Monogamy and evolution?


s_lone
#1
Are human beings slowly evolving towards monogamy?

Or not at all?
 
hermanntrude
#2
good question.

Start a survey, and then sell it to a newspaper
 
Twila
#3
Start a survey? hell you could get funding from the gov't to pay for your time and expenses!
 
s_lone
#4
Let me ask the question otherwise.

From a zoological point of view, are humans monogamous or polyganous?
 
triedit
#5
How do you define monogamy? If it is one mate for life, then no, humans are not monogamous. Most people have had more than one partner in thier lives.
 
s_lone
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by triedit View Post

How do you define monogamy? If it is one mate for life, then no, humans are not monogamous. Most people have had more than one partner in thier lives.

I define monogamy as having only one partner at a time.
 
gopher
#7
Polygyny forever!!

Isaiah 4:1
 
triedit
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by s_lone View Post

I define monogamy as having only one partner at a time.

Then yes, I would say that we are by necessity evolving toward that...or maybe devolving....Were ancient peoples polygamists?
 
s_lone
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by triedit View Post

Then yes, I would say that we are by necessity evolving toward that...or maybe devolving....Were ancient peoples polygamists?

I'm not sure, but I'd bet that they were more polygamists than monogamists... I guess it depended on your social status... Attractiveness, health, wealth... I guess men who had all these didn't limit themselves to one woman... I don't know about wealthy, attractive and healthy women... hard to say...
 
triedit
#10
Ok so before we can actually consider this theory, we have to know the starting point. Since we're talking evollution of a species, we could logically set the starting point at neanderthals, right?

Ok so anybody on CC got any info on the breeding habits of neanderthals?
 
s_lone
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by triedit View Post

Ok so before we can actually consider this theory, we have to know the starting point. Since we're talking evollution of a species, we could logically set the starting point at neanderthals, right?

Ok so anybody on CC got any info on the breeding habits of neanderthals?

Here's what my Neandertal friend has to say...

Ooga oog oog!!!

translation:

I like to ****!!!!!
 
Dreadful Nonsense
#12
yeah like i need nagging in stereo...or quadraphonic....
 
Dexter Sinister
#13
A very interesting question s_lone, one I've thought and read about a lot without coming to any definitive conclusions. So have a lot of evolutionary biologists, and they know a lot more about it than I do, so I'm not sure I'm entitled to offer any opinions. But you know me, of course I have some.

Consider just the bald facts of human reproduction: a pregnant woman has a significant investment in energy and material in the child she's carrying, far more than the father does. His biologically required role, at least superficially, is limited to a little squirt at the beginning, her role knocks her out of the evolutionary sweepstakes for several years until she carries the child to term, nurses it, and gets it to a relatively independent state, and in the meantime the father can be spreading his genes to dozens of other women. It's also trivially true that a man can sire far more offspring than any single woman could produce in a lifetime, so if it's true that the measure of evolutionary success is how many copies of your genetic material you can pass on to the next generation, it would seem that the optimum reproductive strategies for men and women would be very different. Men: screw everybody in sight; women: screw one very successful and dominant man and somehow bind him to you. There seems to be some truth in that. Male infidelity in marriage has historically been viewed much less judgmentally than female infidelity, and women do seem to be drawn more to visibly successful men. Henry Kissinger never had trouble dating beautiful and glamorous women, despite being singularly ugly, I presume because he was successful and powerful.

But if it were that simple, the ratio of males to females would very different than it is. There'd be something like one male to several dozen females if that's all evolution was operating on, but the sex ratios are pretty close to 1:1, so there must be something else going on. Somehow the long term survival of children must depend on the males hanging around for a while to protect and support them and their mothers. That makes sense, newborn humans are pretty helpless and their mothers will be pretty busy doing the things like nursing that only females can do, and a father certainly has some interest in ensuring that the genetic material he spreads around survives long enough to reproduce as well. That would also explain why, in most mammalian species at least, the males are generally physically bigger and stronger than the females.

A complex and subtle question with many layers, s_lone, kudos to you for asking it, and I'll be very interested to read other people's thoughts on it.
 
Niflmir
#14
Ask the question, "Is love simply sex?" and most people will answer in the negative, yet the surest way to destroy a relationship is to go out and have sex with someone else. To me that is a sign of cognitive dissonance with regards to love, relationships and sex.

