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.
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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….
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.)

70 Comments

  1. @avi – “I’m a parent. I don’t find that ‘Gee Dad, all the countries are doing it’ argument is a strong one.”

    heh! (^_^) no, not the strongest of arguments.

    Reply

  2. There are great reasons for a nation to ban such marriages. They’re just not the reasons you can talk openly about around a bunch of silly fools who feel compelled to pay lip service to universalism. So BS reasons have to suffice.
    If you want a high-trust society, you need to do three big things:
    Don’t have significant ‘diversity’ and
    Be less inbred than most other societies
    Have hegemonic patriarchal monogamy

    Reply

  3. @jehu – “If you want a high-trust society, you need to do three big things:
    Don’t have significant ‘diversity’ and
    Be less inbred than most other societies
    Have hegemonic patriarchal monogamy”

    that sounds about right.

    Reply

  4. Aren’t “not diverse” and “not inbred” sort of conflicting with each other? I mean, if you want to avoid inbreeding then the logical solution would be to outbreed…therefore mating with someone who is very different from you. If you want to avoid diversity then you might have to start inbreeding, depending on your definition of ‘diverse’.

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  5. Interesting, Dr. Younus appears to be an Ahmadi Muslim. I wonder what the level of consanguinity among that particular minority is relative to the quite high Pakistani baseline.

    @ Anonymous:

    Aren’t “not diverse” and “not inbred” sort of conflicting with each other?

    Not at all. There is a vast difference between a marriage between a couple of the same national origin and a marriage between two first cousins, with the former being commonplace and the latter being quite rare in the United States.

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  6. A quick search brought up this article (pdf) relating to the marriage practices of Ahmadis in the UK. Skimming through, it appears that while they engage in marriages to kin, they have lower cousin marriage rates than other South Asian populations in the UK, with a trend away from consanguinity while the trend moves in the opposite direction for other groups. I suppose that’s not especially surprising considering that Ahmadis accept evolution and that the only Paksitani Nobel Prize winner was an Ahmadi.

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  7. @r.a. – “A quick search brought up this article (pdf) relating to the marriage practices of Ahmadis in the UK. Skimming through, it appears that while they engage in marriages to kin, they have lower cousin marriage rates than other South Asian populations in the UK, with a trend away from consanguinity….”

    interesting! thanks! (^_^)

    (you did close that tag, btw, but sometimes wordpress is just a little spastic.)

    Reply

  8. @anonymous – “Aren’t ‘not diverse’ and ‘not inbred’ sort of conflicting with each other?”

    like the reluctant apostate said above, i think what jehu was referring to when he wrote “don’t have significant ‘diversity'” was not to have a multi-ethnic/racial society. the least amount of differences in that regard is usually for the better.

    one of these days i need to sit down and write a post clarifying what i mean by “inbreeding” and “outbreeding” because i think i’ve confused a lot of people with my sloppy and imprecise use of those words (sorry!).

    what i’m really talking about are mating patterns — long-term mating patterns. specifically, for example, whether a population, with some regularity and over the course of a good deal of time, marries their first cousins. that would be “inbreeding.” versus never marrying anyone closer than, say, second cousins (with some regularity and over the course of a good deal of time). that would be an example of “outbreeding.”

    see this comment for more of what i mean and stay tuned for a post explaining what the h*ll i’ve been trying to say! (~_^)

    Reply

  9. If this was a political campaign a great poster would be to list countries in order of cousin marriage and let people see the pattern.

    .
    “Aren’t “not diverse” and “not inbred” sort of conflicting with each other? I mean, if you want to avoid inbreeding then the logical solution would be to outbreed…therefore mating with someone who is very different from you. If you want to avoid diversity then you might have to start inbreeding, depending on your definition of ‘diverse’.”

    Different but not “very” different. It’s a question of scale. In a population the size of Iceland or Denmark then even outbreeding to the maximum extent – as long as it’s within those populations – you’re still “inbreeding” in one sense and will still all end up as nth cousins – but on average maybe 5th or 6th cousins rather then 1st and 2nd cousins.

    If you look at the countries which regularly top the “best” country lists like Denmark you see populations which have been outbreeding (no close cousins) within an endogamous national limit for centuries and one of the side-effects of doing that – if the population is the right size – is you end up with a population where everyone is closely related – but not too closely related.

    One of the main points of this blog is that end result seems to have optimal results in all sorts of areas.

    If you think of out-breeding within a limit – (i assume the limit could be at least 1-2% porous) – as being more about increasing the average relatedness of everyone within a population then it becomes clearer why it may be optimal and why there might be a certain population size which would give the optimal result.

    .
    If you wanted the optimal result in a country the size of China or India then maximal outbreeding might lead to a population losing any sense of connectedness (possibly leading to an individualistic dog eat dog culture similar to the extended family vs extended family dog eat dog culture you get in close-cousin marrying cultures) so the idea there might be to split the country up into multiple 6 million pop. Swiss-style cantons with *some* limits on internal migration between the cantons and within each canton have bans on *close* cousin marriages. Eventually you’d have a country made up of 160 Denmarks.

