What is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

  • Thread starter kyle_soule
  • Start date
238
0
I have a couple questions:

First, what is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

Second, what is the purpose of marriage in a relationship?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Tom Mattson

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,475
20
Re: Marriage

I once bartended for a (married) bar owner who said, "Marriage is the most unnatural state a man can find himself in."

Another goodie from him was his advice against buying a house: "A man's home is his hassle."

I don't have anything more helpful than that, because to date I have taken his advice!
 
There are two evolutionary reasons I can think of. It helps ensure the survival of children by forming tight nit families and decreasing infanticide by jealous lovers ... and decreases transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Not sure if I understand the second question.
 
238
0
Originally posted by Chemicalsuperfreak
Not sure if I understand the second question.
The second question is basically, is marriage REALLY a logical next step for a relationship? A couple could live together and enjoy all the benefits of a married couple without actually getting married, so how does marriage REALLY fit into a relationship?
 
1,927
0
Humanity evolved to live in small communal groups of usually at most fifteen people. Inbreeding could only be avoided by going out side the group. This could be achieved any number of ways, but notably humanity is one of the few animals that does not go into heat. Instead, we have evolved to be arguably the sexiest animals on the planet. Few other animals copulate nearly as often and it is thought few others actually have sex simply for pleasure.

Unlike other animals whose young hatch from an egg and require no care, ours require many years of care before they can even help fend for food and many more after that before they can fend for themselves. Studies have shown that grandmothers can play an important part in helping to feed these children, but of course, fathers provide a great deal.

One hypothesis is that humans are really serially monogamous and serially polygamous. This is supported to some extent by the divorce statistics. These show that the chances for divorce increase after three years, spike sharply after seven, and then go down after that. Divorced people who remarry overwhelmingly tend to stay marry.

Soon enough serious studies of genetic inheritance may illuminate this issue in ways once thought impossible. On the one hand, mixing the gene pool is advantageous while on the other children require tremendous resources. This argues for serial monogamy and polygamy, but does not resolve the issue. Monogamous tendencies in this day and age of AIDS looks like a possible evolutionary alternative.
 
Originally posted by wuliheron

One hypothesis is that humans are really serially monogamous and serially polygamous.
I don't understand, do you mean that humans are parallel-ly monogamous and serially polygamous?
 

BoulderHead

Humanity evolved to live in small communal groups of usually at most fifteen people. Inbreeding could only be avoided by going out side the group.
I've always wondered how early man stumbled-bummed his way onto this discovery. Any ideas?
 
238
0
Wuliheron, I still don't understand how marriage fits into these groups. Did only two partners engage in sex in a group, and they were given a name, which later was called marriage? or, if not, how did the marriage come about in these small groups?
 
1,927
0
Originally posted by Dissident Dan
I don't understand, do you mean that humans are parallel-ly monogamous and serially polygamous?
Serial monogamy is when you take one partner for awhile and then move on to another. Serial polygamy is when you do this with several partners at once. Currently the more or less offical record stands at 63 children born to one woman and 450 to one man.

Originally posted by BoulderHead
I've always wondered how early man stumbled-bummed his way onto this discovery. Any ideas?
It may have started out as an accident like you suggest. These small groups were by no means utterly isolated, and once a year or so would meet up with others. If you've ever met extremely isolated people, they are starved for new faces and personalities. Because of our extremely sexual nature, you can guess what happened next.

In a sense then, we might even be hard wired to be attracted to strangers. In fact, this did happen with one anthropologist. He was studying a Yanamamo like tribe and a thirteen year old girl followed him around like a puppy dog. By sixteen, they were married and now live in NY City with their six kids.

As for why the actual institution of marrage rose to such popularity, it provides a way of bonding the stranger to their new tribe. Ritual scarification and tatooing serve a similar purpose, and with tribal people you can often tell exactly where they were raised and all the places they have lived just by looking at them. Often you can also tell if they are married or even if their sibblings are married by their scars and tatoos.

