In the previous post I detailed the pros and cons of monogamy. Despite its many downsides, it is not something that we can simply abandon: not and remain competitive with those who retain it. To do something about its problems while staying in the game we must needs either replace it with something that provides even better advantage, or perhaps reform it in a way that does not reduce its effectiveness. In this post I am going to focus on one possible reform.
The essential things that our system absolutely must provide:
- Sufficient incentive to maintain male investment.
- Sufficient eugenic action to offset the dysgenic effects of mutation.
- Sufficient reproductive rate to maintain population.
Note that all of these are things that Western civilization has lost, in its current failing incarnation.
The way that evolution secured male investment was via belief in marriage and monogamy. By forbidding sex outside of marriage, every man worth his salt ended up taking a wife. Having sex with that wife resulted in children, which he would know were his. This worked, once. It still would, for the most part, though it probably needs to be updated to account for birth control. While driven to have sex, a lot of men are quite happy not to have children. Instead of investing in the future, they invest their energy in fun toys instead.
Sufficient eugenic action is a big problem. It is one of the ugly parts of monogamy: the need to have lots of extra kids in the hope that some will be sufficiently fit to carry on. The lower the fitness of the parents, the longer the odds, and the more children they need to beat those odds. This results in a lot of suffering and social problems. I think we can do better with our current technology.
As for the reproductive rate, we now have a much-better understanding than our ancestors did of how finite our world and its resources are. And how ugly overpopulation is, as well as how horrible it is when resource exhaustion causes mass die-offs. So, rather than just ensuring that our reproductive rate is “sufficient” we should take this variable firmly under control. A population goal is selected, and births are assigned as needed to maintain that goal.
So, assuming we want Western civilization to stay in the game, what changes might we make in our laws to regain the essentials that we have lost?
To greatly simplify this thought-experiment, lets start with a blanket law against all sex outside of marriage.
Boys and girls are kept mostly apart once puberty approaches, say with separate schools beyond forth grade. Children are prone to make mistakes, and we can’t afford to be forgiving of them (we have been down that road…and we know where it leads). Better to be safe than sorry.
As soon as girls reach marriageable age (perhaps mid teens), they are entered into a beauty contest. The male concept of “beauty” is closely tied to reproductive fitness, so that is what we are really selecting for. Perhaps we add some other tests to the mix: genetic screening for problems, IQ test, athletic competition, whatever. In the end, we select the top twenty-percent of fittest females, and we harvest their eggs. The remaining eighty percent have their tubes tied. As soon as this is done all become available for marriage.
Since our society needs its people to marry and have children, opportunities for life outside of marriage need to be limited. The ban against extra-marital sex might be sufficiently motivating to push men into the institution. We might also make marriage for men a transition into first-class citizenship, so they seek it out for status as well as sex. For women I suspect that we would want to limit educational and career opportunities to married women who have already produced their share of children. Allowing divorce for any reason is a slippery slope. Since this is a simple thought-experiment, let’s say it is not allowed at all.
In taking a wife, a man makes a commitment to produce two children within a certain period: perhaps five years. If he wants more he can enter a birth lottery, where the extra births needed to keep the population on target are assigned. If there are more births needed than there are volunteers for extras, the birth authority can assign them to married couples somehow, perhaps randomly.
When a husband needs to fulfill his commitment to produce a child, he takes his wife to a birth center, where an egg from one of the top females would be fertilized with his sperm and implanted in her womb (if she was one of those donors, it would be her own egg, otherwise not). Evolution has made men sensitive to being cuckolded, so having their children be really theirs is important; while women who have never had to face this problem are relatively insensitive to it.
This system would, over time, greatly reduce the ugly social stratification of unregulated monogamy: as every child would be the offspring of a high-quality female. For the same reason, it would greatly-reduce the number of extra children that have to be sacrificed to Gnon. It does have some ugliness of its own, for sure: but compared to the ugliness that it alleviates, I think it would be an easy choice. Also, it would fulfill all of the essential elements of a sustainable and competitive society that I listed above; as compared to our current state which fulfills none of them.
Of course, on its face this picture seems bleak and mechanistic. To make the average person want to submit to the system it would probably need to be tarted-up with a religious and/or nationalistic facade. The reality of reproduction and species survival is mechanistic at heart: the future always belongs to those who get those dreary details right. The lipstick we put on that pig can come in many different shades. I will leave it to the cosmetically inclined to work on those details.