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  10. @Greying Wanderer I think such issues are gonna be tough for China and India to face, no matter what. Their populations are so large I can’t even think of any policies that would work ‘well’ in their societies. I guess the Chinese and Indian governments are doing an extremely good job just keeping their respective countries from imploding into African-style hellholes. So yeah, no matter how you look at it, it takes a lot of effort to get anything done in China/India and we should not expect them to come anywhere close to Danish levels of development. They are doing the best they can, given their massive population handicap.

    As for the United States, while interracial marriage isn’t the norm, I do believe that interethnic marriage is the norm. I see all the time people of different European backgrounds marrying each other…does this mean that the White American population can’t function as well as the Danish/Italian/Polish population can?

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  11. Birth defects caused by inbreeding should reduce the frequency of recessive disorders such as sickle cell anaemia and Tay-Sachs. If descendants later switch to out-breeding then, in a sense, they will be more genetically healthy than the generations before they started.

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  12. That you can’t get a word in at Puff Post demonstrates that it is, indeed, the ideas here that people are afraid of, not the typically uncouth messengers. Few are more tactful and polite about HBD-related ideas than you are.

    Reply

  13. I’m not sure if you have seen this Norwegian paper: Consanguineous marriage in Norway
    Prevalence and medical consequences
    .

    The authors reach the same conclusions as you:
    “For people of Norwegian origin, and for the Norwegian population as a whole, parental consanguinity is not that important on a population level, because
    consanguineous marriage is so rare. On the other hand, in the minority groups in which consanguineous marriage is common, parental consanguinity is a frequent cause of death and disease. The higher the prevalence of consanguineous marriage, the larger the impact on population health”

    Reply

  14. When you think abut it, there are advantages in having big swathes of the world indulge in practices that ensure they will never be real competition.

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  15. @gcochran9 – “When you think abut it, there are advantages in having big swathes of the world indulge in practices that ensure they will never be real competition.”

    yes, i’ve thought about that. maybe i should just keep my big mouth shut!

    Reply

  16. @anonymous
    “I think such issues are gonna be tough for China and India to face, no matter what. Their populations are so large I can’t even think of any policies that would work ‘well’ in their societies.”

    Sure. I’m not knocking them i’m just saying if this idea is correct – and also if there is an optimal population level – then how could the idea be adapted to a very large population. Jus’ thinking aloud.

    .
    “I see all the time people of different European backgrounds marrying each other…does this mean that the White American population can’t function as well as the Danish/Italian/Polish population can?”

    Well i think America being so diverse even solely within the white population is one of the reasons it’s so different to Europe in terms of things like national tax-funded healthcare. A system like that is always in the interests of people who will get more out of it than they will put in but at what point does it become genetically logical for people who will pay more in than they will ever get out? If you think about it in terms of “i’ll lay my life down for two brothers or 8 first cousins” then what would happen if you had a population where everyone was on average nth cousins? It might be possible to figure out exactly at what level of average cousinage a certain percentage of tax becomes in the genetic interests of the people paying in more than they get out.

    I think you’ll find that all countries with a minimum average relatedness and spare cash automatically create systems like that as soon as they can – not saying it’s a good thing just that it’s something homogeneous populations seem to do naturally – though it’s hard to imagine a mechanism for it. Perhaps simply visual – seeing people who resemble family members in the street?

    (Similarly now european countries have become more diverse the support for welfare systems is crumbling.)

    America’s case is complicated and i don’t want to distract too much from the basic idea which is: if you increase the average relatedness of a population by outbreeding (beyond 2nd cousin) but within some as yet unknown optimal population limit then that population will over time become more like Denmark and if you decrease average relatedness, either by close-cousin marriage or outbreeding too far then you’ll become less like Denmark but in two very different ways, either too clannish, corrupt and uncooperative i.e. the extended family version of dog eat dog or (imo) too individualistic and atomized i.e. the individual version of dog eat dog.

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  17. hubchik
    “yes, i’ve thought about that. maybe i should just keep my big mouth shut!”

    Yeah but people are trying to push the european population – who (if the idea is correct) accidentally discovered this process – into abandoning what gave them their competitive edge.

    (and not only that as i think it’s a major part of the creativity thing – thinking outside the box is easier when you don’t have a box – so if everyone goes back to marrying first cousins then i think most scientific process will stop – and that would suck imo)

    Reply

  18. @g.w. – “Yeah but people are trying to push the european population – who (if the idea is correct) accidentally discovered this process – into abandoning what gave them their competitive edge.”

    but sometimes i wonder if we … and by “we” i mean you guys, of course, since my people are still a bunch of idiotic “clannish” losers ( (~_^) ) … i wonder if we’ve outbred a little too far, or for too long, and wound up with not quite enough cohesiveness anymore — at least in the face of the invading hordes. a little bit of cousin mating by westerners might be a good thing for a while. maybe every other generation — or every second generation or something (who knows?).

    @g.w. – “if everyone goes back to marrying first cousins then i think most scientific process will stop – and that would suck imo”

    yeah, that’d be no good at all!

