Guardian post on monogamy

There’s a piece by me on the Guardian Comment is Free website in response to today’s news about research on evolutionary theories of monogamy.

So monogamy works for some animals. Doesn’t mean it’s ‘natural’ for us
We cannot resist evolutionary research on monogamy but biology is only part of how humans connect

There has been a good deal of press coverage surrounding a research study that addressed the question of how human monogamy came about, from an evolutionary perspective. This suggested that males in monogamous mammal species remain with female partners to protect their families from other males, who would otherwise kill the young and mate with the females.

This is no doubt an interesting study, as is other recent evolutionary research highlighting how unusual monogamy is across animal species (reported in the book Sex at Dawn). However, more interesting to me is the focus of such research – and the journalists who report it. If we are genuinely interested in human monogamy, I wonder why our main focus is how it evolved in animals.

It seems that this reflects our current cultural preference for internal explanations of human behaviour. We seem drawn to neuroscience and evolutionary biology to address our questions, rather than to the social sciences or philosophy for example. Undoubtedly the ways in which humans evolved, and the ways in which our brains and bodies now function, are part of the picture of how we relate to one another. However, there are clearly many more contributing factors than that. We require a biopsychosocial approach, rather than one that engages with biology alone. Read more…


  1. Stu White

    30 July

    Great article, Meg.

    On first hearing this research reported, I couldn’t help but think that this supports polygamy among human societies (as practised in some cultures), mankind having evolved sociopolitically into a species in which ‘male incomer infanticide’ is vanishingly rare …

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