When the first human tribe incorporated the idea of monogamous marriage into their belief system, it gave them advantage over their less-sophisticated brethren, though this came at quite a cost. Here’s how I see the pros and cons of monogamy:
- Male Investment. Lots of male investment. The eighty-percent of the male population that was previously sitting on its hands suddenly had something to invest in: a mate, and children that were theirs. This was huge.
- With this extra labor helping to feed their kids, women could space their births much closer together, easily having at least twice as many children.
- It allowed men to invest in their children’s future. They could build a house for them. A village. A city. A nation.
- It took away a lot of the overhead costs of competing for a mate: instead of being a constant battle, it was one that only had to be fought once. This freed up a lot of human capital to do more productive things.
- It is dysgenic. A lot of the less-fit male genes that would previously have been ejected from the gene-pool were now retained.
- It creates internal conflict. Monogamy requires many people to act in ways counter to their instincts, and often even counter to their individual success. This is especially true of women, whose instincts tell them to seek out the fittest men to father their children. Monogamy and assortative mating will force them to settle for someone more nearly as fit as themselves. That’s great for a highly-fit woman, but an average woman mated to an average man will now have slightly-below-average children. A very-low-fitness woman might have little chance of producing a competitive child unless she can mate with a very fit male. Monogamy pairs her up with her fellow dregs, and her children (if any) are likely to prove worthless. This conflict between beliefs and instincts causes a lot of unhappiness.
- Oppression. To keep women from defecting from monogamy, and make them more satisfied with their lot, it is very helpful to keep their status extremely low, equivalent to that of pets. If women are low-status, and men are high-status, then women’s instincts won’t give them nearly as much trouble, since they will feel they have a superior mate even though it isn’t true from a fitness perspective.
- Stratification of Society. Before monogamy, all the children were descended from the fittest males. This tended to give the whole tribe a high and uniform fitness level. With monogamy, and assortative mating, this changed. The fittest males were now mating with the fittest females, and producing the fittest children. The least-fit males and females (those still viable-enough to manage it) mated with each other, producing mostly abysmally-fit children who had no chance in life. Extreme social stratification results from this.
- Child Sacrifice. Constant mutations require corrupted genes to be purged: one way or another. Prior to monogamy much of this work was done by ejecting eighty-percent of the least-fit male genes each generation. With monogamy it is done by ejecting lots of low-fitness children of both sexes. We revile those ancient civilizations that practiced child sacrifice, but they were doing what the logic of monogamy requires (providing they were sacrificing the least fit children).
We cannot just abandon monogamy, not and remain competitive with people who retain it, as it is the foundation of male investment. It might, however, be improved upon in ways that reduce its ugliness. In a future post I will delve into those waters.