Monogamy in the Kingdom: Natural, Unnatural, or Supernatural?
Monogamy is unnatural. That was the premise of a recent opinion piece lobbying for “. . . a greater tolerance toward the human impulse to experience sexual variety . . .”¹ There’s no doubt that monogamy can be difficult. Finding out why can help us avoid heartache and emotional devastation.
In the attempt to explain why humans find it hard to be monogamous, this author
looked down into a kingdom for answers: the animal kingdom.
We’ve all heard that humans are animals, but what exactly does that mean? Are we animals?
A quick internet search confirmed that humans are prosimian primates, which are eutherian mammals, which are tetrapods, which are vertebrates, which are:
. . . which are multicellular eukaryotic organisms described as contiguous living systems, which means we have signaling and self-sustaining processes.
Okay, so we’re defined as animals.
But are we merely animals, or are we something more?
How we answer this question will determine how we answer the monogamy question.
The author laments that being in a monogamous relationship for five decades “seems like a lot to expect,” and that “strict sexual fidelity is a lofty but perhaps fundamentally doomed aspiration.”²
This view is in stark contrast to a Washington Post piece titled “Why Monogamy is Natural,” which ends with a charge to ” . . . encourage and facilitate citizens to live their sexual lives in accordance with the natural norms and limits that govern us all.”² In this article,
monogamy is not only viewed as natural, but essential to the good of the family and society.
If monogamy in the animal kingdom is rare, then monogamous humans are either the strangest of animals, or something more than animals.
Monogamy, it seems, separates us from most other animals, like speech, upright posture, the tendency to wear clothes, blushing, cooking food, and the ability to control fire.
Studies show about 90% of birds and a handful of other creatures are monogamous. But further research is showing that monogamous in these cases means mostly monogamous.
Strict, unadulterated monogamy may indeed be an ability reserved for humans.
Unfortunately, human abilities wither away when not exercised. We have become rusty at monogamy.
If monogamy is something unique about humans, why look to the other non-monogamous animals to learn about this exceptional quality? This is like studying ferret firecraft to better understand how humans start bonfires.
If your worldview includes the possibility of human exceptionalism, you have another option. Instead of looking down into the animal kingdom, you can
look up to the Heavenly Kingdom for answers.
Monogamy is a supernatural prescription from a God who knows the recipe for the greatest possible good. Humans were monogamous and content until sin entered the world and changed everything.
If your Plan-A is to teach your children tolerance for sexual variety, you need to familiarize yourself with Plan-B and Plan-C. You will need a clearly developed and understood worldview when navigating those waters.
Monogamous behavior is one of three possibilities:
- natural disposition
- unnatural restriction
- supernatural prescription
Which is it?
- Love: An Amusing Illusion or God’s Greatest Gift
- The Secret to Success: Improve Your Life in Five Words
- The Golden Rule and Strong Marriages
¹ Meghan Laslocky, “Face It: Monogamy Is Unnatural,” Cable News Network, June 21, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/21/opinion/laslocky-monogamy-marriage/index.html?hpt=hp_t4
² John Witte Jr., “Why Monogamy is Natural,” The Washington Post, October 2, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/why-monogamy-is-natural/2012/10/02/08080120-0cc0-11e2-bd1a-b868e65d57eb_blog.html
Photo credit: Carl Chapman from Phoenix, usa (Eagle Shots) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: normanack / CC BY 2.0 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/29278394@N00/696701369/
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.