so … why ban cousin marriages?

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.

another update 02/01: on huffpost, somebody calling themselves tylerious linked to this from wikipedia:

“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.

jayman tweeted about an article written by a dr. faheem younus and published (originally) in the huffington post entitled “Why Ban Cousin Marriages?” dr. younus writes (link added by me):

“[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 afghanistanfather’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.)

random notes: 01/26/13

i thought before that i noticed a difference in average iqs between northern and southern spain: españa al norte frente al sur and northern vs. southern spanish iq, redux. apparently i’m not completely crazy:

“North-South Differences in Spain in IQ, Educational Attainment, per capita Income, Literacy, Life Expectancy and Employment”
– Richard Lynn

“IQs are presented for fifteen regions of Spain showing a north-south gradient with IQs highest in the north and lowest in the south. The regional differences in IQ are significantly correlated with educational attainment, per capita income, literacy, employment and life expectancy, and are associated with the percentages of Near Eastern and North African genes in the population.”

some naturalists/environmentalists are starting to note (like they used to) that there are TOO MANY PEOPLE on the planet:

“David Attenborough – Humans are plague on Earth”

“Sir David, who is a patron of the Population Matters, has spoken out before about the ‘frightening explosion in human numbers’ and the need for investment in sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population in developing countries.

‘We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it’s going to get worse and worse.'”

and from down under:

“Hillary Clinton tries to silence Bindi Irwin on population growth”

“The mother-of-two [bindi’s mom, mrs. irwin] said population growth was an unpopular topic.

‘It’s astounding that in just over 100 years we’ve gone from 1.5 billion people on the planet to 7 billion so you think “what do we do in the next 100 years?” We’re going to be warring over water and space and food,’ she said.

“‘I just think it’s fascinating that when Bindi does an interview and talks about population, more than 50 per cent of the time it’s edited out.

“‘It’s something we do need to talk about or the ship’s going to sink man.’

“Mrs Irwin said she had visited communities in Australia which were in desperate need of family planning support.

“‘Certainly when Bindi, Robert and I were in South Africa four years ago filming a movie we saw a lot of that in Africa as well. It’s a global problem but we recognise it in Africa and we forget it’s something that’s in our own back yard,’ she said.

“‘Everyone talks about recycle and manage your resources but how do you do that when we’ve got so many people?

‘It’s not terribly popular but I’m not trying to insult anyone’s ability to decide how many kids they want … but I continue to meet children in foster care and people living on the poverty line who did not chose to have so many children and for who options weren’t made readily available.’

good for them!

a story in the daily mail about blood feuds in albania:

“Three brothers aged 12, nine and seven have NEVER been outside their home because they are caught in a bitter family blood feud”

“The brothers are among an estimated 900 children who must hide indoors to avoid being slaughtered under the ancient Balkan code of practise known as Kanun – which gives a person the right to kill a rival or a rival’s relatives in retribution for an earlier killing.

Killings under the Kanun are known as Gjakmarrja or blood-taking, and are similar to the Italian tradition of vendetta.

“The practise is said to date back to medieval times although some historians say they can trace its origins to the Bronze age.

“It applies to both Christian and Muslim Albanians and regulates all aspects of life including crime, family, marriage, transfer of property, damages as well as personal and social conduct.

“It was virtually stamped out under Communism but has since returned as Albania struggles to emerge as a modern and prosperous democracy, with many claiming to hold no faith in the current legal system.

“Although the blood feud killings are known to date back to the Middle Ages, many of the ‘rules’ have not been adapted to modern times, often they can continue until every male member of the families are dead….”

see also: the maniots

(note: comments do not require an email. albanian man, nineteenth century.)


canadien photographer françois brunelle has a neat project/exhibit/book going called I’m Not a Look-Alike! in which he photographs pairs of people who look alike but who are not relatives — at least not as far as they are aware.

i love these two men from munich:


it would be sooo cool to check these people’s genomes out to see if they are crypto cousins or not. i betcha many of them are! especially the individuals from the same areas.

many of brunelle’s subjects seem to be from montreal/quebec, and since the number of founding french canadians was so small (ca. 6000), it’s not surprising that there should be a lot of doppelgangers in that population, since they really ARE all (relatively speaking) closely related! here are a pair of doppelgangers from montreal:

doppelgangers - montreal

(jayman posted a couple of links here on the blog once to two french-american politicians, one in canada and one in new england, who look very much alike, but i can’t find his comment now. dr*t! jayman…?)