    Reply

  19. @g.w. – “people are trying to push the european population … into abandoning what gave them their competitive edge….”

    btw, i suspect that dr. younus and/or other “muslimericans” are probably not trying to get americans to marry their cousins. they just want the laws banning cousin marriages in certain states to be dropped so that they can marry their cousins.

    Reply

  20. “i wonder if we’ve outbred a little too far, or for too long, and wound up with not quite enough cohesiveness anymore…a little bit of cousin mating by westerners might be a good thing for a while”

    i think that’s almost certainly true but there being an optimal point in this process is part of figuring it out. if the optimal point can be figured out – i think it probably briefly existed in East Anglia and the low countries in the 1600s for example and most of what has happened since has simply been the momentum of that moment in time – then we might find out what is necessary.

    (my guess is the optimal *average* – (i doubt it has to be everyone in every generation) – will be something like 3rd to 6th cousins so all you’d need is dating agencies taking in a dna test and allowing a search on cousinage)

    .
    “they just want the laws banning cousin marriages in certain states to be dropped so that they can marry their cousins.”

    sure but part of that process – as you’ve already seen – is the facts being massaged to support that claim and those facts matter.

    more crucially as the old cousin rules came out of christianity people with an anti-christian agenda are liable to jump on the bandwagon leading to the baby being thrown out with the bathwater – literally in this case because of the far greater risk of babies being still-born or having genetic defects.

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  21. @g.w. – “i think it probably briefly existed in East Anglia and the low countries in the 1600s for example…”

    can i have a time machine to go back there, please? (^_^)

    @g.w. – “…my guess is the optimal *average* – (i doubt it has to be everyone in every generation) – will be something like 3rd to 6th cousins….”

    yes, you’re probably right. i was just babbling out loud yesterday evening. (~_^) third cousins would dovetail nicely with linton’s goal to marry close enough so that everyone makes a lot of babies! (^_^) we should start the “marry your third cousin” movement! (^_^)

    Reply

  22. @genemachine – “Birth defects caused by inbreeding should reduce the frequency of recessive disorders such as sickle cell anaemia and Tay-Sachs. If descendants later switch to out-breeding then, in a sense, they will be more genetically healthy than the generations before they started.”

    yes. but then they’d still have to deal with the low-iqs and “clannishness” while they were inbreeding … and for sometime afterwards until (if) those things were selected away.

    Reply

  23. @g.w. – “If this was a political campaign a great poster would be to list countries in order of cousin marriage and let people see the pattern.”

    i should do that.

    Reply

  24. “can i have a time machine to go back there, please?”

    I dunno if it was entirely optimal in other ways though as i think at least some of the people who would have most assiduously followed the church’s cousin ban the longest would have simply been those families with particularly high religiosity – hence the (non) coincidence with puritanism.

    I wonder if because of that root those populations hit the optimal point in terms of things like health, fertility and group cohesion at that earlier time but the more free-thinking aspect may have come a bit later – so i think the great-grandchildren of those puritans may have been more fun to be around.

    Reply

  25. In Indian case, endogamy within caste for centuries with prohibition of relationship up to 7th generation between the couple might have led to pretty tight caste clans.
    Well then, that caste thing will never go away now since everyone in a caste are loosely related to everyone else but consanguinity is prohibited.
    Somehow, not all of them are doing as great as Danes though. .

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  26. “Somehow, not all of them are doing as great as Danes though. .”

    Well it’s just a theory :) and there are probably other factors too. Are those caste groups that are endogamous but with a 7th generation ban between couples more cohesive as a group than those that don’t have that pattern?

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  27. @hbdchick

    >yes. but then they’d still have to deal with the low-iqs and “clannishness” while they were inbreeding … and for sometime afterwards until (if) those things were selected away.

    Short term inconveniences. One outbred generation will clear up most of the iq and health deficits and the clannishness will reduce when there are no inbred clans to draw lines around.

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  28. @genemachine – “…and the clannishness will reduce when there are no inbred clans to draw lines around.”

    no. because you also have to get rid of the “genes for clannishness” (whatever they are). that is the theory, anyhoo.

    examples: even though italian- and irish-americans have been in the u.s. for generations — and they, i’m pretty sure, don’t live in clans anymore — they are still much more familistic than anglo-americans. they’ve still got too many “genes for clannishness” (i think). to behave like anglos, anyway.

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    1. @hbdchick

      I did say reduce. I agree that any traits that have evolved over millennia will not be reversed in a generation.

      Depending on the type of “gene for clannishness” you might not even want rid. Warrior genes seems a bit outdated but a “share with everyone in your locality who are more likely than not your close relatives” gene might still cause the sharing even when there are less close relatives in proximity. Even a warrior gene or two fighting for their geographic clan as opposed to blood relatives is not all bad.

      I’m not sure how much of a negative we can put on the behaviours of modern Italians and Italian-Americans. If their clannishness is expressed by being a bit more familistic in 4-2-1 families then it seems a pretty trivial concern.