Monogamy in particular has been reinforced by the agracultural revolution. In third world countries today people commonly have as many as twelve children to help work the farm and in the hope that at least some of them will support them in old age.
 

N_Quire

Marriage is a lovely idea that makes practically no sense when you try it for a while.
 

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
I don't think marriage is evolutionary. However other animals do display monogamy. The purpose of marriage in a relationship: I think for a man at least, it is to mark the exact moment where he begins doing what his wife and mother-in-law say instead of his mother.
 
Last edited:

Les Sleeth

Gold Member
2,164
2
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
I think for a man at least, it is to mark the exact moment where he begins doing what his wife and mother-in-law say instead of his mother.
Too funny!

I am going to disagree with most of the opinions here and say that there is a potential in marriage which is wonderful. In this insane, stressful world and growing up being taught abusive parents, it is difficult to realize, but many people nonetheless do achieve it.

It is a closeness, a friendship, and partnership based on consensus, respect, love and hot sex. When done properly, it is sooooooooo much fun, so good, so sweet. But then, when she's at that time of month, you better find reasons to be somewhere else. :wink:

Done right, you can learn lots of things you will never learn alone. All those ways you think you are so great? Well, live closely with someone long enough and you will find your opinion of yourself is way too high. Then, how do you make the situation better? Change, mature, grow. That is what a good mate can do for you; he/she can help you understand what you are really like, how you need to develop, and yet will stick with you through it all.

I don't buy the latest fad of trying to explain every damn human trait as the result of evolution. Some I think is the nature of consciousness, and some we do because we find it personally rewarding.
 
Last edited:
238
0
Originally posted by LW Sleeth
It is a closeness, a friendship, and partnership based on consensus, respect, love and hot sex. When done properly, it is sooooooooo much fun, so good, so sweet. But then, when she's at that time of month, you better find reasons to be somewhere else. :wink:

Done right, you can learn lots of things you will never learn alone. All those ways you think you are so great? Well, live closely with someone long enough and you will find your opinion of yourself is way too high. Then, how do you make the situation better? Change, mature, grow. That is what a good mate can do for you; he/she can help you understand what you are really like, how you need to develop, and yet will stick with you through it all.

I don't buy the latest fad of trying to explain every damn human trait as the result of evolution. Some I think is the nature of consciousness, and some we do because we find it personally rewarding.
It's a fad?

This is an intelligent response but doesn't address what I intended to be the topic...how does all this differ from simply living together for your entire life? That's why I don't understand the concept of marriage, as a legal binding that is.
 

Les Sleeth

Gold Member
2,164
2
Originally posted by kyle_soule
It's a fad?

This is an intelligent response but doesn't address what I intended to be the topic...how does all this differ from simply living together for your entire life? That's why I don't understand the concept of marriage, as a legal binding that is.
Okay, I' ll try again.

Well, I think (and hope) it's a fad -- a fad of the scientism cult where matter is god, and consciousness is ultimately a physical phenomenon that can be fully explained by physical processes. Marriage therefore has to be a result of genetics and evolution alone. It's not that evolution hasn't determined a great deal, I just don't think that's all there is to consciousness.

Obviously human children do better with two parents, and that is an evolutionary advangage. Two people who work as a team for survival also have an advantage over one (of course, if they aren't a good team, it can be a disadvantage). For most people, marriage is a contract to work as a team for children and survival. Those are such important issues, and there has to be so much trust, that a marriage contract is sealed with a ceremony that's meant to instill the importance of the agreement. The legal aspect seems there because society too is stabilized by marriages (a bunch of horny people running around and lots unwanted children is not the best situation). That's one way to explain the "outer" part of it.

Another view is that something "inner" can happen too, which I described before. For me it's the inner part I like the best, and I don't see why one has to get formally married to achieve it. But if you can attain that with someone, that level of unity is what some marriages achieve, and so really is the same thing.
 
1,596
0
Re: Marriage

Originally posted by kyle_soule
I have a couple questions:

First, what is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

Second, what is the purpose of marriage in a relationship?
I suggest you to read the book : http://csf.colorado.edu/psn/marx/Archive/1884-Family/" [Broken] by Friedrich Engels.

