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Banishing the Green-Eyed Monster - Comments

Fanusi Khiyal's Avatar Comment 1 by Fanusi Khiyal

On the subject of sexual jealously, has anyone else followed this ridiculous businesss of Hillary Clinton habving a lesbian affair with that aide orwhatever she is?

Of course, noone bothers to ask the real question, of what the hell Clinton is doing associating with someone who is probably a Wahabi Muslim.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 12:46:00 UTC | #87608

LDmiller's Avatar Comment 2 by LDmiller

Is RD trying to tell us something here???

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 12:49:00 UTC | #87611

Thor's Avatar Comment 3 by Thor

I agree with pretty much every single statement Prof. Dawkins makes in the article above, but I am also aware that this is THE perfect way to get the "there are no morals without Jesus"-crowd to come crawling out of the sewers.

I salute your courage, Professor, in taking a necessary further step: attacking one of the many ways in which so-called "Judeo-Christian morality" still forms and defines our culture.

Not all of it is bad, mind you. Just as one can find wise counsel and helpful advice in all human traditions of thought, be they religous traditions like Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism (hell, maybe even in Islam, though I am doubtful) or in more secular traditions as Stoicism, Epicureanism, Confucianism etc... one will, of course, find some useful ethical tales in the Bible.
(and yes, I know that categorizing Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Stoicism into either "secular" or "religious" is not a straightforward proposition - personally, I couldn't care less which way they fall)

But the arbiter of what is useful and what isn't must be factual knowledge about the way this world works (i.e. science, and in this specific case various branches of psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience - all that which informs us on how we humans function) AND a thorough examination of our own conscience with ethical principles that are informed by the all-surpassing achievement of the Enlightenment: the idea of human rights.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about the way in which even thoroughly secular people often unquestioniongly accept moral principles of 2000-year old middle-eastern sky-gods I recommend Michel Onfray's "Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam".

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 12:55:00 UTC | #87613

Arcturus's Avatar Comment 4 by Arcturus

Two quotes:

"This poor ersatz Martian is saying that sex is a way to be happy. Sex should be a means of happiness. Ben, the worst thing about sex is that we use it to hurt each other. It ought never to hurt; it should bring happiness, or at least pleasure.
"The code says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.' The result? Reluctant chastity, bitterness, blows and sometimes murder, broken homes and twisted children — and furtive little passes degrading to woman and man. Is this Commandment ever obeyed? If a man swore on his own Bible that he refrained from coveting his neighbor's wife because the code forbade it, I would suspect either self-deception or subnormal sexuality. Any man virile enough to sire a child has coveted many women, whether he acts or not.


Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy — in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.

from: Stranger in a strange land

Everybody should read this book ...

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 12:58:00 UTC | #87614

padster1976's Avatar Comment 5 by padster1976

Hmm, interesting article.

It has made me think. One gets 'swinger' parties after all. Perhaps they are the evolved ones? Clearly, they do not have the green eyed monster!

The sexual act is how the species propagate itself so I can see how this aspect of our behaviour may present itself as different. But is it an environmental pressure change? I'e of natural selection. Certainly, if the genes aim is to copy itself as many times, shagging loads is fair way of achieving that! Or perhaps its society pressure? Anti or a counter culture, subversive reaction or revolt against the perceived 'norm' of '1 on 1'.

I thought while reading the article that threesomes don't get bad press. Quite the opposite in fact. A fair feature of erotica. (No shame in knowing that!) ;-P

Those that would start bleating on about STD's etc, well, these are consenting adults and if they wish to do 'it' without any form of protection, then we can disagree, but should not condemn them for it. It is their decision and they have to live with the consequences.

I liked Dawkins questions on the Darwinian perspective. Swans are mates for life however most species i think do not keep monogamous relationships. Indeed, most people will have sex with more than one person. So I suppose in that respect, so longs as its one at a time, is is more acceptable?

I think I can guess some of the criticisms Dawkins will face - promoting promiscuity and being (shudder) unfaithful to the persons partner.

