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Does Nature err? Why it Doesn't Matter if Monogamy is "natural"

Updated on March 27, 2012
photo credit: Eric.Parker via photopin cc
photo credit: Eric.Parker via photopin cc | Source

The inspiration for this text came from a question that asked if monogamy was “natural”. It is a short abstract about the fact that things or behaviours called natural are not necessarily better or superior in any way to non-natural ones.

Many things are promoted with the argument that they are natural, implying that they are better than something non-natural of the same kind. There is natural food, natural boots [might as well be misread and be true as well], natural light and even natural smiles. We associate a lot of positive attributes to the word natural. Let’s do some brainstorming here:

healthy, perfection, freedom, happyness, honesty, sane, vitamins, feeling good, better than manmade

...were my associations that came up in two minutes. But let me stain this romantic ideal a bit by getting deeper into nature. I will approach this topic with wikipedia’s definition of nature.

"The word nature is derived from the Latin word natura, or "essential qualities, innate disposition", and in ancient times, literally meant "birth". Natura was a Latin translation of the Greek word physis, which originally related to the intrinsic characteristics that plants, animals, and other features of the world develop of their own accord."

and the definition of “monogamy”

"Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος (monos+gamos) - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction. The term is applied also to the social behavior of some animals, referring to the state of having only one mate at any one time."

As I understand these definitions, natural in relation to monogamy would mean that having one (sexual) partner is an essential quality of the human being and hence would have to be found in all of us with - under normal circumstances - no exception.
As there are obviously plenty of people that do not practice monogamy [according to the Ethnological Codebook, 186 of 1,231 societies are monogamous, 453 had occasional polygyny and 592 had more frequent polygamy] and with polygamy being recognized under civil law in more than 50 states the essential or let's say natural character of monogamy in the sense of being better than non-monogamy is questionable. Of course it occurs in nature even among animals so it is natural but just not essential or inate in all of us.

Why it Doesn't Matter

But back to the initial question, why it does not matter. Well, it should become obvious that natural doesn’t automatically mean good, better, superior, perfect and so on. There are plenty of examples where nature just seems to be cruel, inferior and failable. Some examples are catastrophies, predators hunting other animal’s youngs, deserts, meteors and maybe quite a few other things. And as aggression seems to be quite inate to the human race as well, those argumenting that natural means something better will start to stumble.

So let’s assume that monogamy is natural and even ignore the fact that it is polygamy that is obviously prevalent among cultures of this planet, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing. It would just be natural.

Surely one could go more into detail here but I guess I have made my point. Now, I am curious about the discussion and the points that I have missed.


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    • denkmuskel profile image

      Michael Schmitz 6 years ago from Berlin

      Thank L.L and sen.sush23. It is more than encouraging to receive this nice and informative feedback. I have little time right now but really love to write about these things as they sum up what I have been through the last 20 years. It is some kind of flashback diary.

    • L.Lawyer profile image

      L.Lawyer 6 years ago from london

      they actually done an article on this subject in i think it was the guardian, a london newspaper. and a tv show on the bbc. they proved scientifically we crave more than one partner, due to a chemical balance in the hormone sector of the brain i think it was a pituitary hormone

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 6 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Mike, I absolutely love this kind of apparently abstruse response- but really it was not very difficult to get your point. It is just about nullifying the question and I found it hilarious. But jokes apart, that is so true- it does not really matter, whether natural or not. Your style is so fresh; I wish to learn from you. Voted up interesting (I wanted to click on funny too, but could not gauge the mood of the Hub crowd on this question, so am abstaining). :)