update 02/01: i’ve tried to leave a couple of (very civil, of course) comments on huffpost — to try to, you know, have a conversation about the bans on cousin marriage in parts of the u.s. — but to no avail. my comments are not allowed through moderation. just thought i’d share.
“A BBC report discussed Pakistanis in Britain, 55% of whom marry a first cousin. Given the high rate of such marriages, many children come from repeat generations of first-cousin marriages. The report states that these children are 13 times more likely than the general population to produce children with genetic disorders, and one in ten children of first-cousin marriages in Birmingham either dies in infancy or develops a serious disability. The BBC also states that Pakistani-Britons, who account for some 3% of all births in the UK, produce ‘just under a third” of all British children with genetic illnesses.’”
that is exactly the point i made in the first section (“disease”) of my original post below, i.e. in regularly inbreeding societies, the risks of genetic defects are higher than what dr. younus quoted. the figures he quoted are for western societies with little inbreeding.
“[L]et’s be clear. I don’t intent to *promote* cousin marriages. But when 25 US states ban such marriages in a free society, we ought to at least have a conversation about it.”
absolutely! i agree. (see entire blog…. (~_^) )
dr. younus, who is orginally from pakistan btw, goes on to present arguments against what he calls “the ‘Disease-Incest-Einstein’ line of American reasoning” that stands in opposition to cousin marriage — in other words “you don’t have to be an Einstein to know that incestuous relationships lead to diseases in the babies.” he attempts to show how these three objections to cousin marriage — disease (or congenital conditions), incest (the ewwww factor), and that all smart people know it’s a bad thing — are just flat out wrong….
1) disease. dr. younus says:
“The risk of birth defects in children born to first cousins is increased from a baseline of 3-4 percent to 4-7 percent according to the National Society of Genetic Councilors (NSGC). In this modern age, this risk could be mitigated by mandating — as the State of Maine has done — pre-marital genetic testing. The NSGC, however, considers the risk to be so insignificant that it does not recommend additional testing or screening.”
the above statement demonstrates a gross misunderstanding on dr. younus’ part of the risks of congenital conditions in consanguineous relationships. sure the risk of birth defects in children born to first cousins is pretty low (4-7%) in the united states (and other western countries) where cousin marriage is not the usual practice. but in societies where cousin marriage is the norm (egs. saudia arabia, pakistan, afghanistan, sudan), the risks are much higher. in, for instance, dr. younus’s country of origin, pakistan [pdf]:
“It is estimated that about 10 percent of congenital and genetic disorders worldwide are associated with customary consanguineous marriage; in most of the Middle East, the proportion is 30 percent, and in Pakistan, it is 40 percent.“
the higher (much higher) risks of birth defects from cousin marriages in these other societies are a result of the fact that these populations have been practicing cousin marriage for generations — many, many generations. probably for literally millennia in saudi arabia and nearly as long, if not as long, in south asia.
when you have multiple (upon multiple) generations of inbreeding, cousins from these families will inevitably share many more genes in common on average — including genes related to diseases — than cousins in western societies where there is little inbreeding. the inbreeding coefficient of first cousins is usually reckoned at 6.25%, but this can be twice as high in long-term, regularly inbreeding populations — such as in pakistan.
in addition, as my long-suffering regular readers already know, the type of cousin marriage favored in the arab world and places like pakistan and afghanistan — father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) cousin marriage — leads to even greater inbreeding than other forms of cousin marriage (cross-cousin marriage, for instance) since it promotes a tendency towards double-first-cousin marriages (see previous posts for more on why this is — here and here and here).
all of this amounts to no small set of problems. the saudis and other arab nations have probably spent something like half their oil profits (<<possible hyperbole alert) on studying and trying to come up with solutions to deal with all of the genetic defects connected to consanguineous mating in their populations, and concerns were recently raised about the high rates of genetic defects in the u.k.’s pakistani population, a highly consanguineous group.
2) incest. dr. younus says:
“As you cross the scientific hurdles, you will be confronted with a mountain of taboo cloaked in words like ‘gross,’ ‘icky,’ ‘yucky. But where do such taboo feelings originate from? Not a single verse in the Torah, Bible or Quran — books revered by three billion followers of the three Abrahamic religions — prohibits cousin marriage, which were common in Jewish, Christian and Islamic history.”
uh … no, actually. cousin or other close marriages have, indeed, been common in jewish and islamic societies, but not so much in christian societies. i should qualify that: not so much in european christian societies.
again this is familiar ground for my regular readers out there — cousin marriage began to be banned by the christian church in europe as early as the 500s. since then, cousin marriage has been banned to various degrees and at various points in time by the roman catholic church, the eastern orthodox church, and even some of the protestant churches — not to mention secular authorities. (for more on this, see my mating patterns in europe series below ↓ in the left-hand column, and jack goody’s The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe and michael mitterauer’s Why Europe?, in particular chapter three).
the avoidance of cousin marriage has been especially strong over the past one thousand to fifteen-hundred years in northern and western europe (with some notable exceptions) — and a bit weaker (or having a later commencement) in eastern and southern europe. (there have also been some pockets of long-standing close marriage practices in northwestern europe — see the auvergnats in france and the border reivers of england whose descendents moved to appalachia for example).
since a large percentage of americans are of northwest european extraction, it shouldn’t be surprising that they aren’t fond of the thought of cousin marriage. whether they experience an ewwww response to the thought of cousin marriage for cultural reasons, or perhaps even biological ones, i don’t think it’s unreasonable that they (we) should desire american society — which was founded by northwest europeans after all — to remain one in which cousin marriage is not a regular occurence.
3) einstein. dr. younus says:
“This is the ultimate argument made in support of banning cousin marriages. It’s so obviously wrong that ‘You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure it out.’ In the evidence driven societies we have a different word to describe such claims: myth. Myths are best broken by data. The fact that 20 percent of global marriages take place between first cousins and most societies, including Europe and Canada, consider cousin marriages to be legal should give us a pause.“
just because a lot of people in the world do something does not necessarily mean that it’s a good idea.
research has shown strong negative correlations between inbreeding rates and national average iqs — in other words, the greater the amount of inbreeding, the lower the average national iq — see here and here. there is also a pretty strong correlation between consanguinity rates and corruption levels (see also here) — the greater the amount of cousin marriage, the greater the amount of corruption in a society. finally, there is a strong negative correlation between cousin marriage and democracy — the more cousin marriage in a society, the less democratic it’s likely to be (see here).
it’s not completely clear, yet, why any of this should be — i have my own theories which you can find by poking around on the blog (if you’re really curious, you could do worse than starting here or here) — but whatever the reasons behind these not-so-optimal connections between cousin marriage and the characteristics of a modern, open, and free society, it doesn’t take an einstein to figure out that the two DO NOT seem to go together.
see also: Cousin Marriage Conundrum by steve sailer, Veil of Fears by stanley kurtz, and Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development by parapundit.
(note: comments do not require an email. kissin’ cousins.)