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  29. @genemachine – “I’m not sure how much of a negative we can put on the behaviours of modern Italians and Italian-Americans. If their clannishness is expressed by being a bit more familistic in 4-2-1 families then it seems a pretty trivial concern.”

    no, the problem is not just a little extra familism. the problem is what goes along with that, namely corruption and nepotism. think new york … or chicago. or boss tweed.

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  30. @hbd chick,

    If the corruption has a substantial genetic basis stemming from their past inbreeding then yes.

    I hate to use the c word but it could alternatively be largely cultural. Perhaps back in Italy a substantial fraction of the population is corrupt and that makes for a different a different cost/benefit balance from the US. Even 1950 US is a vastly different place for Italian Americans.

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  31. @genemachine – “I hate to use the c word but it could alternatively be largely cultural.”

    you can use the c word! (^_^) but then i’m just going to wind up asking: so where does culture come from?

    Reply

  32. genemachine
    “One outbred generation will clear up most of the iq and health deficits and the clannishness will reduce when there are no inbred clans to draw lines around.”

    The things about this that actually bother me most are

    1) I think hubchik has hit on something of possibly very high historical significance i.e. i think this idea is the most plausible explanation for the industrial revolution that i’ve come across. I wouldn’t like it to get drowned out because at the same time a tsunami of people are rushing to promote cousin-marriage to prove how PC they are – as i think that process will almost certainly involve lying about the data.

    2) One way of promoting cousin-marriage would be “yes it has bad side-effects but we want to do it anyway for cultural / religious reasons” but i think the much more likely route – as evidenced by the Younus guy mentioning Einstein but not mentioning inbreeding depression – will be blatant lying along the lines of “there are no bad side-effects and in fact it’s much better for your children’s health and IQ if you repeatably marry first-cousins over many generations,” which basically boils down to people being given wrong and harmful medical advice.

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  33. @g.w. – “…as evidenced by the Younus guy mentioning Einstein….”

    wrt einstein, he and elsa never had any kids, so the relationship almost doesn’t count, really. (~_^)

    i knew they were cousins, but what i didn’t realize is that they were maternal first cousins AND paternal second cousins. (yes, even i’m dizzy now.) albert adopted elsa’s kids from her first marriage, two daughters — who would’ve been his first and second cousins once removed (heh). he probably would’ve been an ideal step-father, really, actually being related to the girls.

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  34. @Greying Wanderer
    Yes. Many of them show blatant preference for people of their caste. However, they live in regions mixed with other castes with different clannish levels.
    So, if they want to do any public works, out-group will benefit from that too. (and usually, nobody does anything..).

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  35. @hbdchick

    >you can use the c word! (^_^) but then i’m just going to wind up asking: so where does culture come from?

    In addition to genes pushing culture in various directions they also give us the ability to adapt our behavior to fit the environment. In the example of crime families, a change to a 4-2-1 family structure might made forming a Mafia less tempting, or less stable once formed.

    You may be right that inbreeding causes disagreeable psychological traits that are not diminished when inbreeding stops and even if you are not then I would not recommend it given the imminent suffering it will cause. I just wanted to go against the grain and cite a positive; the reduction in recessive diseases in future generations.

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  36. @Greying Wanderer

    I think that the revulsion of making sexytime with close relative and birth defects should ensure that acceptance of inbreeding is somewhat limited. Though misinformation is always a problem, I think Dr. Yuonis may have done us an accidental favour by raising the topic which is generally off the radar. Anyone misled by him can be corrected by a quick google search.

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  37. @genemachine – “I think that the revulsion of making sexytime with close relative and birth defects should ensure that acceptance of inbreeding is somewhat limited.”

    well, this hasn’t been the case in the u.k. where, depending on the city you look at, the rate of cousin marriage in the pakistani community is anywhere between 47-67%. with 1.2 million pakistanis in britain, that starts to be something of a concern. (never mind the bangladeshis and the somalis and the arabs….)

    these things can fly under peoples’ radar … simply because they just don’t know it even exists. so, in 25 states of the union, this could be happening a LOT in certain immigrant communities, and the american public might just not be aware of it.

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  38. @genemachine – “I just wanted to go against the grain and cite a positive; the reduction in recessive diseases in future generations.”

    all factually correct (as yours was), purposefully contrarian comments are welcome on this blog. encouraged, even! (^_^)

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  39. @violet – “In Indian case, endogamy within caste for centuries with prohibition of relationship up to 7th generation between the couple might have led to pretty tight caste clans.”

    just to double-check, do you know if this seventh generation ban applies on both sides of the family, i.e. both paternally and maternally?

    i only ask because i’ve heard of such bans in other places (like the balkans) and there’s often this “loophole” that it applies only to the paternal side of the family.

    just wondering if you knew re. india. i know that cousin marriage is pretty low amongst hindus, though.

    Reply

  40. Hindus have a gotra (equivalent to genus) generally derived from a rishi-founder [an enlightened soul] of the family; Manu, the Hindu law-giver laid down the rule that sagotris [persons belonging to the same gotra] shall not be married; since the family adopts the gotra of the husband in the Hindu patriarchal society, marriages between children of brother and sister [her gotra changes with marriage] or vice-versa occur due to a literal interpretation of the Manu’s law; however in very orthodox Brahmin families in north India, marriages are done only if the gotras of both parents on either side are not the same; sagotris shall not marry is perhaps the earliest known genetic prescription in human society.

