Please, Do Not Send Your Spit to This DNA Dating App

Online dating is largely a succession of misery and humiliation, which is why so many of us are willing to pay an algorithm to find us the perfect match. The newest entré to the arena of apps that promise to help you find love: Pheramor, a Houston-based startup that claims to use DNA as the basis for its matchmaking algorithm. Simply swab your cheek with a Q-tip and—voila!—Pheramor’s app will populate with a cadre of genetically optimized potential Mr. or Mrs. Rights.

“We use your attraction genes to determine who you are attracted to and who is attracted to you, right in your new dating app!” the company website claims. All for just $16, plus a monthly membership fee!

Online dating companies have long survived on peddling the pseudoscientific, claiming to boil the mystery of romance down to a numbers game. The algorithms for matching at dating websites are mostly smoke and mirrors. So is the science behind a growing number of DNA tests claiming to intuit things like your favorite wine or your child’s soccer abilities. It was only a matter of time before these two worlds merged.

“I don’t think there is any evidence that shows that this kind of DNA matching can lead better relationships. Indeed, this is a great example of a very complex—and culturally mediated—human behavior that can’t be reduced to genetics,” Tim Caufield, a bioethicist and research director at University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute, told me.