There's a new book out, called "Sex at Dawn" in which the authors argue that human monogamy is just not natural. I have not read the book yet, because of TAE's Rule of Paperbacks (No book is good enough to justify paying for the hardcover version. Always wait for the paperback version).
The authors, of course, are using their combined years of biology and human evolutionary history...oh wait, neither of them are biologists. This isn't to say they aren't experienced in human sexuality, or that biology and evolution are completely unknown to them, just that a psychologist/author and an M.D./author are probably not the ultimate authorities on human sexual evolution.
But in the spirit of non-experts arguing things, I feel obligated to share my own opinion. The authors suggest that social monogamy but sexual infidelity might actually improve relations amongst couples. Pair this information with the fact that the authors are living together and one has to draw the conclusion that someone is unhappy with his/her sex life!
But in all seriousness, they do make an interesting point: many species of birds that are "monogamous" are only socially so; they parents work together to raise the babies...but the babies may not be the male birds' progeny. This implies that many of the monogamous species in the animal kingdom have built a system based on social monogamy, but sexual polygamy. I have two thoughts on this. The first is that given that birds are essentially long-evolved dinosaurs, you have almost 230 million years of evolution and over 5 million species of creatures without a single species evolving advanced enough intelligence to control fire. Compare that to humans. Second, how exactly are the authors going to convince their audience that raising someone else's children is a good idea? There are, seemingly unbeknownst to the authors, a myriad of peer-reviewed articles suggesting that children with step-parents do not succeed as well as children raised by their biological parents. And what exactly is the job of a parent bird? To bring food back to the nest at a frenetic pace for a few weeks? And then the baby birds climb out of the nest and fly away, having had zero training in life from their parents - its all hard-wired into them. Contrast that to human children, which require at minimum 14-16 years of sustenance, and require extensive post-partum training in order to survive on the planet.
TAE has argued often on this blog that human monogamy makes sense from a pre-civilization sense. Children of humans, which require years of sustenance and training, would do best when both parents are devoted to them. Monogamy assures a male that the protein-rich food he is bringing home is in fact helping his genetic future, while a female can better assure herself that her children will be fed with protein (essential for mental development) if she can guarantee the male human that the children he feeds are his own. If human males knew that their comrades are not sleeping with their mates behind their backs, the could build more trusting relationships and rely on each other in coordinated hunting efforts. They could build friendships and would be more willing to share tool-making techniques and hunting strategies. The intellectual capital would build when males trusted each other and worked together.
People make the mistake, so often, of forgetting that humans evolved before civilization did so. Applying biology to humanity is one thing...applying humanity to biology is another thing altogether.
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