Male Parental Investment

Tim Benham (
Wed, 5 Jul 1995 22:17:18 GMT

In <> liz <> wrote:
: On Sun, 2 Jul 1995, Tim Benham wrote:

: > While the legal institution of marriage is obviously a social
: > construction, the human pair bond is not. Nor did it come about
: > so that "men [could] claim rights vis a vis [their] offspring";
: > it evolved as a result of natural selection because proto-men who
: > made a paternal investment passed on more of their genes than
: > those who did not and proto-women who were the recipients of such
: > investments were likewise more reproductively successful.

: In fact, if you are going to talk about evolution, do it with the facts.
: The history of the world is not filled with monogamously-paired couples,
: but with men who had sex with lots of different women. A man who was
: *not* monogamous was far, far more likely to have *more* offspring.

I'd be interested to see your sources for this claim. Here's what
some anthropologists and psychologists have to say about it:

Helen Fisher:

HL# Perhaps the most remarkable thing the sexes havce in common is
HL# that they bother to marry at all. Marriage is a cultural
HL# universal; it predominates in every society in the world....

HL# Because of the genetic advantages of polygyny for men and because
HL# so many societies permit polygyny, many anthropologists think that
HL# harem building is a badge of the human animal. I cannot
HL# agree. Certainly it is a secondary _opportunistic_ reproductive
HL# strategy. But in the vast majority of societies in which polygyny
HL# is permitted, only about 5 to 10 percent of men actually have
HL# several wives simultaneously. Although polygyny is widely
HL# discussed, it is much less practiced.

HL# In fact, after surveying 250 cultures, anthropologist George Peter
HL# Murdock summarized the controversy: " An impartial observer
HL# employing the criterion of numerical preponderance, consequently,
HL# would be compelled to characterize nearly every known human
HL# society as monogamous, despite the preference for and frequency of
HL# polygyny in the overwhelming majority." Around the world men tend
HL# to marry one woman at a time.

(From _Anatomy of Love_, ISBN 0-449-90897-6. Emphases from the original.)

Robert Wright:

RW# Are human males and females born to form enduring bonds with one
RW# another? The answer is hardly an unqualified yes for either
RW# sex. Still, it is closer to yes for both sexes than it is the case
RW# of, say, chimpanzees. In every human culture on the
RW# anthropological record, marriage - whether monogamous or
RW# polygamous, permanent or temporary - is the norm, and the family
RW# is the atom of social organization. Fathers everywhere feel love
RW# for their children, and that's a lot more than you can say for
RW# chimp fathers and bonobo fathers, who don't seem to have much of a
RW# clue which youngsters are theirs. This love leads fathers to help
RW# feed and defend their children, and teach them useful things.

RW# At some point, in other words, extensive _male parental
RW# investment_ entered our evolutionary lineage. We are, as they say
RW# in the zooology literature, high in MPIU.

(From _The Moral Animal_, ISBN 0-679-40773-1. Emphases from the original.)

David Buss:

DB# Women, like weaverbirds, prefer men with desirable
DB# "nests". Consider one of the problems tha women in evolutionary
DB# history had to face: selecting a man who would be willing to
DB# commit to a long-term relationship. ... Over thousands of
DB# generations, a preference for men who showed signs of being
DB# willing and able to commit to them evolved in women, just as
DB# preferences for mates with adequate nestsevolved in
DB# weaverbirds. ... In human ancestral environments, it is likely
DB# that infants and young children were morelikely to die without
DB# prolonged investment from two parents or other related kin.

(From _The Evolution Of Desire_, ISBN 0-465-07750-1.)

: And
: the closest relatives to man, evolution-wise, are the chimpanzees, who do
: *not* pair-bond.

It is unwise to reason that because chimpanzees are our closest
relatives then we must resemble them in every respect. Following this
line of reasoning I might conclude that you shamble about on all fours
much of the time, are covered with thick black hair, and that you go
into a monthly oestrus in which your offer your swollen buttocks to
any large mature male. Of course, that's not you at all.

: "Proto-men" who "made a paternal investment" were unlikely to produce the
: numbers of offspring that men who had sex with loads of different women,
: and didn't stick around, did.

Unfortunately for the happiness of proto-men, proto-women were under no
obligation to have sex with them. Proto-women preferred proto-men who
showed commitment.

: Quit making things up.

Regretably I cannot accept authorship of most of my ideas concerning
evolutionary anthroplogy/psychology. As the references given above
indicate, these are already well established ideas in the field.

However, I am interested in the source of your assertions: could you post
references? or did you make them up?


People who like this sort of thing
will find this the sort of thing they like.
Tim J.Benham