It's an interesting viewpoint, that claims that marriage is connected to private property and the state form.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
167
1
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
I don't think marriage is evolutionary. However other animals do display monogamy. The purpose of marriage in a relationship: I think for a man at least, it is to mark the exact moment where he begins doing what his wife and mother-in-law say instead of his mother.

The tendancy to get married is related to evolution though. You cannot get genes having been passed down for billions of years without getting distorted by evolution.

Some situations do exist where evolution has not had time to work, e.g. building up resistance to SARS virus, but in the nature of how procreation occurs, evolution has had a lot of time to establish itself.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by plus
The tendancy to get married is related to evolution though. You cannot get genes having been passed down for billions of years without getting distorted by evolution.

Some situations do exist where evolution has not had time to work, e.g. building up resistance to SARS virus, but in the nature of how procreation occurs, evolution has had a lot of time to establish itself.
This is known to be not true. In early manhood it has been found that instead of a monogame marriage a form of group marriage existed.
In the book "The Origin of Family, Private Propety and the State" this is further explained. Monogame marriage is connected to private property.
 
238
0
Re: Re: Marriage

Originally posted by heusdens
I suggest you to read the book : http://csf.colorado.edu/psn/marx/Archive/1884-Family/" [Broken] by Friedrich Engels.

It's an interesting viewpoint, that claims that marriage is connected to private property and the state form.
Thank you very much, I will certainly check this out tomorrow.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
167
1
Originally posted by heusdens
This is known to be not true. In early manhood it has been found that instead of a monogame marriage a form of group marriage existed.
In the book "The Origin of Family, Private Propety and the State" this is further explained. Monogame marriage is connected to private property.
Where did I state that marriage had to be monogomous?
I did mean this when I posted this though.
The tendancy to attach yourself to someone has evolved in recent times. I do not deny that other situations can occur, I am saying that in the most recent times, marriage is monogamous and does occur. People have an overwhelming desire to settle down with 1 other person, and this results from the way humans reproduce.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by plus
Where did I state that marriage had to be monogomous?
I did mean this when I posted this though.
The tendancy to attach yourself to someone has evolved in recent times. I do not deny that other situations can occur, I am saying that in the most recent times, marriage is monogamous and does occur. People have an overwhelming desire to settle down with 1 other person, and this results from the way humans reproduce.
The way humans reproduce, the human biology, has not been changed in the last 20.000 years.
However what did change were the productive forces, which at first were purely nature's resources, and haven been developed through social human history enormously.
So the result of the current form of marriage, must be seen in the context of the society, and are based on social changes.
 

N_Quire

Marriage might be the imagined, ideal state but what are we to make of infidelity? Is this a biological desire which is stronger than marriage and ideals? After all, presidents do it, priests do it, people who should know better do it. It supposed to be wrong but we humans just can't stop ourselves.
 
1,596
0
Originally posted by N_Quire
Marriage might be the imagined, ideal state but what are we to make of infidelity? Is this a biological desire which is stronger than marriage and ideals? After all, presidents do it, priests do it, people who should know better do it. It supposed to be wrong but we humans just can't stop ourselves.
That only confirms my statement that marriage is not the "one and only form" of human life, and maybe not even the preferred one from a biological point of view, but that this type of living togethere in fact has much to do with social structures, and in fact has it's origin in private property and the state.

I realy think that more advanced civilisations will abandon this type of marriage somehow in the future, because it is not needed any more for the reasons it was once established (private property), because private property itself has been abolished, and become common property.
 

Related Threads for: What is the evolutionary purpose of marriage?

Replies
52
Views
8K
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Posted
Replies
7
Views
2K
Replies
36
Views
11K
  • Posted
3 4 5
Replies
117
Views
20K
  • Posted
4 5 6
Replies
139
Views
21K
  • Posted
2 3
Replies
68
Views
6K
  • Posted
Replies
18
Views
2K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Hot Threads

Top