    Comment no. 6 @ http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-incest-is-best-kissi

    Reply

  41. “It may well be that the enhanced reproductive success observed in the Iceland study at the level of third [and] fourth cousins, who on average would be expected to have inherited 0.8 percent to 0.2 percent of their genes from a common ancestor,” Bittles (who was not involved in the study) says, “represents this point of balance between the competing advantages and disadvantages of inbreeding and outbreeding.” Feb 8 2008 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-incest-is-best-kissi

    But by Dec 22 2008, that becomes
    These laws reflect once-prevailing prejudices about immigrants and the rural poor and oversimplified views of heredity, and they are inconsistent with our acceptance of reproductive behaviors that are much riskier to offspring. They should be repealed, not because their intent was eugenic, but because neither the scientific nor social assumptions that informed them are any longer defensible.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=incest-may-not-be-best-but-marriage-2008-12-22 quoting http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0060320

    but see comment 7
    It is not the practice of 2 cousins reproducing that is the problem…it is the practice of cousins marrying over a few hundred years that will have compounded effects that is the real issue. Before states should make any changes I would like to see studies that consider the compounding effects of several generations cousin-offspring.

    [somebody should write an hypothesis explaining all this]
    [“these things can fly under peoples’ radar … simply because they just don’t know it even exists.” nail-head :) ]

    **********

    A chart, my kinship for a chart: (sorry – watched Richard III discovery last night)

    http://www.cousincouples.com/?page=relation

    includes a Cousin Calculator at bottom of page.

    Reply

  42. Biblical vs. Western model

    http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/marriage/usa-ncst.html

    ***********

    I know I’m like a stuck record but…take the example of Phil Woolas http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7237663.stm
    He’s a decent bloke (dude) and if there were a blog that presented just the facts (by which i mean the vast collection of referenced quotes and maps etc that you have amassed), the link could be emailed to such people.
    It’s possible to cut and paste from one blog to another, even graphics. I would help and I dare say GW, Linton and Luke might help too. One page at a time. Catchy header, sequential categories on a side column. HBDC editorial control. http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120612164420/starwars/images/e/e4/PowerFromWithin.JPG

    **************

    btw Prof Bittles was my HoD a long time ago and I’m surprised to discover that he has been researching consanguinity since that time, I had no idea. http://ccg.murdoch.edu.au/index.php/Professor_Alan_Bittles
    I knew he researched ageing – and he doesn’t seem to have aged – curious.
    I think he realizes that the political context of human science nowadays demands very careful conclusions.

    Reply

  43. @ hbd chick @Big Nose Kate
    Although some castes use paternal loophole, i.e, it is OK if not paternally related which leads to cross-cousin marriages, some do check on both sides of the parents. Naturally, the search goes over vast geographic regions to meet those requirements for up to seven generations.

    There are conflicting positions to this though, sending a daughter to live among complete strangers (in patri-local system) vs. sending to live within kin. I guess someone should look into the relationship between skewed-sex-ratios and marriage prohibition up to 7th generation. It seems to me they will roughly overlap in the Indian map.

    Reply

  44. Violet

    “Yes. Many of them show blatant preference for people of their caste. However, they live in regions mixed with other castes with different clannish levels.”

    This is the thing. The idea here is that if a group practises maximal exogamy within an endogamous limit then that should increase the average relatedness and cohesion of that group. If the idea is correct then the effect of this will depend on the environment and the size of the group.

    If there are *multiple* groups within the same geographical limit and only one of them practises this then – if the theory is correct – it should make that group more able to *compete* with the other groups as a group, not necessarily be nice to them. So the Denmark effect would only apply when everyone within the boundary was within the limit i.e. a canton, county, province, region, nation rather than caste or class within a nation.

    A second aspect to the theory is that if the group is too large then their average relatedness at the end of the process may become too low for any effective cohesion.

    A third aspect is that other adaptations may occur as a consequence of this marriage model – in my view as a result of weaker selection *against* certain traits like openness which are inimical to clannishness – which now you mention the 7th generation thing among Brahmin fits for me as i’ve known lots of people from that background and i’ve always felt they were very “western” in some basic, structural non-cultural way that i couldn’t put my finger on.

    So i think the predictions that stem from the idea are
    – if you are one group among many in a nation then you will be able to compete as a group better if you do this
    – if you are a small nation and do this within the whole nation then you’ll end up as close to denmark as other factors allow (in my view this will be pretty close in the most important ways as i think group synergy can make up for almost anything)
    – if you are too large a nation and do this you *may* dilute the relatedness too much and therefore might need to do it on a canton by canton basis

    Reply

  45. @GW “The idea here is that if a group practices maximal exogamy within an endogamous limit then that should increase the average relatedness and cohesion of that group.”

