Two recent weblog articles discuss polygamy from a purely secular scientific and legal perspective. First, Polygamy, the Naturalistic Fallacy, and Gay Marriage at jonrowe argues that even a cursory review of human cultures shows that polygamy is quite natural, but to argue that it is thereby established as good is an example of the naturalistic fallacy. He sees monogamy as socially preferable for reasons detailed in the post. He is interested, I think, in distinguishing secular arguments supporting polygamy from other secular arguments supporting gay marriage.
In response, Sex and Nature at Freespace argues that one shouldn’t dismiss an argument from nature as a “naturalistic fallacy” without properly understanding what the term “nature” refers to in ethical discussions about human behavior. Given the roughly equal proportion of males and females in human populations, he sees “patriarchal polygamy” as an unlikely outcome if women are given a fair say in choosing forms of marriage, and everyone having a fair choice rather than being subject to coercion by the state or social institutions is his concept of “human nature.” Briefly, he thinks most women would choose one husband over, say, 1/10th of a husband, so if women are unconstrained polygamy will not persist.
Since neither of those two weblogs offers comments, this seems like a nice forum for discussing the ideas they raised in these posts. And polygamy does come up here from time to time, doesn’t it?