One way of looking at it is that if 'playing away from home' is part of Tarrant's person, then his wife should accept it or look at herself. If my other half went with someone else, yes i'd be hurt but I'd want to know why. There is always the case that they just wanted something different. There's another criticism the article may face - 'relationships are no more important that shoes' - merely change them when you want another pair'. Obviously this over simplifies the nuances of Dawkins argument. Lets face, that's not exactly never happed before. However, the article has provide interesting ways to look at human behaviour. It has certainly made me think - why do we automatically assume the word cheating? what do we mean by that?

Thought provoking and refreshingly different article.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:00:00 UTC | #87616

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 6 by Mr DArcy

Don't forget that Hilary was helped through that episode of Bill and Monica by her faith in God!

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:03:00 UTC | #87617

Shrunk's Avatar Comment 7 by Shrunk

I agree that it is useful, of not obligatory, to question mores that have traditionally been relgious in nature. The changing attitudes towards homosexuality, for instance, is one of the more fortunate results of the diminishing role of religion as the arbiter of moral standards.

However, sexual monogamy is not quite in the same boat as homosexuality, in the sense of the latter being something proscribed for arbitrary religious reasons. I think monogamy has as much to do with trust and honesty as with sex. The simple fact is, for most couples there is an expectation that their partner will not have other sexual partners. One reason for this might be that it is difficult to become sexually involved with someone without also becoming emotionally involved.

In any event, I think it is important to view such issues in terms of actual harm done to other individuals, even if that harm is strictly emotional, rather than in terms of adherence to abstract moral values. And certainly, too often, jealousy has prompted the supposedly "wronged" party to commit acts far more heinous than a mere affair.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:04:00 UTC | #87618

treeman17's Avatar Comment 8 by treeman17

If I can play devil's advocate, the problem that I had with Clinton was that he had sex in the Oval Office, not that he lied about it. Unless you happen to be a porn star, sex at work is generally frowned upon, and for sure it is something that could get any of us fired.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:09:00 UTC | #87621

kade's Avatar Comment 9 by kade

i agree with beth that sexual jealously, especially male sexual jealousy, is the cause of a good deal of violence.

and i know that it is incredibly irrational to want someone all for ourselves. i just don't see how these feelings can be rationalized away. the more i consider the question, the more i feel like a hypocrite for praising reason while harboring sentiments that are anything but reasonable.

in my experience, there is a moment in an intimate relationship in which my mind has ceased to "romp..like the mind of God", and there is what seems to be an irresitable urge to curb the promiscuous tendencies of her mind as well. of course, i would never use violence, or the threat of violence to do so.

and i treasure this moment, and i wouldn't trade it for the world. and on this point, to hell with rationality.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:11:00 UTC | #87622

Jab's Avatar Comment 10 by Jab

This has been an opinion I've had for some time now, Richard put it much better than I ever could though.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:14:00 UTC | #87623

dgr8test97's Avatar Comment 12 by dgr8test97

Dawkins is wrong here. He is correct in that sexual jealousy is stupid, but he is missing the point. When someone gives his or her word to another person, he or she must keep that word. This is what cheating is about. If one is in a "open marriage" then one can have sex with any one wants without lying then it is not cheating. When a man marries a women (any relationship for that matter)and swears to the women that he would not have sex with someone else than he needs to follow up on it. Its that simple. I am anti-marriage and anti-monogamy because most people can't keep their vows. But if two people feel that the best way to express their love is through monogamy than more power to them. Cheating is about lying. Love is about sacrifice. If the sacrifice is no sex with third parties than so be it. Dawkins needs to think more poetically and less scientifically when it comes to love.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:16:00 UTC | #87626

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 11 by Matt H.

Richard, thank you ever so much for writing that. I enjoyed reading it.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:16:00 UTC | #87625

Rationalist1's Avatar Comment 13 by Rationalist1

A quote, perhaps apocryphal, is attributed to the late Canadian Prime Minister, who in 1976 was asked by a male reporter what he thought of his then wife Margaret cavorting with the Rolling Stones. He is supposed to have replied to the reporter that "A gentleman does not reply to such questions" and then after an appropriate pause, "and furthermore a gentleman does not ask such questions"

If President Bill Clinton could have said that, or words to that effect, we might have been spared the farce of the impeachment and the calamity of the past 7 years.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:25:00 UTC | #87628

USA_Limey's Avatar Comment 14 by USA_Limey

Started terribly but got better. Defending Clintons lying about his philandering on the American tax payers dime in the whitehouse is not the way to go Prof. Also, there are serious unanswered allegations about the level of coersion used in a whole string of 'encounters' by Bill.