    That’s the hypothesis in a nutshell. Your whole post is a super synopsis.
    This is basically the European EGS is it not? It explains (in part) why European civilization has been aggressive to outside groups; there has to be a governance boundary around the exogamous group and that may need to be fortified in order to maintain the group. It’s the same process as a tribe defending a fort only on a much larger scale, and as the scale expands the bonds become looser – like solid, liquid, gas. I watched Brian Cox the other night. He used a massive uncut yellow diamond as his prop. Afterwards I started to see the exogmany-endogamy balance like the carbon structure of diamond. Tribal societies are more like graphite with layers sliding over each other. Or am I just being silly :)

    Reply

  46. “He used a massive uncut yellow diamond as his prop. Afterwards I started to see the exogmany-endogamy balance like the carbon structure of diamond. Tribal societies are more like graphite with layers sliding over each other. Or am I just being silly :)”

    No i think it’s exactly like that – a certain shape/structure is optimal – like carbon in a diamond because it maximizes group synergy.

    Reply

  47. @big nose kate – “Tribal societies are more like graphite with layers sliding over each other. Or am I just being silly :)”

    i like that imagery — a LOT! (^_^)

    sorry, but i’m gonna have to pick up this conversation tomorrow (later this evening for you guys (~_^) ) … lots of good thoughts here! thnx! (^_^)

    Reply

  48. @violet – “Although some castes use paternal loophole, i.e, it is OK if not paternally related which leads to cross-cousin marriages, some do check on both sides of the parents. Naturally, the search goes over vast geographic regions to meet those requirements for up to seven generations.”

    there is some amount of cousin marriage in india, more in the south than in the north (it reaches 30-40% levels in some parts of the south). i haven’t got a clue how this fits in with the caste system and what you’re talking about (the ban on cousin marriage out to the seventh generation). is the caste system stronger in northern india than the south? is it that there are more tribes in the south of india — or more christians (i think that there are, aren’t there)? i haven’t got a clue! (~_^) which is why i haven’t blogged about marriage in india … yet. i feel like reading up on marriage in india is going to be a full year’s project … at least!

    Reply

  49. @big nose kate – “‘It may well be that the enhanced reproductive success observed in the Iceland study at the level of third [and] fourth cousins, who on average would be expected to have inherited 0.8 percent to 0.2 percent of their genes from a common ancestor,’ Bittles (who was not involved in the study) says, ‘represents this point of balance between the competing advantages and disadvantages of inbreeding and outbreeding.’ Feb 8 2008”

    “But by Dec 22 2008, that becomes: ‘These laws reflect once-prevailing prejudices about immigrants and the rural poor and oversimplified views of heredity, and they are inconsistent with our acceptance of reproductive behaviors that are much riskier to offspring. They should be repealed, not because their intent was eugenic, but because neither the scientific nor social assumptions that informed them are any longer defensible.'”

    interesting. and well-spotted! i wonder if he realizes how inconsistent he’s being? =/

    Reply

  50. @big nose kate – “but see comment 7: ‘It is not the practice of 2 cousins reproducing that is the problem…it is the practice of cousins marrying over a few hundred years that will have compounded effects that is the real issue. Before states should make any changes I would like to see studies that consider the compounding effects of several generations cousin-offspring.'”

    exactly! lisa96 should come and read this blog. (~_^) thanks for these links, btw! awesome.

    ftr — not that it matters at all what my opinion is, but i’m gonna tell ya’ll anyway — i don’t care if arabs or pakistanis or the yanomamo or png’ers marry their cousins. their countries — their societies — they are free to choose with whom they want to mate, afaiac, and it’s none of my (our) d*mn business. i’m not here to convert anybody. not my goal.

    but i DON’T want those practices being brought to the west. not before we’ve thought seriously and carefully about the implications, whatever they might be.

    Reply

  51. @big nose kate – “…includes a Cousin Calculator at bottom of page….”

    cool! (^_^)

    @big nose kate – “…watched Richard III discovery last night….”

    oh, wish i was there to watch that! isn’t that just so cool?! they found richard!

    Reply

  52. @big nose kate – “btw Prof Bittles was my HoD a long time ago….”

    wait. what? details! details! (no, not really! no, wait — yes really! (~_^) oh, i guess i’d better make that no, not really….)

    Reply

  53. “i feel like reading up on marriage in india is going to be a full year’s project … at least!”

    I think India will likely prove conclusive to the idea because there are so many sub-groups with so many different patterns often close together (or actually on top of each other) in what is otherwise basically the same environment.

    Probably terabytes of data though – yikes!!!

    Reply

  54. @g.w. – “I think India will likely prove conclusive to the idea because there are so many sub-groups with so many different patterns often close together (or actually on top of each other) in what is otherwise basically the same environment.”

    so you’re saying i have to start reading about mating patterns in india. *sigh* oooohhh-kaaaaay.

    (^_^)

    Reply

  55. @hbd chick ” is the caste system stronger in northern india than the south? is it that there are more tribes in the south of india — or more christians”

    Caste system is more or less the same all over. Also, the maps with “lumped” percentages of states won’t tell the full story.

    Each region has several caste groups, the landed ones usually do cross-cousin marriages to keep land within family, the business ones look for 7th generation separation and use marriage as part of trade network, the priestly ones are solely concerned about “purity” and if the numbers are thin within their particular state, they go either cross-cousin route or strictly traditional 7th generation route.

