Ospreys, monogamy and stupidity

There’s an exceptionally stupid article by Magnus Linklater in the Times today. He talks about the recovery of the British osprey population over the past 50 years with reference to their apparent monogamy and long-term pair bonds. The article ends:

What the osprey demonstrates is that, whatever indiscretions may be committed in the course of a relationship, a stable family background is ultimately the best guarantee that the species will prosper. It works for ospreys. It probably works for humans too.

So why is this exceptionally stupid? Well, it seems like almost too obvious to have to say, but: we are not ospreys.

And all you have to do is choose a different species and it enables you to draw a completely different lesson. Like for example that other fine Scottish bird, the capercaillie, which teaches us that the recipe for a successful species is for all the men to gather together and fight over the best spots to dance and sing in front of the women, with a handful of the strongest, funkiest and loudest men fathering children on all of them. Or perhaps we should learn from the herring, and millions and millions of us all gather together once a year and have a vast mass orgy.

By all means argue for monogamy: just don’t drag the ospreys into it.

ยป Ospreys mating was posted to Flickr by allspice1 and is used under a CC by-nd licence.

5 Comments

  1. 16 April 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    “the recipe for a successful species is for all the men to gather together and fight over the best spots to dance and sing in front of the women, with a handful of the strongest, funkiest and loudest men fathering children on all the women.”

    I think that sounds like a great idea. The resultant children would be strong, loud and funky. And wouldn’t write stupid articles in the Times.

  2. 16 April 2008 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Or, you know, drag in all the species you want — so long as you’re also willing to make a case for social reform via funky orgies.

    You gotta admit, that would be a more amusing rhetorical tack, anyway.

  3. Harry
    16 April 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I suppose the beauty of the argument is that you can use it to support almost any lifestyle you fancy.

    Or perhaps that’s the stupidness of the argument.

  4. 16 April 2008 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Monogamy would be all right if the males would just pick up after themselves. Me, I want another wife around here just to clean up. And maybe another husband who will actually do the heavy lifting and yard work …

  5. Harry
    17 April 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    “Monogamy would be all right if the males would just pick up after themselves.”

    I don’t suppose that ospreys do that either.

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