Monogamy in Society

November 11th, 2008

There is no doubt that the human species is both driven to and repelled by the idea of monogamy. When looked at in evolutionary terms, it originally appears that especially for males, it would be most beneficial to seek multiple partners. But despite this fact, many cultures accept monogamy as the social norm. The main question to ask when looking at this clear contradiction in human behavior is why the contradiction occurs in the first place?

When looking at evolution on a personal level, it is clear that the best way for a person to spread their genes is to procreate with as many people as possible. This notion is based on the fact that the more people you mate with the better chance it is that you will have offspring. However, while this assertion is correct, many societies do have a good reason for encouraging monogamy while discouraging polygamy. These reasons have a lot to do with helping to keep peace and order within a society.

One way that monogamy could achieve this is by decreasing the amount of competition between members of the same sex. While it is certain that competition still exists in monogamous societies, it is also clear that when a person is committed to someone, they are less likely to impose on the mate of somebody else. This has a lot to do with the feelings of jealousy and insecurity that many people feel when they have to share their partner with someone else. So, while an individual might want to seek multiple partners, they also desire for the partner that they have to remain faithful. Monogamy also has a role in helping to verify the father of a given offspring. In fact, monogamy appears to have started because the “father took the most logical means at his disposal to guarantee that his property was inherited by his genetic offspring.”(

Another way that monogamy could be helpful to a society is the security factor of having two people to support a child as supposed to one. In no way is the importance of this more apparent than in a newborn that is helpless to take care of itself. The financial and emotional support of two parents is much more beneficial than the output that one could give. It is not apparent whether or not monogamy has played an evolutionary role in this manner, but it does appear that it could possibly be the best way to ensure a child’s survival in harsh conditions.

All of this said, while monogamy is often the social norm, it is also the social norm that some people will get around it. Just like in many cultures it is acceptable for a wealthy man to have more than one wife, it is acceptable in monogamous societies for wealthy men to get divorced and remarry. It is clear that people seem to recognize the fundamental human instinct to produce offspring. Because of this they accept it when someone with the needed funds to care for multiple children, actually has multiple children with multiple wives.

While it is still unclear if monogamy is part of a human’s basic instincts, it is clear that society has led us to believe it is so. Because of the multiple different forms of marriage found all over the world, it is clear that no one way is correct for the human species. It appears that all have some beneficial value, and it is up to the given society to deem what is best. (

October 20th, 2008


Importance of Diversity

            How to go about increasing diversity on College campuses is a major issue of debate.  I personally noticed the lack of diversity on UMW’s campus within the first few days and believed something should be done about it.  However, what that something should be is not always very clear.

            One popular attempt at increasing diversity is known as Affirmative Action.  Affirmative action is where a school or a business takes someone in the minority over someone who may technically be more qualified.  This action can easily be construed as implying that minorities have inferior intellects to whites and need extra help.  However, this is by no means the case, and represents a strong argument against affirmative action.  Recent studies have shown that the color of a person’s skin is not a good indicator of what genes they have.  In fact many biologists don’t even use the term race when applying to people because race implies we are different subspecies.  As supposed to the 25% difference needed to be a subspecies and the 100% difference needed to be a different species, “the groups of people considered to be of different races have allelic differences of at most 15 percent.”(Brownlee, C. 2005. Code of Many Colors: can researchers see race in the genome. Science News)   

            If that isn’t enough, it is also clear that geographic location and specific ancestry has a lot more to do with genetic similarity than skin color.  While in general people tend to be closest genetically to people of their race, given the nature of evolution/ isolation and modern travel (interbreeding), it is not always so easy to guess.  These things have all lead to a high level of variation in all groups and made it so “It’s not uncommon at all to find two blacks who could be very different from each other,” and that “In some cases, a black organ donor can better match a white recipient than a black one.” (Brownlee, C. 2005. Code of Many Colors: can researchers see race in the genome. Science News)  So the main question to ask is, if all people are so similar, and race is such a vague label, why is affirmative action used and why is diversity so important?           

            My personal opinion on the matter is that ideas such as affirmative action and diversity are important regardless of genetic similarity.  While genetics might downplay the significance of a person’s given race, it is also important to understand the significance of environment and general human psychology in everyday life.  After all, not very long ago black people weren’t allowed to attend the same schools or hold the same jobs as white people.  In the 50 years since desegregation, it is hard to believe that everything has been equalized.  While I’m focusing on the struggle of the African American population, similar hardships are present in just about every American minority.  Howard University’s Charles Rotimi put the nature of humans to discriminate best when he said, “People who have been advantaged by racism aren’t likely to give it up.” (Brownlee, C. 2005. Code of Many Colors: can researchers see race in the genome. Science News)   

              Going back to the idea that all humans are indeed human, it begs the question of what diversity actually is and how to gain it.  Aside from affirmative action, it is also important for the Mary Washington Admissions office to try and recruit minorities.  After all, it is very naïve to think that all or even the majority of minorities need help to get in.  Because race is so vague, UMW should focus on the cultural side of diversity and get people from many different backgrounds, not just focusing on skin color.  I believe this would greatly enhance the education and experience that UMW has to offer.   

September 23rd, 2008


           While the inaccuracy of this evolutionary picture is not immediately apparent, it actually contains some pretty large and important flaws.  All of the attributes present in these drawings were also present in human ancestors at some point, but the main problem is that many of them weren’t around at the same time.  One example of this is the slouching position of the second drawing in the sequence.  While this is certainly how humans began to walk on two legs, this drawing depicts an early human that is way too far along in development for this characteristic.  When early humans were just beginning to walk on two legs they still had a lot of hair covering their bodies, and were much smaller than the modern human.  This picture portrays a relatively hairless animal that is surprisingly big compared to the modern human.  Its face and body structure also looks very similar to a human whereas the first hominids to walk were undoubtedly very similar to modern apes. 

            Another issue that I noticed was the appearance of the figure second to the left.  Like the last drawing discussed, this picture contains features of both the modern human and the earliest human ancestors.  It too is relatively hairless, and doesn’t have the posture or the size that would be expected.  But whereas the second drawing seems too big for its posture, this drawing seems too small.  It is an entire head shorter, yet has almost all of the same features as a modern human, including a tool in his right hand.  If this is meant to represent the Homo erectus, it looks way too similar to a human.    

            Another major issue is all of the missing stages of development.  All of the other flaws aside, they are missing many of the major factors in evolution that might help explain how it occurred.  For one, the first tool that appeared is a sharpened rock, which would be a tool that came along much later in the evolution of hominid tools.  It would have made more sense for the second drawing to have a more basic tool if the creators of this picture to have a representation of how human ancestors grew and developed.  Human ancestors were using tools for a very long time before our most recent ancestor lived.  In fact, the Homo habilis was given this name because the actual translation means “handy man”.  Having seen a few artists’ depictions of the Homo habilis, it seems very clear that the second drawing is much more advanced than the Homo habilis in many ways, yet has no tools.

            Another problem that appears in this picture is the way that it seems to flow.  Evolution doesn’t happen smoothly where every attribute changes very slowly all at the same time to reach a final outcome.  Because evolution only occurs when something in the environment calls for the need to adapt, our ancestors most likely wouldn’t have adapted to lose some hair at the same time as they adapted to walk on two legs.  In other words, while this picture gives the general idea of what evolution is, it fails to tell the whole picture.


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