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stds and miiiind control

yes, you read that right: sexually transmitted diseases.

my other favorite topic, after inbreeding/altruism and all that, is viruses or microbes or parasites that control your miiiind — like (you’ve prolly read a lot about) toxoplasma gondii. or even greg cochran’s gay germ theory.

peter frost had an interesting post up a couple of weeks ago that i’ve been meaning to draw attention to (so, here i am now, drawing attention to his interesting post!) about bacterial vaginosis and how that might potentially alter people’s behaviors. long, but interesting, story — go read it, if you haven’t already!

which reminded me of what i’ve thought about once or twice: if i were a sexually transmitted virus/microbe/parasite (or even one that wasn’t sexually transmitted), how would i gain control of my host so as to ensure he (or she) spread me about? if it were me, i’d go for the nervous system to mess up the person’s behavior.

like cupid’s disease has done maybe? from oliver sacks [taken from here]:

“A bright woman of 90, Natasha K., recently came to our clinic. Soon after her 88th birthday, she said, she noticed ‘a change.’ What sort of change? we queried.

“‘Delightful!’ she exclaimed. ‘I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt more energetic, more alive — I felt young once again. I took an interest in the young men. I started to feel, you might say, “frisky” — yes frisky.

“‘This was a problem?’

“‘No, not at first. I felt well, extremely well — why should I think anything was the matter?’

“‘And then?’

“‘My friends started to worry. First they said, “You look radiant — a new lease on life!,” but then they started to think it was not quite — appropriate. “You were always so shy,” they said, “and now you’re a flirt. You giggle, you tell jokes — at your age, is that right?”‘

“‘And how did you feel?’

“‘I was taken aback. I’d been carried along, and it didn’t occur to me to question what was happening. But then I did. I said to myself, “You’re 89, Natasha, this has been going on for a year. You were always so temperate in feeling — and now this extravagance! You’re an old woman, nearing the end. What could justify such a sudden euphoria?” And as soon as I thought of euphoria, things took on a new complexion…. “You’re sick, my dear,” I said to myself. “You’re feeling too well, you have to be ill!”‘

“‘Ill? Emotionally? Mentally ill?’

“‘No, not emotionally — physically ill. It was something in my body, my brain, that was making me high. And then I thought — goddam it, it’s Cupid’s Disease!’

“‘Cupid’s Disease?’ I echoed, blankly. I have never heard of the term before.

“‘Yes, Cupid’s Disease — syphilis, you know. I was in a brothel in Salonika, nearly 70 years ago. I caught syphilis — lots of the girls had it — we called it “Cupid’s Disease.” My husband saved me, took me out, had it treated. That was years before penicillin, of course. Could it have caught up with me after all these years?’

“There may be an immense latent period between the primary infection and the advent of neurosyphilis, especially if the primary infection has been suppressed, not eradicated. I had one patient, treated with Salvarsan by Ehrlich himself, who developed tabes dorsalis — one form of neurosyphilis — more than 50 years later.

“But I had never heard of an interval of seventy years — nor of a self-diagnosis of syphilis mooted so calmly and clearly.

“‘That’s an amazing suggestion,’ I replied after some thought. ‘It would have never occurred to me — but perhaps you are right.’

“She was right; the spinal fluid was positive, she did have neurosyphilis, it was indeed the spirochetes stimulating her ancient cerebral cortex.

so, the treponema pallidum bacterium had gotten into this lady’s brain (neurosyphilis) and made her frisky. does it do that to other people as well? making its hosts frisky might help t. pallidum to spread. hmmmm. the herpes simplex virus, too, travels along nerves. hmmmm.

i only ask because, in this day and age of hook-ups and what not, a lot of people have stds (1 in 6 americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes). are these infections altering people’s behaviors? making them even more promiscuous?

just wondering.