The rising levels of divorces are a sign that people are frequently unhappy with marriage and are nowadays in the position to choose otherwise. There are many examples throughout history of polygamy, but it fell off with the rise of Christianity in Europe and the dominance of North and South America by Europe. Now, as secularism rises people feel free to voice their displeasure with marriage and seek satisfaction outside of culturally accepted version of it.

The persistence of extramarital affairs is another sign of the unnaturalness of marriage for many people. After promising to have a relationship to "the exclusion of all others" these people stick with the marriage on paper even as they break away from marriage in the contractual sense. There are services devoted to hooking people up for this sort of... adventure.

Based on these observations, it is my opinion that our tendency towards monogamy is nothing more than our cultural conditioning. It is slowly falling away as people embrace secular values where monogamy is not granted a privileged position. However, we still have the vestiges of our conditioning that result in hurt feelings due to presumed sleights associated with polygamous behavior.

So I think we are actually coming out of a period of religion inflicted monogamy but that it is taking a long time to shake it loose due to the lack of an appropriate model for polygamous behavior.
 
Dexter Sinister
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by Niflmir View Post

Based on these observations, it is my opinion that our tendency towards monogamy is nothing more than our cultural conditioning.

Um... yes, I'm inclined to agree, with some reservations. My observation of assorted relationships is that the biologically conditioned period of monogamy is about the length of time it takes to produce a child and raise it to a state of relative independence, about 5 to 7 years. For a marital relationship to survive longer than that requires something else, like being best friends too. I'm certainly aware that I'm not instinctively monogamous, I still at 58 years old look at other women and feel certain stirrings, and I expect to be doing that until they bury me. But it doesn't mean I'm going to do anything about those feelings either, I made a choice and a commitment 30 years ago and I still like my wife and want to be with her, she can still make me laugh like nobody else I've ever known and she's the best friend I've ever had, no contest.

Maybe I just got lucky...
 
Ten Packs
#16
Monogamy and Love are like comparing apples and walnuts... they both share a similar origin, but that's all. Love is so much more.
You can have either without the other, but it is a very empty existance.

Monagamy only serves to prove that some men are incapable of appreciating anything beyond Power-Tools and Steel-Belted Radials....
if only in their minds.
 
Niflmir
#17
Yeah, those are some good reservations Dex. I hope things work out that well for me and my wife. At least we have talked about this sort of thing before and are both on the same page about it.
 
s_lone
#18
I'm really not quite sure what to think about all this.

I was raised as a Christian and while I dumped most of the dogma associated with christianity, the view that the ideal way to spend your life is to find THE right partner for you and stick to him or her is very much impregnated in my mind.

From an evolutionary point of view, I tend to think the traditional family model is a good one for the future of humanity, but the social erosion of this model we've been witnessing for the last 50 years or so makes me doubt...

As Niflmir pointed out, a good part of monogamous culture is due to the very strong historical influence of Judeo-Christian culture. But if my partner cheats on me, is it really only cultural conditioning that would put me in a state of distress? With all the STDs running around and especially with AIDS, knowing that my partner will be faithful can actually be a question of life or death... Faithful monogamous relationships are the best way to protect yourselves against STDs while still being sexually active. So I wonder if we have an instinct for faithfullness that simply has a role of protecting health....??? But that instinct would conflict with the urge to spread your genes as much as possible...

I'm confused...
 
Niflmir
#19
But if you trust your partner, you trust them not to be careless in such a way that they put your life in danger. Also, I would point out that faithfully only having relations with virgins is safer than having relations with only one person at a time. Of course, the real danger in Canada is from intravenous drug usage, which rules all of that out anyways. :S

It really is a confusing situation, which is why I called it cognitive dissonance.
 
karrie
#20
I'd say humans are definitely evolving away from monogamy s_lone.

But, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I know plenty of good marriages that aren't monogamous (depending how you define it).

It's possible to have a strong family unit, while not being monogamous to one another. I think a lot of break down in the trust and unity of a marriage comes when people aren't honest with each other about those distinctions. Someone also mentioned monogamy being a matter of life and death... but I'd hazard to say that honesty, openness, and the intelligence to practice safe sex are much more important than monogamy. Too often a starved person doesn't take time to think about the consequences of sating their hunger.
 

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