from the nyt (ghengis khan, move over!):
“Cynthia Daily and her partner used a sperm donor to conceive a baby seven years ago, and they hoped that one day their son would get to know some of his half siblings — an extended family of sorts for modern times.
“So Ms. Daily searched a Web-based registry for other children fathered by the same donor and helped to create an online group to track them. Over the years, she watched the number of children in her son’s group grow.
“Today there are 150 children, all conceived with sperm from one donor, in this group of half siblings, and more are on the way. ‘It’s wild when we see them all together — they all look alike,’ said Ms. Daily, 48, a social worker in the Washington area who sometimes vacations with other families in her son’s group.
“As more women choose to have babies on their own, and the number of children born through artificial insemination increases, outsize groups of donor siblings are starting to appear. While Ms. Daily’s group is among the largest, many others comprising 50 or more half siblings are cropping up on Web sites and in chat groups, where sperm donors are tagged with unique identifying numbers.
“Now, there is growing concern among parents, donors and medical experts about potential negative consequences of having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare diseases could be spread more widely through the population. Some experts are even calling attention to the increased odds of accidental incest between half sisters and half brothers, who often live close to one another.“
oops! i wonder what the odds are for such accidental incest between half-siblings living in the same area? the calculation shouldn’t just be a numerical one (x number of half-siblings divided by the total population, or however the h*ck you’d do the math). no, you’d also need to factor in the fact that siblings would more likely be drawn to similar interests and, therefore, might be even more likely to meet: they both might wind up in the same discipline at the same local university or both wind up taking guitar lessons or whatever.
and when they do meet, there are good chances that they’d be — as they’d prolly experience it — inexplicably attracted to each other in the strongest possible way:
“Fast-forward then to 20 years later when another young man and woman, this time James and Maura [half-siblings that never knew each other], meet in eerily similar circumstances.
“Both of them happen to be out socialising with friends in a town which neither of them is from. They are instantly smitten. So strong is their incredible mutual attraction for one another, that a week later both of them feel they have known each other for a lifetime.“
that’s because they share a great number of genes with one another.
normally, when children are raised together (and they have to actually have physical contact with one another as children, i.e. play together) between the ages of 0-6, a kind of imprinting happens which typically makes them NOT sexually attracted to each other when they grow up — i.e. the westermarck effect. siblings or half-siblings raised apart miss out on this imprinting, so if they meet each other as adults, they often experience this “incredible mutal attraction.”
the couple in the story above, james and maura, actually married and have had a couple of kids together. i don’t think this is a problem. even though we have a taboo against siblings mating, it’s really not morally despicable for siblings to mate if you think about it. as a society, we wouldn’t want it to happen all of the time on a regular basis — too much inbreeding, not good. but occasionally? i’ll give ’em a pass — especially in these accidental cases.
i would recommend such a couple to have some genetic screening done first, tho, before having kids, just to be safe. half-siblings are, obviously, not as related to one another as full-siblings; but, rather, to the same degree as an uncle-niece/aunt-nephew. iow, more than first-cousins. (the same as double first-cousins, tho, which is a common form of cousin marriage in places like saudi arabia.)
the question remains, however, what does all this sperm donation mean for our society? what does it mean when one man fathers 150+ children? well, it’s really just a form of polygamy in a way, isn’t it? or, at least, it kinda-sorta has a similar side-effect — a greater number of individuals who are related to one another as half-siblings.
what if this were done on a huge scale? what would the effects be? i’m not sure. if you did it repeatedly over many generations, i guess you’d eventually wind up with some sort of clannish or tribal society. maybe more clannish than tribal (you’d need some focused inbreeding for that, i think) — but only if everybody stayed put in the areas in which they were raised.
if you — and this is obviously only an extremely hypothetical situation that would never happen in reality — if you made sure to move everybody, or maybe half the population, around every generation, shuffled them up, i guess you’d get a more cohesive society than we have today, for instance, because everybody would be more related, but we’d avoid the effects of clannishness from too much local inbreeding. you would’ve narrowed the gene pool by making almost everyone in society the descendants of, say, 1M men as opposed to 87M men. what you’d do with the 86M men who didn’t get to breed?…i dunno.
oh! i guess you could just arrange it so that all women had to have one child via a sperm donor but the rest she could have with her husband! that would narrow the gene pool, too. man, my skills are wasted. i’d be GREAT at this cultural revolution stuff! (those are all copies of “the selfish gene” that my followers are displaying.) (~_^)
if the idea that too much outbreeding has lead to too loose genetic ties in the west and, consequently, to the fragmentation of the west is correct — maybe more sperm donation (or polygamy) for a while is just what the doctor ordered! you wouldn’t want to do it forever, tho, ’cause then you’d just be left with some messed up tribal society or something.
(note: comments do not require an email. every sperm is sacred!)