Men are animals!

There are many, many things wrong with this pseudo-intellectual "argument" against gay marriage. I do not want to dwell on the utter lack of persuasiveness of this article, since others have already gone there. (Although, as a philosopher, I would like to point out the silliness of the author's claim that his four properties of marriage -- including the protection of female sexuality and the mark of the end of childhood -- are "marriage's 'a priori' because marriage is a part of the kinship system, and kinship depends on the protection, organization, and often the exploitation of female sexuality vis-à-vis males." If they were part of "marriage's a priori" we would be able to deduce them from the very concept of marriage. Clearly, we cannot, since we can imagine a case of marriage without such properties, as when two elderly widowed people marry. Also, if these were a priori deducible properties of marriage, he would not need to look to empirical evidence to make the case, yet he makes his case using historical examples.)

My main beef is a point he makes that I see not only among right-wing religious types, but also in supporters of evolutionary psychology of all political stripes. He claims (as do many others) that males, by nature, are not monogamous. It is culture which imposes an unnatural monogamy on the unwilling male of the species.

I am not at all opposed to evolutionary psychology or the idea that there is much about the way people are that is innate. Indeed, I'm sympathetic to this, and think EP can provide valuable insights. What I am opposed to is using EP to make silly blanket statements about human nature that do not fit the evidence. I am (full disclosure) not a male. As Freud didn't know what women want (and boy, I could tell him a thing or two), I don't really know what men want. I only have their words for it. I am also married, and have something of an interest in believing that my husband is not miserably trapped, chafing at the bit.

It certainly seems to me from what men do (as opposed to what men say) that they really really like sex a whole lot. Really really. It seems that men, even ones in committed relationships, frequently fantasize about sex with a large variety of women. It seems they frequently do very very stupid things in order to get sex, or even simply to be near someone attractive. It seems that quite often they violate their vows of monogamy. When divorce is permitted in a culture, it is relatively frequent. When polygamy is permitted, it is frequent. Where adultery is permitted, it is frequent. All this would seem to lend credence to the contention that men are naturally unmonogamous.

But there also seems to be evidence that males desire to marry, and not just because of cultural constrictions. 1) marriage of one form or another has been around in almost every culture, even though the vast majority of cultures are male-dominated. Why have males chosen to bond themselves to females again and again? They may bond to more than one woman, and they may cheat, but they still choose to bind themselves in this way, taking responsibility for another person. Why? 2) Male jealousy of the women with whom they bond seems just as primal and cross-cultural as a sex-drive. Why be jealous if you don't even want a bond? 3) In our culture, there is no real downside to remaining unmarried. One can usually still hold a job, have friends, get sex, have children, have familial acceptance if one is unmarried. If marriage is an unnatural state undesired by all men, and there is little social upside to marriage (besides the marriage itself) why would the vast majority get married (especially in a culture such as ours, which is less tolerant of males cheating than some other cultures have been)? It's unclear how many men in our culture cheat on their partners. I've heard anywhere from 22% to 60%. Let's say it's even higher, at 75%. That still means that there are a much greater number of men who marry and remain loyal to their wives than who choose a life of sexual freedom.

What it seems to me is that men have a primal, indeed a natural desire both to create a relationship bond, and to sleep with many, many people. I don't see why we should assume that the urge to marry is cultural (and therefore "unnatural") to men, given the points above. Male jealousy, we seem to be agreed, is to prevent men from spending resources on another man's child. But if your only concern is spreading your seed to as many people as possible, you don't seem all that vested in the care of your own children. If you are jealous of your mate, it means that paternal care matters, and then that the innate desire to marry makes sense - because you should insure the care of your children. Plenty of animals without our cultural constraints pair bond.

The two such urges men have, i.e., to bond and to mate widely, seem to be in conflict. Maybe we are imperfectly adapted, or perhaps men's schizophrenic views on relationships have proven to advance fitness, if not human happiness. But to simply state flat out that monogamy is unnatural, cultural hemming in of men's real desires, seems hasty.


  1. If you are jealous of your mate, it means paternal care matters[...]"No, it means that your genes don't want to spend effort raising other male's genes. The female is always certain her genes are present, so she has no reason to balk at providing her share of the enormous resources needed to raise her child. The male is never 100% certain (unless no other males are present on the island). The almost complete absence of polyandry in the wide range of human social organizations is telling. Men didn't evolve to spend effort on offspring that were not carrying their genes (although it is a laudable trait). Marriage is a social construct restricting sexual access of women to multiple partners. Steven Pinker has written about this topic, and I find him persuasive.

