The concept “love at first sight” is almost completely psychological in terms of defining what we mean by “love,” and the other side of the debate is more likely based on “lust” at first sight in terms of the genetic compulsion to find a mate and breed. It is vitally important to avoid confusing the behaviors of goats, or fruit flies, with the cultural preferences of human beings.
Almost all creatures seem to have the instinct for reproduction, ensuring the survival of the species and attempting to successfully project their DNA into the gene pool. Very basically, then, any sexually receptive female becomes a potential mate for any capable male. But, as usual, this becomes incredibly complicated for humans.
First, women can be sexually receptive even when not in estrous, that is, specifically fertile. Second, men are very nearly always capable of arousal, within a range of opportunities. Third, women’s gestation of about 37 to 42 weeks produces relatively well developed infants (as with all primates), yet, fourth, children require very long timespans of up to eight, nine or ten years for training and enculturation. For men, then, to guarantee the survival of their offspring, fifth, it became necessary to change from random, “catch-as-catch-can” mating to some systematic form of long-term support to guarantee that the offspring lived long enough to breed. As a result, the “lust at first sight” idea became noticeably less than successful as a method for an individual man to project his DNA into the future of the species. Even if a band, clan or tribe made a general commitment to care for the young, it was risky for any specific man to rely on the group to take care of his progeny over a long period of time. Sixth, men and women began to pair, mate and bond in order to be more certain that their young made it into the future. Seventh, success was presumed to arrive with grandchildren. For the women, having pair-bonded males to be supportive during the second half of pregnancy and, after childbirth, to provide food, defense and help with training became a reasonable trade-off against the excitement of “love at first sight.”
Even so, humans seem to have retained that tendency for the wandering eye and random couplings if the opportunity occurs. Most cultures have tried to establish strong taboos against promiscuous behavior, but the urge to procreate often tends to predominate. And it may be that the observation of promiscuous behavior by some men and women keeps the notion of “love at first sight” an on-going subject of debate.
However, there are a couple of contrary “facts” that work against that powerful desire to act on an instant attraction. It seems as if the very psychological, mostly in the mind, preferences for fidelity and romantic love between humans almost always over-ride the attraction of the moment. Scientific professionals have generated considerable research on these human behaviors, as explained in “The Rules of Attraction” at livescience.com in the health section. Elsewhere, Live Science reports that there is a selection factor in which female fruit flies respond more positively to males that are very genetically different, but it is an extremely long stretch from insects to mammals to primates to humans for this research article to be applicable.
Some arithmetic and statistics can also be instructive in this debate. With six billion humans on Earth, even if only one percent of them experienced some form of instant “love at first sight” that became long-lasting relationships, that would be 60 million stories to tell that could reverberate throughout the noosphere (realm of human consciousness) and influence people’s opinions about such an otherwise unlikely happenstance. And that would not make the concept genetic. It only makes it possible and plausible. Such is the stuff, however, of which romantic fables are made.