Up until today, I have been writing about scientific issues, by which I mean issues where there is relevant objective data or it seems likely such data could be obtained.  This does not cover all of life and does not cover the present subject.  The fact that too much genetic diversity destroys fertility has many effects that do not seem to be testable, but they may be important.  This entry will be the first of a few that discuss romance, or mating strategy and its causes and effects. 

Monogamy and rapid evolution
We have described how the complexity of animals is so great that further evolution is restricted.  Yet it appears that humans have evolved far faster than our cousins the chimpanzees.  A chimpanzee is a whole lot like a gorilla in the way it looks and acts.  By comparison, a human is a superb runner, easily outdistancing both of them and in fact able over a sufficient distance to outrun a dog or a horse.  We out-swim apes.  We travel longer in the hot sun and are able to withstand cold better.  Do not think that we are somehow evolving backward because we are not struggling in the jungle.  These matters I mention are things that would be of great benefit to chimpanzees, which are often run down and killed by their own kind, have no life guards and no tight houses.  Something unfettered evolution in our ancestors and left the apes chained. 

That event could be considered the defining moment of the beginning of our humanity. 

There is a long history of trying to define humanness.  I am told, although I do not remember reading it, that Aristotle once defined a human as a “featherless biped.”  He hadn’t heard about kangaroos, but somebody presented him with a plucked chicken, and the debate was off and running and continues to this day.

“Sense of self” was offered, it being postulated that an animal could not recognize its image in a mirror.  Then somebody put a bit of tape on an orangutan’s face, where it remained until the ape looked in a mirror and removed it.  “Theory of consciousness” was offered.  An animal is not supposed to know that another animal is thinking about things.  But spend a little time around animals and that seems doubtful.  There is the “clever Hans” story about a German horse that could do arithmetic.  But Hans was helpless unless some human present knew the solution.  The horse would start to tap out the answer and then stop when the human held his breath or gave some other clue. 

Walking heel and toe and opposable thumb have been offered, but seem rather minor.  It ought to be something profound. 

Sometimes I enter the fray by asking some scientist whether animals pray.  That is totally unfair, and if the universe is controlled by some judgmental Power, I shall probably do time in burning brimstone for it.  Science is based on five sense observation, so things like prayer are specifically excluded from consideration.  Rogue researchers do things like puting Asian monks in MRI brain scanners and asking them to meditate and then claiming they have found the “meditation gland” in the brain.  Sorry, it’s not science.  No one yet has had the temerity to take a scanner to a revival meeting and abduct somebody slain in the spirit and looking for the “God gland,” but alas it is probably only a matter of time.  Christianity specifically forbids putting God to the test, so the act would be technically blasphemous if not satanic, but I doubt that will hold them back long.  The results would be scientifically meaningless.  It is as forbidden to science as it is to religion.

I suspect that thing that set us free is monogamy.  Apes have very strong immune systems.  Monogamy has permitted us to reduce drastically our immune defenses, which meant less genetic investment.  That meant we could increase our complexity in other ways, and that for a time permitted us to gain powers far beyond our ape cousins.  I have not even mentioned intelligence, opposable thumb, better ability to vocalize and probably better balance.

Monogamy is scientifically observable, even if true love that makes it possible may not be. 

That is not to say that all humans are monogamous all the time.  But it does say that effectively our ancestors have been monogamous.  They were the ones who did not need the immune system that would permit such behavior.

Your neighbor comes over and says he is concerned that a member of his family may have given a member of your family a sexually transmitted disease.  Your initial reaction might be that this was not going to be a nice day.  But when you learn that he is talking about the dogs, you laugh with relief.  It is exceedingly rare for dogs to transmit diseases that way.  Their immune system protects them.  Dogs are descended from wolves, so I suppose wolves have the same immune system.  Wolves are very monogamous, but evidently not as monogamous as humans, at least those humans who pass on their genes.

One of the problems people have with Darwin is that he seems to applaud promiscuity.  The lady killer, the successful seducer, seems to be Darwin’s Darling.  He has many offspring.  He leaves his illegitimate children for others to care for.  He has spread his genes farther than the losers, burdened as they are with a conscience. 

But it is the Don Juan who is the looser in the long run.  If it were a viable reproductive style, his offspring would have the robust immune system of a dog or a chimpanzee.  But they do not.  They die out. 

 They don’t have to die out from sexually transmitted disease, either.  They die out because their trail of conquest leads them far from home, where they do not find mates that in the long run will produce descendants. 

Exceptions?  Perhaps.  But the rule is clear. 

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