31 July 2010


MONOGAMY. Christopher Ryan poses an interesting hypothesis -- that monogamy is an unnatural state for our species. His take on shifting relationship codes over our evolutionary development, starting in prehistory, has some factual merit. Still, as one who is educated in ecology and evolutionary biology, it is not clear to me that his analysis stretches to lend support to humans being naturally polygamous (or polyandrous). Bottom line, whether or not we are hard-wired for certain social behaviors is emphatically secondary to our free will, set of ethics, or simple practicality.

In my hormone-driven youth, I went through passages of having one intimate partner, and also of having more than one partner (with one of those being primary). There was never any duplicity -- all parties knew and approved of whatever arrangement held sway at the moment. Ultimately, I found that paying adequate and deserved attention to just one partner (emotionally, sexually, intellectually) was not only more satisfying, but more realistic. Spreading onself around simply takes too much energy and attention, and doesn't do justice to the Quality of each relationship.

Perhaps that's just me. Perhaps others have discovered a capacity for multiplicity, at least for short periods. I doubt that it is workable as an established social norm, without risking the oppression of one gender or the other.

INTERNET PRIVACY. Ellen Nakashima -- "The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation."

Over my dead body. Privacy is a sacrosanct civil liberty. I do not trust either the integrity or the judgment of ANY intelligence agent with the details of my personal life, as a matter of principle. We've seen far too many instances of abuse and neglect over the years, by the FBI, by the CIA, by the NSA, and by the Department of Homland Security. If the need is legitimate, then the agency must justify it by getting a court order. Period. The old joke runs that the term "military intelligence" is an oxymoron. A facile judgment, perhaps, but not without some foundation in truth. Far better to preserve judicial oversight in order to avoid intelligence excesses.


  1. Hi. You're right that free will normally trumps any "hard wiring" we've got, but always at a cost. We can, for example, choose to be vegetarians, but because our bodies are evolved for an omnivorous diet, we have to pay special attention to avoid health risks associated with never eating meat. Hope you'll read the book and comment on it here or to us directly.


  2. Hi Christopher --
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree that to the fullest extent possible, our choices should be informed and carefully made. And yes, I look forward to reading your book. The premise is fascinating. I may recommend it to one of my two reading groups as well. Thanks for being out there, questioning assumptions and broadening our horizons.