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Polygamy Problems

Having more than one wife is a fantasy of many Western males, but polygamy in humans or elsewhere in nature isn't necessarily good for all the males involved. For instance, polygamy practiced by some 19th century Mormon men had the curious effect of suppressing the number of children born to Mormon women in plural marriages: The more "sister-wives" a Mormon woman had, the fewer children of her own she was likely to produce. This doesn't seem to be a problem for modern day Muslims, who are allowed to have 4 wives, since worldwide Muslim populations are burgeoning.

Biologist Michael Wade says, "Although it's great in terms of number of children for successful males to have harems, the data show that for every new woman added to a male's household, the number each wife produced goes down by one child or so. This regression is known as a 'Bateman gradient,' named after the geneticist who first observed a similar phenomenon in fruit flies."

Indeed, polygamy is a bad thing for most males of a species. According to Wade, "When the ratio of sexes is about equal, for every male that has three mates, there must be two males that have none. If a male has even more mates, then the disparity among male 'reproductive' haves and have-nots can become quite great."

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Cripes, I couldn't keep one woman happy . . .

From a biological point of view human beings are not monogamous, like most if not all primates. This does not mean that polygamy is necessarily justified. It means that strict marriage ethics may prove to be difficult, but certainly not impossible, to maintain, as we can see every day. The upside is that our art, music and literature are very much inspired by the difficulties arising from reconciling both the monogamous marriage and our biological precondition.

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