    Men's promiscuity results from our evolutionary history; a trivial amount of effort can radically increase the spread of a male's genes, so the urge to have lots of sex is an evolutionary plus. Sex is pleasurable for the same reason; humans who found sex a chore were outbred by humans whose genes coded for pleasurable sex.

  2. Why spend effort at all your own offspring, if it does not matter? Why marry or care for any of the caretakers of your children? If it does matter, then spreading the seed around is not males' only priority.

  3. I'm not saying they don't want to sleep around. I'm saying they also seem to want something else.

  4. I didn't claim that spending effort on your offsspring doesn't matter. Humans are born helpless and remain a huge resource suck for years. Someone has to spend the effort on them. Parents have an interest in their genetic offspring because we are the result of hundreds of thousands of years of selection; genes that build brains which focus on genetic offspring more than the group offspring survive the tough times. Family relations are genetic ones normally, so uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins all have a genetic interest in family survival and naturally tend to favor genetically related children. Human nature was shaped by which genes survived when the going was tough. This is another reason why marriage is such a powerful social bond -- it normally creates a genetic link, via the offspring, between two groups. This is why arranged marriages between powerful leader-families has been around as long as modern humans have existed.

    So, caring for your female partner is an evolutionary plus, but so is getting the cuckold husband to care for your genetic offspring. The trick, which evolution does automatically, is to balance the opposing forces.

    So, yes, men want contradictory things; exclusive sexual access to (at least) one partner, and hidden sexual access to the partners of other men who will raise any offspring. As in all human qualities, the drives appear in different strengths in men. Too much Don Juan-ish genes will result in social rejection (not good for offspring). But no wandering eye is at a slight disadvantage, genetically speaking, to the guy who has the rare fling. Thus does Mama Nature shape human behavior.

  5. Nowhere in these postings is there evidence that Man has a brain, and (gasp) feelings, including such ones as love and empathy. I am married, have 3 children, but will never cheat on my wife, and it is not only because I don't want to hurt my wife but because I also have no desire to hurt myself. Yes, there are animalistic men like John, who view children as a resource suck (pray to God he has no children), but as for myself I simply have no desire to risk falling in love with another woman, and worse impregnating her and going on my merry way, whatever supposed evolutionary advantages he imagines it possesses.

    Placing impulse above consideration towards consequences of actions is simply a sign of immaturity as a human being, harkening back to the actions of bygone days is simply to give an excuse to not feel guilt or regret. Responsibilty, love, a desire to be good, these are not outlandish notions.

    Again John, nice bubble gum thinking, try getting out in the world. I lived on the island of Pohnpei in the South Pacific in what you would consider a primative society. I have seen people who are far more closely allied with what you would consider a natural state. Guess what, I found that people pretty much are the same everywhere, (I have also lived in Asia, Latin America, the US and Europe) that there is a far more powerful impulse than the sexual one, one that you did not even consider, that is the desire to love and be loved, and to break the essential isolation of our existence. Try getting out of your mothers basement and learning what humanity is really like.


  6. One last twist of the knife into the pretentious twaddle that is John, Children are not resource sucks, and are not viewed that way not even in primitive societies. It is only in modern postindustrial societies where the expenses outweigh the benefits, that coupled with reduced infant mortality has led to a dramatic drop in the amount of children people have. They were viewed, to some degree, as resources to be exploited, working on the farm, taking care of the parents in the old age, elemental aspects of survival which supercede the impulse to spread genes. On Pohnpei it was common for there to be adoption across blood lines. To state there is something inherent in our nature that comes from our monkey brains which overwhelms our other faculties is simply childish.

    I also found the phrase hundreds of thousands of years of evolution amusing(what, you mean we were not created 4004 BC?). I dunno John, but evolution has been going on for more than hundreds of thousands of years. Try picking up a textbook sometime, or easier for you, just wiki it. I should really stop this, picking on John is liking taking candy from a baby.


  7. Hi charo. I regret you had difficulty reading my post with comprehension. I'll try to be more clear, but you need to read what I write, not what you imagine I'm writing.

    I don't dispute that humans have brains, and that our conscious self can override our subconscious. However, the subconscious influences our behavior in profound ways. I'll refer you to Steven Pinker's writings (I find them interesting) on evolutionary phychology. And I'll simply observe that we do in fact see humans fail to live up to the lofty standards that you espouse, and that sex snares even the best of us, and this has been going on for a very long time (the Bible addresses these primitive urges, for example). Dr. Pinker's views are a better explanation of the human condition than yours, for you do not explain how our weaknesses came to be and why they are universal.

    And, I'll note that children are indeed a resource suck. If yours aren't, someone needs to report you to the Child's Advocacy Agency in your State.