I know you hate Bush RD and that's ok - but Clinton was despicable.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:26:00 UTC | #87629

black wolf's Avatar Comment 16 by black wolf

Richard is echoing my own thinking on this matter. I know that I have my jealous moments, as probably most of us evolved ones do. But my marriage is healthy because we can discuss any desires we have, even if it may be for someone closer at hand than a movie star or fashion model. We're open and honest about this, and we therefore have good reason to trust each other. Christians keep asking, where is your evidence for love? Well, there it is.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:27:00 UTC | #87631

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 15 by BaronOchs

dgr8test97:

When a man marries a women (any relationship for that matter)and swears to the women that he would not have sex with someone else than he needs to follow up on it.


But why is it regarded as so crucial that couples must commit themselves to this for the rest of their lives when there is no obvious reason to, and like you say they can be "polygamous/polyandrous" or whatever and be honest with each other about it.

This article reminds me of Bertrand Russell's essay "On Catholic and Protestant Freethinkers" (published in Why I am not a Christian) where he muses on a type of post-protestant atheist who will reject religion but cannot bring themselves to abandon various protestant mores.

Dawkins it seems is not that kind of atheist. I'm glad he will not refrain from writing this kind of thing for some suppossed tactical reason.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:27:00 UTC | #87630

Lana's Avatar Comment 17 by Lana

That's exactly right, dgr8test97. (May I call you digger?) It's a trust issue. Certainly, people may be attracted to others, but if they've given their word, they should abstain from acting on the attraction until they've extracted themselves from the relationship. I must admit I haven't always lived up to that ideal, but I've never tried to rationalize it away either.

Are others also unsettled by this article? It's like he's seeking the justification to cheat. I had never thought about his personal life before but I find this a bit disappointing for no rational reason.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:31:00 UTC | #87633

BaronOchs's Avatar Comment 18 by BaronOchs

Lifelong heterosexual monogamy I'm sure is brilliant, but it won't work for everyone and it's not some kind of golden ideal towards which everyone must aspire or count themselves a failure.

This is where the churches go wrong, they idolise marriage, they're marriagolaters.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:32:00 UTC | #87634

Titus's Avatar Comment 19 by Titus

Like Arcturus I immediately thought of Heinlein when I read this piece. I'm sure that Heinlein's works had quite an influence on me as a teenager; for as an adult I find myself mystified by others' rapid and unreasonable desire to leap into the quagmire of jealousy.
Were you a fan Richard? I do hope so.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:36:00 UTC | #87636

USA_Limey's Avatar Comment 20 by USA_Limey

Comment #91870 by Lana:

Are others also unsettled by this article?


Frankly yes. As i said in my first post above, I thought the first few paragraphs were terrible and even - I have to say it - bizarre.

I'm going to put this down to an off day for the good prof.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:37:00 UTC | #87637

Fedler's Avatar Comment 21 by Fedler

I'm torn. My brother recently separated from his wife (not yet divorced) because she started a relationship with another man. He didn't fly into a fit of rage or seek to make her life hell. He just wanted to know why. He has thus far been reluctant to file for the divorce.

I suggested to him that if she wants to screw around (literally), she needs to do so as a legitimate single, unmarried person and urged him to file for the divorce. She's making a mockery of their promise to be faithful to each other, it doesn't matter if it's anti-Darwinian.

So I can see the point of dgr8test97, but I can also understand there is no obvious natural reason to commit to one person. Especially no reason to totally run the person through the ringer via sexual jealousy.

Getting too far, perhaps, outside the box…what if the other person you want to love is a relative, like a cousin? There perhaps is no obvious reason to commit to one person, but how does that apply in an incestual relationship? Just a thought I figured I would throw out there…..

