 0.1% of species in nature. Most of them are birds, so the genes always win. Genetic variation rules. There is one important strong neuronal wiring the genes imprinted in our brain in order to verify these endless swinging between couples.

Uh, this is called, uh, the famous coolidge effect. This wiring in the brain make us experience more pleasure, more dopamine rush during orgasms with new partner and less pleasure during orgasms and intercourse with the same familiar partner. So the brain is more rewarded by novelty in sex. This is the gene’s power.

This is a very powerful wiring that lies at the roots of human infidelity are sexual fantasies and porn. Without it, you won’t recognize the Internet. Without this effect. This effect has been shown in male and female. But it is much stronger in males as it is enhanced by testosterone.

Why coolidge effect is stronger in the male and, uh, less strong in the female. Males are totally dependent on female to pass on their genes. And they can never be sure that their children are their own right. They don’t have this DNA testing. The gender struggle starts here in this, um, fact.

So in his inferior position, the male has two strategies, optional strategies in order to ensure the passing of his gene. One strategy is to spread his sperm m as much as possible. And while suppressing other males from doing so and dominating the females. The other option is to form one pair, bond with one female and guard every step she take.

And every male that tries to come near it calls mate guarding. So what is her, uh, strategy to choose the best genes. So for the benefit of the both of them, the most evolutionary stable strategy for both of them is the efficient one is polygamy, as we can see in nature.

So maybe we actually polygamist, it makes more sense. Like other primates and mammalians, indeed, our species has a long history of polygamy. You can open the Bible and look at it. And also a strong history of domination of women. And most of the world still practice polygamy and domination of women.


and, um. In the polygamist species, the competition between the male. In polygamy, the competition between the male create a unique social order that is called dominance hierarchy. Uh, scientists saw it from flies to mammalians, this, uh, uh, special social order. In this order, every individual tries to dominates the others.

And ah, all the individuals subordinate to the winners alpha or several alpha. Usually they are males and the winner takes it all the resources and the females. This is the reward of being an alpha. And scientists from the Weisman Institute recently show that male dominance hierarchy in mice is formed within 24 hours of chasing in the cage.

We also live in dominance hierarchy. We always lived. There are few winners in this game. And, uh, we have few higher ranked usually also males monopolize the group, our group resources. In the past, the monopoly, uh, included also the women. In the Inca society, the number of women a man was entitled by law, was correlated by his rank.

And you can see that the lowest rank, men were forced to have one women. So we see another form of monogamy, which is forced by hierarchy and not by the adaptation that we see before it were the roman emperors and their religious institutions. That spread this hierarchical form of monogamy in their colonies.

They did it in order to dismantle the power of the tribes and hamulas. And it became the tradition and continued to our time, protected by the religious and the elite institutions, and also by poverty.

But, uh, here today, during the 20th century, the scientific revolution, the rise of democracy, the prosperity and women liberation. Have slowly weakened the old hierarchy. Religion loses the grip, and biology steps in, and lifelong monogamy, we see it shatters. We see more serial monogamy, polyamory, and more open relationship starts to thrive.

We need to create new social institutions to support these changes. Social and economic institutions. Because our current outdated and archaic economic system. Still force pair bonds in order to prosper. Uh, it recognizes, uh, the pair bonded, the nuclear family, as the principal economic unit. Only pair bonded couples can provide their offspring more comfortably today.

And pair bond is still a precondition for the territory, for a house, for a roof, by the banking debt system. And single parents struggles in order to provide for the families. And many families collapse by divorce.

Uh, these economic pressures that starting to emerge. And combined with the transforming effect of technology on employment and job security. Enhance and accelerate the social unrest that rock the rocky, already rocky economic system. But we humans are master of imagination. Old system need to be replaced by new ones.

So I believe that we are on the verge of a paradigm shift in which we need to create new definitions, new definitions for work and money, and new definitions for family and love. But this time, this new innovative paradigm will be facilitated by the true engines of creations, the women.

In the near future, we will witness a massive movement of women. Into the once abandoned political and economical institutions in every country. These women will embed a female mindset to policy and decision making. And will reshape our social institutions. In the new paradigm, I believe that every member of society will be referred to as a separate economic unit entitled for the right, for a decent job, a roof, and education and security, regardless of his or her sexual or reproductive choices.

I believe that they will also change the fact that the hard work of creating, nurturing and sustaining life. Will be, uh, acknowledged as economic activity and be counted in state accounts. The old measures of nation’s growth will be replaced by new measures. That account also for the well being and the level of happiness of all people.

And not only the few. A true new world order that will lead to prosperity of all, not only for few. And what about love? What will happen to love? Will relationship never last? I believe it’s up to us. We are not prisoners of our genes. We need to understand, and we need to accept and realize our biology.

And when we accept it, we can learn these wirings and mechanisms of how love works and learn and teach ourself and our children how to form a stable pair bond. This is possible because we know love make us healthy. Love make us happy. Love make us. And it worth all the efforts.

I would like to conclude with the nice, uh, wise words of the Mahatma Gandhi. The day the power of love overrules the love of power, this world will know peace. Thank you very much.