  8. john, we are talking about how evolutionary psychology manifested itself throughout society, it is only the past generation that children have become a "resource suck" as you so insanely refer it, which is simply not enough time to have an impact on our own evolution.

    As to the rest, I am simply observing that you are a truly pretentious writer. To think we can resolve issues such as how evolution has affected human development in a few trite paragraphs is utterly laughable, I simply brought it to the personal level. Really, did you even read what you wrote? It is trite and simple minded (as it would be if you try to analyse millions of years of evolution in a few paragraphs).

    Do you really want me to utterly destroy your banal and often incorrect postings?

    I will take just your initial sentence to show you complete vapidity:

    Humans are born helpless (wow, what an amazing observation Sherlock) and remain a huge resource suck for years (beyond my already destroying the logic, it is also a horrendously composed sentence). Someone has to spend the effort on them. (again, what an utterly trite and obvious statement, you mean we can't just hang them up in the closet)

    And you go on without a single interesting or orignal thought. I am starting to think you have no passed the Toring test but are nothing more than a computer algorithm composed by second rate College republicans.

    Of course humanity fails to live up to ideals, that is why we have ideals in the first place, and why things like the Bible were written, so that as a species we can overcome our own primitive nature, but ascribing everything to pre-programmed evolutionary biology is just too limited for my tastes.

    Now we could also go on to debate tons of aspects regarding evolutionary psychology, for instance do we share more common traits with Chimpanzees or Bonobos? How has the prevalence of Chimpanzee research influenced our own take on evolutionary psychology as opposed to research on the far less common Bonobos? But of course you never chose to write something that was in any way interesting.

    Be honest, is not that question a tad more original than all of this blatherskite? (and I include myself in it just as much). The only remotely interesting question and observation is the one I just posed above. But I truly believe you have nothing interesting to add to that type of discussion, and I have long ago come to my own conclusions on this matter.


  9. First, the name you are looking for is "Turing," as in Alan Turing.

    Second, humans diverged from the common ancestor of the bonobo and chimpanzee about seven million years ago. Bonobos and chimpanzee diverged from a common ancestor about 3 million years ago. We are genetically the same distance from bonobos and chimpanzees as they had not yet evolved from their common ancestor at the time humans diverged to a different evolutionary path. If you are curious, read Jared Diamond's "Teh Third Chimpanzee" for the details.

  10. I have one spelling mistake so crucify me, did I nail you for youm mispelling of pyschology?
    You have zero rebuttal, nothing. Why don't you even try? The freaking point about Bonobos and Chimps is that many early evolutionary psychologists were heavily influenced by Chimpanzee research. Much of the crap you wrote above is based on that old line of thinking, I am not saying it is catergorically wrong, just that it is both boring and not definitive. And please, don't throw out famous names that you just wikied. It is not like Guns, germs, and steel is not mandatory reading in many college curriculums.

    Now I will explain it to you like I am talking to a 10 year old, maybe then it might sink in. The crap you wrote above is in no way relevant to Bonobos. And since at least you are aware that we share a common ancestor (I am almost shocked you are not a creationist) you should know that evolutionary psychologists examine traits we share in common with our nearest genetic relatives. A question has arisen as to how much bias has chimp research influenced evolutionary thought. Your simple minded posts above shows exactly that stale kind of thought.
    But you have no rebuttal to this, instead you will just throw out some other name you will wiki now, and some other irrelevant fact not germane. 3 million, 7 million years? That is a rebuttal? When it not the argument, the argument is how has it influenced our behavior. Next you will write the earth goes around the sun.

    This is useless. I don't think you have the capacity to understand, the willingness to learn, or the ability to admit you are wrong (as I did by copping to my spelling error)


  11. oh and I just misspelled psychology myself in the first sentence. I do this because I know you are snotnosed enough to mention it. Oh it is Turing not Toring (like I am thinking of enough person? good lord are you a tool). If everyone knows who you are referring to, let us say I spell it Einstien by mistake, the polite thing is not to say, Oh you mean Einstein as in Albert Einstein (aren't I clever?) No, you are just a tool. Oh and you spelled the wrong in The third chimpanzee, ha ha (I am mocking you for your correction, obviously I know it is a simple spelling mistake, but again I have to repeat it like you are a ten year old)


  12. I answered your question about chimpanzees. Humans diverged from the ancestor of common and pigmy chimps about 4 million years before the common and pigmy chimps speciated. Ergo, we are equidistant from both species in an evolutionary sense. Dr. Diamond gives the background to this result in TTC.

    Two hints. Try the decaf, it is just as tasty. And verbing weirds language.