(note: comments do not require an email. she may look clean – but.)

proximity to the arctic?

or maybe distance from the equator? here are some nation rankings for you…

first, the world’s happiest countries in 2012 — by which they (the legatum institute people) mean the world’s most prosperous countries (i think i see the hajnal line there…):

legatum prosperity index 2012

top 10 countries:
– Norway
– Denmark
– Sweden
– Australia
– New Zealand
– Canada
– Finland
– Netherlands
– Switzerland
– Ireland

bottom 10 countries:
– Ethiopia
– Yemen
– Zimbabwe
– Togo
– Burundi
– Haiti
– Chad
– Afghanistan
– Republic of Congo
– Central African Republic

see their methodology here.

and now … world internet usage, june 2012 — world regions – percentage of population:

– North America = 78.6%
– Oceania/Australia = 67.6%
– Europe = 63.2%
– Latin America/Caribbean = 42.9%
– Middle East = 40.2%
– Asia = 27.5%
– Africa = 15.6%

within the americas (north and latin):

– Greenland = 90.1%
– Canada = 83.0%
– United States = 78.1%
– Argentina = 66.4%
– Chile = 58.6%
– Jamaica = 54.7%
– Brazil = 45.6%
– Dominican Republic = 45.6%
– Mexico = 36.5%

within europe:

– Sweden = 92.7%
– United Kingdom = 83.6%
– France = 79.6%
– Italy = 58.4%
– Albania = 49.0%
– Kosovo = 20.5%

within asia:

– South Korea = 82.5%
– Japan = 79.5%
– Sinagpore = 75.0%
– Hong Kong = 74.5%
– China = 40.1%
– Georgia = 28.4%
– Pakistan = 15.3%
– India = 11.4%
– Afghanistan = 5.0%

(note: comments do not require an email. the internet!)

historic european homicide rates … and the hajnal line

here’s another map of europe — from steven pinker’s Better Angels:

pinker - fig. 3.8 - hajnal line

“Figure 3-8. Geography of homicide in Europe, late 19th and early 21st centuries [i’ve only shown the 19th century map here – h.chick]. Sources: Late 19th century (1880-1900): Eisner, 2003.”

now here’s the same map with the hajnal line added. oh … oops!:

pinker - fig. 3.8 - hajnal line02

what i’ve been wanting to see is a map showing the reduction of homicide rates in europe over time. eisner has shown that the homicide rates didn’t drop all at once — they started dropping the earliest in england, belgium/netherlands, germany and switzerland — later scandinavia — and, much later, italy and the rest of peripheral europe (see this post for more details and nifty charts). here’s pinker summarizing eisner’s findings (from chapter 3 of Better Angels):

“[F]rom the 13th century to the 20th, homicide in various parts of England plummeted by a factor of ten, fifty, and in some cases a hundred — for example, from 110 homicides per 100,000 people per year in the 14th-century Oxford to less than 1 homicide per 100,000 in mid-20th-century London….

“Were the English unusual among Europeans in gradually refraining from murder? Eisner looked at other Western European countries for which criminologists had compiled homicide data. [T]he results were similar. Scandinavians needed a couple of additional centuries before they thought the better of killing each other, and Italians didn’t get serious about it until the 19th century. But by the 20th century the annual homicide rate of every Western European country had fallen into a narrow band centered on 1 per 100,000….

The Civilizing Process spread not only downward along the socioeconomic scale but outward across the geographic scale, from a Western European epicenter…. England was the first to pacify itself, followed closely by Germany and the Low Countries. Figure 3-8 [the one i half-posted above – h.chick] plots this outward ripple on maps of Europe in the late 19th and early 21st centuries.

“In the late 1800s, Europe had a peaceable bull’s-eye in the northern industrialized countries (Great Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Low Countries), bordered by slightly stroppier Ireland, Austria-Hungary, and Finland, surrounded in turn by still more violent Spain, Italy, Greece, and the Slavic countries. Today the peaceable center has swelled to encompass all of Western and Central Europe, but a gradient of lawlessness extending to Eastern Europe and the mountainous Balkans is still visible.”

i wanted to see THAT on a map, so i drew one (NOT with crayons, although it kinda looks like it…). lighter shades=earlier drop in homicide rates; darker shades=later drop. i’ve indicated the century in which homicide rates began to drop for each region. and i’ve drawn in the hajnal line:

pinker eisner reduction of homicide in europe over time 02

finally, a footnote from pinker:

“There are gradients within each of these countries as well: the hinterlands and mountains remained violent long after the urbanized and densely farmed centers had calmed down. Clan warfare was endemic to the Scottish highlands until the 18th century, and to Sardinia, Sicily, Montenegro, and other parts of the Balkans until the 20th.”

previously: ibd rates for europe and the hajnal line and outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and what pinker missed

