Issue #10: Human NatureJune 11th, 2012 by Claire
Ah, human nature. It’s a funny thing… We all have it, yet no one seems able to pin it down or sort it out. It’s the object of praises and curses alike, yet no one really knows exactly what it entails, and no one can agree on whether it’s benevolent or malicious by design.
Everyone knows… or has at least encountered… someone who shuns the concept of marriage completely. Whether it’s because they don’t believe in validating their relationship through an institution, aren’t comfortable with commitment, or fear divorce, the idea of lifelong monogamy starting ‘now’ just doesn’t sit well. Many of the people I’ve run across refuse marriage because they believe humans are naturally poly-amorous; they insist that monogamy is unnatural.
To each their own, but monogamy is right up my alley. I am a chip monogamist. Yes, you read that correctly: a potato chip monogamist. We all know by now that potato chips aren’t exactly health food, so if I am going to cave and buy a bag, it has to be Kettle brand’s sea salt and vinegar. I won’t buy anything else, and when it comes to grocery shopping, that decision is probably the one that comes most naturally. Have I stepped out on my chips before? Yes… and it was completely dissatisfying. Never again, Kettle chips — I’m all yours.
Alright, so potato chips aren’t people, and human nature is more complex than we know. Were we designed to mate with multiple partners, spreading our genes as widely as possible to ensure our species survival? Is monogamy unnatural? Maybe. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, I don’t know. But I don’t see how it matters.
I have been told, time and time again, that because we have a natural instinct and frequent drive toward sex, sating our impulses as they come is a natural and healthy practice.
Partially, I agree; it is natural. The average, healthy individual contemplates sex on a daily basis. That is entirely normal and absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. However, I have a problem with the ‘nature’ argument. My Kettle chips are ‘All Natural’, but they sure aren’t good for me…
Doing what comes naturally is not necessarily in a person’s best interest. Like all other creatures, we humans are born with a lot of natural instincts, hard-wired impulses, and innate desires. We are urged to eat, to sleep, to mate, to defend… and, should we feel so rivaled or endangered… to kill.
Nature alone is not a sound argument for best practices. If I ate as often as I felt the urge or desire, my health would deteriorate, and if I slept as often as I felt the inclination, I would have lost my job years ago.
Nature alone is not a sound argument for best practices. If I ate as often as I felt the urge or desire, my health would deteriorate, and if I slept as often as I felt the inclination, I would have lost my job years ago. The way I see it, if sexual impulses and appetites get a free pass based solely upon the grounds that they are natural and shared by all other species, then impulses to kill, steal and dominate must also gain acceptance, simply because they exist within us.
Instincts show us how to survive. Biological nature alone sees no right or wrong. Nature sees only that which is possible and that which is impossible. Those are Her laws. If a species cannot survive, it will either adapt or perish. Nature is the frame of the game, but the picture is bigger than Her.
There’s no doubt that most (if not all) other animals on this planet are governed completely by their innate instincts… Why should humans not also allow ourselves to follow suit? What’s the harm in following all the rest of creation in just one facet of our lives?
Because we don’t have to. We have the ability to question, and that makes us different. We have reason. We are not just given instincts, we are also given an awareness that allows us to recognize them for what they are, and the free will to decide what we will and will not do with them. This awareness is unique to us. No one understands it and scientists can’t explain it, but here we are, cognitive and questioning our existence. So… if all that we do with our lives is remain preoccupied with instinctual desires… eating, sleeping, mating, protecting… do we even deserve to be human? Isn’t that a waste? Do we even deserve the intellectual capacities we’ve been given if we don’t intend to use them?
We were never meant to be ruled by natural instincts alone. They don’t ensure our happiness, they ensure our survival.
Humanity craves happiness. We were never meant to be ruled by natural instincts alone. They don’t ensure our happiness, they ensure our survival. In fact, they don’t even ensure our personal survival; they ensure the survival of our species, and from the look of things humanity isn’t anywhere near the endangered species list yet.
You can’t tell me we’re no different from any other species. We may have a physical body, complete with physical instincts and desires, but beyond them, there are far too many ways in which we set ourselves apart.
We’ve traveled through space, visited other planets, written novels, told stories…
We’ve built empires, watched them crumble, and then excavated them centuries later…
We’ve constructed gapingly giant pyramids, Great Walls, and leaning towers, and we’ve created mysteries at Stonehenge and Nazca…
We’ve deciphered the laws of physics, organized mathematical theory, and decoded our own DNA…
We are the only ones to domesticate beasts and actively conserve species other than our own.
We don’t cast out our children once they’ve been weaned. Human infants require years of support and protection in order to survive– bringing new life into the world could never be so mindless a task for people as it is for animals, who will mate as long as the gender is right. And rightfully we’ve been given the cognition to consider and decide how and when to procreate. We continue to love and care for our children, forming mental and emotional bonds that stretch beyond the simple realm of passing on our genes.
Human sex is not simply about impregnating as many fertile wombs as possible to ensure the survival of our species. There is a spiritual, sentient thread that binds every facet of our lives…
Human sex is not simply about impregnating as many fertile wombs as possible to ensure the survival of our species. There is a spiritual, sentient thread that binds every facet of our lives, and to deny its existence by saying that we ought to embrace and act upon all our mindless, natural instincts in order to avoid repression is simply ridiculous… And so I cannot accept the argument ‘do as all other creatures do’.
For whatever the reason, we are unique in our capacities and endeavors. We have an opportunity to live our lives in reason and sense. There’s a beautiful enigma, here: We have a choice. We somehow have the power to go against nature at times, bringing depth, meaning, and purpose into this world in ways that no other creature before us ever could.
That’s how I see monogamy.