    And, all the above castes may be living within same villages for hundreds of years. So, a “lumped” percentage is only going to give an idea on the caste groups with higher populations, and miss out the other patterns in the same region. There is also elite emulation with dominant caste groups being business ones or feudal ones.

    Uncle-niece marriage is dominant in South whereas cross-cousin is common all over. North has more invasions and a large number of Muslims. Christians and Muslims are present in substantial number in only one state in South (Kerala).

    Reply

  56. Basically, summary from your link holds,

    “A similar degree of non-uniformity exists in Hinduism. The Aryan Hindus of northern India prohibit marriage between biological kin for approximately seven generations on the male side and five generations on the female side (Kapadia 1958). By comparison, Dravidian Hindus of South India strongly favour marriage between first cousins of the type mother’s brother’s daughter (MBD) and, particularly in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, uncle-niece marriages also are widely contracted.”

    Reply

  57. @violet – “Also, the maps with ‘lumped’ percentages of states won’t tell the full story.”

    yes, that is definitely a problem! i’ve encountered that before — italy is just one example. if you gave an average cousin marriage rate for italy as a whole, you’d miss out on the (recent, anyway) north-south divide.

    @violet – “…the landed ones usually do cross-cousin marriages to keep land within family, the business ones look for 7th generation separation and use marriage as part of trade network, the priestly ones are solely concerned about ‘purity’ and if the numbers are thin within their particular state, they go either cross-cousin route or strictly traditional 7th generation route.”

    ah ha! thanks! (^_^)

    @violet – “Uncle-niece marriage is dominant in South whereas cross-cousin is common all over.”

    yes, i had read that somewhere.

    this is why i haven’t looked at india yet. it’s soooo complicated! thanks for helping to lift the fog. (^_^)

    Reply

  58. @violet – “The Aryan Hindus of northern India prohibit marriage between biological kin for approximately seven generations on the male side and five generations on the female side (Kapadia 1958).”

    ah! there we go. thanks!

    Reply

  59. “so you’re saying i have to start reading about mating patterns in india. *sigh* oooohhh-kaaaaay”

    heh sorry. i may be wrong and/or the data may not be readily available but from what i know about the patchwork pattern on the ground within effectively the same environment then *if* the data was available i think it would likely prove your point.

    but if the data does exist there will probably be wayyyyyyyyy too much of it :)

    Reply

  60. Actually i just thought the rough outline may already have been sketched out 100+ years ago by some pre-PC victorian dude but qualitatively rather than numerically – or possibly numerically if it’s height.

    Reply

  61. @hbdc

    “i wonder if he realizes how inconsistent he’s being?”

    I misled you – the narrative changed but so did the authors. People see what they want to see in research findings. For some it may be, ‘a delicate balance’ for others it may be, ‘an indefensible argument’.

    “they found richard!”

    Yes, under the letter R!

    “no, not really….”

    Yes, really… get yourself a cuppa tea:

    It was over 30 year ago – he’s charming, big smile, soft Dublin accent. I think he was probably also quite visionary. The dept. had only one degree, nowadays it would be called Biomed Sci but back then it was made up of ‘topics in research – disease, aging, fertility’, combined with theoretical genetics, physiology, biochem and some mammalian ethology and psychology too. Molec Biol was in its infancy so the dept. was prob ahead of the curve in terms of balance between research and teaching. Bittles did much of the teaching – excellent teacher.

    I ended up in an economics dept. that wanted someone who understood science-words (like nitrogenous, one of my faves, sounds like an invitation to a midnight ramble), but the job was about policy implementation. I spent some years traveling to S Asia encouraging policy-makers to make research-based policy. But eventually policy implementation became a specialism in its own right – and I don’t write well enough to be a real social ‘scientist’ but, I discovered that I like very much editing scientific papers for non-scientists, policy-makers.

    Let me give you a couple of analogies – if you take a bottle of 1986 Bordeaux (let’s assume that was an excellent year) to a party of tee-teetotalers, it doesn’t matter about the quality of the wine because nobody is going to drink it. That is like the words ‘mate’, ‘breed’ and ‘IQ’. You might as well write the words ‘eugenic’ and ‘supremacist’ because that is what non-scientists see.

    Or, feeding a baby. Breast is best but formula works too. No point leaving the formula in a saucer, or pouring it over the baby’s head, an artificial breast is required. The bottle is the package, the vessel, that enables the baby to drink the milk, the scientific formulation.

    My offer is serious. I only mentioned other people because I didn’t want you to think I was trying to run off with your hyp. I don’t need to log-in to this blog, only to the destination blog, which can be kept private until you are satisfied with the content. If not me, then I hope you have something in the pipeline. My gut feel is that there is a window of opportunity that will close again when words are re-re-defined. English in England does not mean what you think it means. It means anyone who calls themselves English. The Census has started collecting data about ‘Identity’, which is a geographic construct. I wouldn’t be surprised if the question on ethnicity is dropped from the next Census.