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ibd rates for europe and the hajnal line

*update below*

remember this map from ralph & coop [pdf]?:

coop et al - mean within-country ibd rates

those are the mean ibd (identity by descent) rates for various populations in europe. the bigger the circle, the greater the number of ibd blocks larger than 1cM in length shared in common between each populations’ members. so, the larger the circles, the more segments of dna the individuals within those population share in common — i.e. the more alike they are genetically.

well, i never added the hajnal line to that map like i usually like to do for any map of europe that lands on my desktop (see here and here for examples). how remiss of me! (recall that populations within the hajnal line have had a historic tendency to marry late.)

i thought i’d better rectify this situation … so, here it is! mean ibd rates for europe PLUS the hajnal line. enjoy!:

coop et al - mean within-country ibd rates + hajnal line

update: see also jayman’s More on Farming and Inheritance Systems – Part I: IQ.

previously: ibd and historic mating patterns in europe and behind the hajnal line and todd’s family systems and the hajnal line

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clans in the news: india, israel, etc.

first of all — how come no one ever told me that the indian (as in call centers) diamond industry was run in large part by ca. 2500 jainist families? a lot of them from palanpur (see also here). from time magazine:

“The Surat diamond trade was built by a dynamic and enterprising religious community – the Palanpuri Jains, followers of an ancient religion that emphasizes nonviolence and vegetarianism. Jains account for 0.4% of India’s population. The Palanpuris, who hail from the town of Palanpur in the Indian state of Gujarat, form a close-knit community that thrives in the atmosphere of secrecy and informality that envelops the diamond trade – there are often no written contracts, many transactions occur in cash, and stones worth millions of dollars are transported with virtually no security. ‘It’s an industry built on trust,’ says Biju Patnaik, a Bombay-based diamond-industry expert at Dutch bank ABN AMRO. The Palanpuris have also ventured over-seas, setting up small family-run polishing centers in Antwerp and Tel Aviv, and slowly elbowing into the U.S. as diamond sellers. In Manhattan’s midtown diamond district, Palanpuri businessmen sitting beneath portraits of their saint, Mahavira, now run shops side by side with black-coated Hasidim from Brooklyn.”

yeah, it’s an industry built on trust all right … in family members! fellow inbred members prolly (there are some hints that cousin marriage is a-okay amongst the jains — and we know that uncle-niece marriage is allowed with that other diamond-trading group — the hasidim).

see also Jews Surrender Gem Trade to Indians and Jainism in Belgium

i suppose that, like me, you’re all closely following the story of the unfortunate mr. urooj khan who lived in chicago and who, the day after collecting his $1 million lotto winnings ($425,000 after taxes), DIED from CYANIDE poisoning!

the question is, whodunit?:

– his wife/cousin who cooked his last meal (kofta curry) which she may or may not have eaten with him (reports differ)?
– his father-in-law/uncle who lived with mr. khan and who owes $124,000 in back taxes?
– his brother-in-law/possible cousin (married to mr. khan’s sister) with whom mr. khan’s daughter by his first wife is now living and who is suing khan’s wife/estate for the daughter’s share of the lottery winnings (or so he says)?
– his brother who called the police to say that mr. khan’s death was suspicious and that they should exhume his body to check for any funny business (which they are gonna do)?
– someone else entirely?

if this were back in the old country, clearly there would be a clan war a-brewin’!

see also: Brother of $1m lottery winner cyanide victim revealed to be relative who tipped off police about his ‘unnatural death’ and Poisoned Lottery Winner Urooj Khan’s Family Knew Something Wasn’t Right, Nephew Says

meanwhile, in israel:

1 dead, 6 apartments burned in J’lem clash of clans

these are arab, not jewish, clans…

“22-year-old man dies in hospital after being stabbed in a conflict between two family clans; six apartments, cars burned in fire.

A clash between two family clans (hamulot) in the northeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina left one man dead and led to a massive fire that burned six apartments on Tuesday….

“The warring Arab families threw rocks at police officers who tried to respond at the scene, though they did not injure anyone else, according to Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby….”

very helpful. =/

and, although not really a clan per se, here’s an extended family for you … one set of identical twins married to another set of identical twins, and both couples have some kids …

sanders families

… shouldn’t all those kids — all those cousins — be related to each other as though they were all siblings? they should, shouldn’t they? amirite?

previously: clans in the news: deutschland

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