Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Evolutionary Biology Valentine's Day Poem

I suppose it is inevitable, on Valentine's Day, that we will see scores of stories of "what love is", citing one branch of science or another, or forgoing the science to bring out the poets. It always bothers me, though, to see some neurotransmitter named as the "cause" of this or that sensation, because it is only a cause in a very narrow proximate fashion. Simply put, neurotransmitter action is not why we feel love, but (at best) how we feel love. We still have to ask "well, why is that particular neurotransmitter released in the presence of my One True Love? What is so special about this person?

In sociobiology,
Why I love you and you love me—
Which anyone can plainly see—
Is mostly in our genes.
No, not the ones you buy in stores,
But what a scientist explores--
I like the way you look in yours,
And you know what that means.

What subtly-coded stimulus
Takes you and me, and makes us “us
And makes us feel ‘twas ever thus?
The list of suspects narrows.
No longer are we all a-shiver
From some Cupid with a quiver
Out of which he might deliver
Fusillades of Eros.

Nor Dopamine, nor Serotonin
Tell us why our hearts are moanin’
Though they serve to help us hone in
On–not why, but how;
The parasympathetic blush,
Adrenaline to bring a rush,
Are how, not why, I’ve got a crush
On you, my darling, now.

But if old Charles Darwin’s right,
The reason that the merest sight
Of you will always give delight
Is…reproductive fitness.
Throughout our species’ family tree,
Producing proper progeny
Is what determined you and me
And Darwin was the witness.

Is thinking that you’re oh so sweet
And how you’ll make my life complete
Some trick to make our gametes meet?
It seems it may be so.
I feel the way I feel today
Because some bit of DNA
Sees your genetics on display
And wants to say “hello.”

But think of this, for what it’s worth:
Millennia before my birth
That DNA had roamed the earth,
In residents thereof;
The neat thing is, it’s really true,
The feeling that I have for you
Although, of course, it feels brand-new
Is truly ageless love.


Anonymous said...

OMG, I absolutely love that poem! It is so original and I have never heard a love poem told like that in a sort of evolutionary sort of way. I would love to be able to add this poem to my website, and of course give you credit for the poem which is explained on my site. Good Job!

Cuttlefish said...

Wow! Gee, thanks! Feel free--let me know when it is up, so I can see what you have written!!

Buntifer Green said...

I also feel the need to say how much I like this poem - I think it's fantastic. I cam across it looking for scientific things about love - I'm getting married in December and am looking for speech inspiration. With your permission I think I might like to use the poem as part of my speech...

Would that be ok? (I'll credit you!)

Cuttlefish said...

I would be deeply honored!!

And of course, congratulations!

Stacy S. said...

Congrats on Open Lab 2008!

Cuttlefish said...

Thank you, Stacy!

I must admit, this is one of my favorites; I was hoping that something of mine would be chosen, but I was really hoping that this one would be chosen!

Stacy S. said...

I'm glad they picked the one you wanted. :-)

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful poem.

Unknown said...

valentines poems