    ” (in) their countries they are free to choose …but i DON’T want those practices being brought to the west.”

    They’re here. The culture of countries in the West is defined as the sum total of all cultures in existence in a country (in equal measure, not proportional to number of adherents). If culture A is in country B then the culture of country B _is_ culture A as much as it is any other culture that is also in country B.

    When I first read Bittles’ seeming dismissal of 2% rise in birth defects I was horrified. My father pioneered the diagnosis and treatment of birth defects _as a specialism_. He had a small hospital. When I was about 10y I was waiting for him in his secretary’s office. (I expect my mother was around somewhere but she doesn’t stay in one place for long.) I heard a noise like a tractor coming down the corridor and I was quite frightened. I poked my head out of the doorway and saw a girl of about 3y with a serious failure of palate closure, but she could walk, and she tottered towards me with a smile in her eyes. That memory, and many others, makes it very difficult for me to brush aside 2%.

    But Bittles is right. The cost of screening has to be balanced against the cost of potential (and likely) civil unrest. The wars in the Mid-E have in fact made it very difficult to impose cultural restrictions in the West, people are hurting and angry.

    and…. relax! :)

    Reply

  62. @big nose kate – “My offer is serious. I only mentioned other people because I didn’t want you to think I was trying to run off with your hyp. I don’t need to log-in to this blog, only to the destination blog, which can be kept private until you are satisfied with the content.”

    lemme just make sure i understand what you’re proposing (’cause i’m apt to be lost-in-space (~_^) ). are you talking about a blog/website that presents general human biodiversity info in a more friendly, accessible way? or one that presents the inbreeding/outbreeding hbd stuff that i go on and on about in a more friendly, accessible way?

    ’cause i should make it clear that the inbreeding/outbreeding stuff i talk about around here is very … very, very … theoretical. and by theoretical i mean something somewhere in between fairly plausible given the stuff the scientists think they know about inclusive fitness and the ravings of a slightly obsessed blogger. (~_^)

    there hasn’t really been much solid research done on the possible social effects of inbreeding/outbreeding — not in humans anyway. there’s this…

    consanguinity and democracy

    …and, well, that’s pretty much it. except for some iq-related stuff — and there’s not a whole lot of that either.

    so, if you’re talking about the inbreeding/outbreeding stuff, you (we) could try to present it all in a kinder and gentler way, but if anyone asks where the science is, that’ll be kinda tricky to answer, i’m afraid. =/

    Reply

  63. “but if anyone asks where the science is, that’ll be kinda tricky to answer”

    I see published papers carefully considered and compared. that’s why the reference to Hajnal-Mitter’s published line is important. and I see robust Mendelian theory.

    I propose a few pages explaining _theories_ you have applied.
    I would as far as possible replace wiki links with published papers/validated websites.
    Mr Blue is a fantastic explanation of inheritance, but he appears several times on this site whereas the summary blog would have just one summary of your explanation.
    The ‘theory’ pages would be easy to identify so readers can flick back and forth between theory and case studies.

    anything controversial, inclusive fitness as applied to humans, the existence of altruism as an allele, I would phrase tentatively – the site wouldn’t make any claims, just conjectures, logically contextualized in the bigger picture of biological science,

    the case studies would be categorized geographically, East Asia, China; Europe, Greece etc.. I would extract quotes, prob just what you have in bold, and pictures/maps, and provide clear full refs. The reader makes up their own mind whether theory and practice match.

    I suggest the summary blog would not be interactive. there could be a link to this site if you want or just an email link for inquiries.

    maybe I’m wrong, but I think you have something and as I said before it starts with an accident of history, it is not deterministic.

    You would choose an excellent password for me to access the summary blog. I would only save to draft – I know WordPress – and you can choose the theme. I can make a start and if it’s not what you want, that’s fine, and you can change the password if i refuse to go away :) .

    ****************
    HBD in general – it’s an American thing? I think it needs a central blog but I’m not the person to do it as I don’t know the whole history and I would no doubt upset people by not recognizing their ‘seniority’ within the ‘discipline’.
    I followed the links to Scandrell and Foseti and eavesdropped on them a bit yesterday. -through the looking-glass or through the wardrobe, I’m not sure which. they use words I never heard in … the UK. Brahmin reminded me of waiting for a plane at Delhi airport, it was delayed, it was the day the towers were attacked. I watched 4 men move two small posts with a rope that hooked between. one man could have done it but having 4 men meant they could discuss their options and try out a few positions. thoroughly engrossing. I wish I had a door in my house that I could go through to be in India for a few hours at the weekend. well, reading the links to S and F was like that. this blog on the other hand is the posts and rope.

    Reply

  64. @hbdc
    The table on lactose-intolerance you posted has really grabbed my interest – I’ve been reading up on cattle domestication, and I’m going to immerse myself in that for a bit while you lot gallop ahead with all topics under t’ sun! :) (or falling from – quite amazing)

    btw I’ve been trying to work out how I found your site because I was looking for pictures of people in the Sudan at the time. I think it must have been the mention of Sudanese kinship system on the AngloSax page!

    Reply

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