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:43:00 UTC | #87639

ubermensch's Avatar Comment 22 by ubermensch

Dawkins is confusing 2 arguments here. One is the question of sexual mores, and the other is of trust. If the 2 parties in a relationship have each agreed that their relationship is 'open', then I don't see a problem if one or both have multiple partners. However, if one partner has a 'extra-marital' relationship without disclosing this to the other partner, and whilst pretending that all is well with their relationship, then trust is broken, just as it would be if one party gambled away the family silver. I agree that Clinton's sexual escapades were no business of the press or the public - but they were the business of his wife. Assuming that she was unaware of his relationship(s), she had every right to feel betrayed, and cheated against.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:44:00 UTC | #87640

manitoumackinac's Avatar Comment 23 by manitoumackinac

With god and religion out the window, something about this subject confuses me, and this is mainly due to many of the dynamics involved in relationships between two romantic partners. Sexual jealousy is something that can be explained well under Darwinian terms, but also Darwinian explanations can also be used effectively to explain "cheating", or at least when a partner has a fantasy about sex with another person outside the relationship. To me this seems like a type of Darwinian double standard that is engrained in our nature. Cultural norms have emphasized monogamy in relationships, and these norms can be seen as obsolete, especially with the invention of effective birth control. But yet, there are many shades of gray involved in the morals about sexual infidelity and jealousy. It can be argued that the consequences of sexual behavior, if performed without precaution, can lead to the birth of a child. It is far easier for two parents who are living together in today's society to raise a child than it is for a single parent, and this is mainly due to economic reasons. Could sexual jealousy have something to do with that? I am not satisfied with the idea of a Darwinian double standard, and perhaps I am overlooking something important. And so it appears to me that if I put the question of sexual jealousy into the terms of nature verses nurture, could this simply be a nurture question?

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:49:00 UTC | #87641

upsidedawn's Avatar Comment 24 by upsidedawn

Just to cast my "vote," I agree with dgr8test97, Lana, and ubermensch. I am uncomfortable with the article for the reasons they have indicated.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:52:00 UTC | #87643

Titus's Avatar Comment 25 by Titus

Lana, I'm inclined to think you're disappointment is the result of your upbringing which is, inevitably, steeped in theocratic morality. Rationally, monogamous relationships can hardly be a natural state for the human species; for if they were Richard would not have needed to write the article. The need for both sexes to seek multiple partners is evidenced by the behaviour itself.
It is true that some find happiness in lifelong monogamous relationships, but they are overwhelmingly the exception.
I for one long for a world where people could be genuinely honest and open about their desires without the artificial, and usually hypocritical, guilt imposed by an artificial and patently unnatural morality.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:54:00 UTC | #87644

USA_Limey's Avatar Comment 26 by USA_Limey

Comment #91878 by ubermensch was:

I agree that Clinton's sexual escapades were no business of the press or the public


Wrong, wrong, WRONG

These weren't some past indiscretions by Bill when he was a freshman at college, like the whole 'I smoked but I didn't inhale' fiasco - I agree that was nobody's business. He was POTUS, in a position of extreme power and the EMPLOYER of Ms Lewinsky, (and others - there were others). He screwed around ON THE JOB and IN THE OFFICE.

He should have been fired no question.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:57:00 UTC | #87646

Corylus's Avatar Comment 27 by Corylus

...love of Chateau Margaux does not preclude love of a fine Hock, and we don't feel unfaithful to the red when we dally with the white...
Glad to hear it's a fine Hock and not a Blue Nun.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 13:58:00 UTC | #87647

upsidedawn's Avatar Comment 28 by upsidedawn

He screwed around ON THE JOB and IN THE OFFICE.

He should have been fired no question.

Well, he was found out to have done so. That was his problem, right?

Because for sure there've been lots of people who have screwed around on the job and not found out. There will have been rumors about it, too, but no pursuit of it, so the people involved won't suffer any consequences.

Honestly, I understand why companies have rules about it, but personally I don't care if someone else does it at work.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 14:08:00 UTC | #87652

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 29 by Matt H.

But isn't the White House the President's house? Why exactly couldn't he have sex in his own house? Are you in favour of banning people having sex in their homes?

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #87654

Jiten's Avatar Comment 30 by Jiten

What a brilliant piece by Dawkins who never fails to surprise me with his new way of looking at things.I loved his idea that you can love more than one child,wine,film,album,friend etc..,and so why not more than one lover?

Some of the other posters here have said it's about trust.But it's only about trust if it's done behind your back and lying is involved,not when it's all out in the open.

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 14:16:00 UTC | #87656