Sunday, April 13, 2008

Monogamy Demystified

My previous post would form the proper context for this post, however for the googlers and other curious people who ended up here, the question I am trying to answer is simply:
...why monogamy?

Our ancestors (the evolutionary one, not social one) were primates. Primates, even today indulge in polygamy. Hence its not surprising if I told you polygamy is practised in some human cultures in one form or the other. So this means polygamy was a good part of our evolution. 

Then why is it not as popular today like it was before...?

Right now I believe monogamy is more of a social construct rather than pure natural evolution. In other words I say it is social evolution. It kind of forms the basis for humans to be able to live in a society. There could have been a time, in the nomadic or in the agrarian days, where the males actually decided to invest in reproduction.

Investing is good thing for the offspring. There is more guarantee that the offspring can reach adulthood; by then he or she would have also learned necessary skills to go about life. The group of people had an idea of the skills they needed to impart to the next generation. So on one part it was about training the generation.

There was another socio-evolutionary aspect of this kind of investment. It was that the group needed more of these trained generation to advance their society. Indirectly, we can conclude that the law of survival is still obeyed. And so is the gene expansion program being obeyed in a restricted sense. These two factors could have led to the group's survival.

The males didn't have to fight wars over trying to possess a female anymore. This meant fewer injuries. Plus, their investment into parenting, training the child, etc play an important process in social evolution.

From the reasons I've stated here I believe monogamy is about being able to live in a society. Monogamy gets all the advantage of a nuclear family too. But one should not think that monogamy was the definite reason why the society is a lot stable today than erstwhile. In fact we have no proof that monogamy really leads to a stable peaceful society. But considering the graph so far I think this is what it appears to “be”. But don't be deceived.

But we still see violence happening in society due to many reasons. Tensions of war, crime, etc all plague society. Monogamy has done its part, and is probably still doing it. These problems are rather lack of resources to counter the rising human population. Imagine those little fights we had over a territory or a person, or on anything you are very much dependent on. The only difference is that they are now on mass scale.

Update (12th Sep 2013) : added some bundles about monogamy -

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The institution of marriage, and monogamy...

I certainly don't want my marriage prospects don't go down because I am writing all of this...

In fact I was only wondering about the term. I always thought that an institution was a place of study. Well guess what! That is not the true meaning. It is an organization with a specific goal. To me it means something has happened a long time ago. Some society's thought process changed, I don't know why this happened, or what was their inference. I don't even know what society “that” be specific. But however the idea of marriage is not unique to any one culture or society. I know it shows some idea with relevance to the human civilization but I don't know what it is or how to explain it.

I looked at the word institution (an organization with a specific purpose) and marriage, and asked myself, what the hell is the purpose of marriage. Being an ideologist of the so non-popular idea of survival, I knew this fact was obvious. But it is not merely survival this “organization” is up to. It is also about mutual survival. Concepts like altruism, family, etc enter the scene here, but I don't really intend to discuss them at this point. If you study this particular phenomenon (marriage) it is about the unit (called a family) that procreates, supports itself and its offspring. In this unit there is always a male and a female; both are adults and are fertile enough to produce offspring.

In most of the cultures the idea here is that both the male and the female “agree” to living like this. They enter a monogamous relationship or sort of sign a contract for it. This has nothing to do with their natural way of being (primitive) human beings, but it denotes a change in some sociological aspect. I don't know what that is or how to explain that. I also believe that this may have some evolutionary psychological backing. However the eternal question still is open...why was polygamy dropped and why is monogamy deemed to be a prominent phenomenon these days?

Monogamy is not monogamy in a true sense

Most of the human cultures around the world 'force' its people to have a monogamous relationship. I say “force” because it is against our normal evolutionary psychology. We were designed to be polygamous. However saying this does not mean I encourage polygamy. On the contrary I rather want to encourage the curiosity behind why monogamy is gaining momentum at present and polygamy is not...? Surely it must let us know the inherent problems with polygamy.

If monogamy was the basic rule of natural human life then some things don't get explained that easily. Like for e.g. in almost all civilized modern cultures we have a system of marriage where in a male and female vow to live with each other. Mostly this is something legal and the event is a public one. As far as the role of evolution is concerned between the two, both of them should mate, have children, support themselves as well as the children.

If everything was fine then we can assume that there is no upper limit to how much times the female can give birth provided her maturity and health are capable of doing so – i.e. producing offspring. Assume that there is also no upper limit as to how many times the male can impregnate the female, provided the same rule for health and maturity follow. If it is a strictly monogamous society we are talking about we see that, for e.g., if the male dies due to some unexpected reason, the female is still very much very much fertile to produce offspring.

But fortunately, some modern societies “do” allow her to satisfy her evolutionary role. However the focus in not on the society which allows her, or why that society thinks that way; it is about the idea of leading a truly monogamous life being corrupted or not followed. Because a truly monogamous life we would not choose to mate with any other prospective partner. But there are a lot of prospective partners out there, and if we did mate with them we could have made successful children too...! not monogamy in a true sense. However the principle fact of monogamy is still preserved. We only mate with one partner and maintain one intimate relationship. This is called serial monogamy.

I know that the institution of marriage has something to do with monogamy these days. But I still haven't actually figured out the monogamy part. I have set a discussion over at You can visit the thread by visiting this link.