Darwin’s Dilemma

Birth_defect_risk

Professor Hamish Spencer, University of Otago www.plosbiology.org

Should One Marry One’s Cousin?

Science can give you the answer but it cannot tell you what to do with those answers especially in terms of social policy.

**Can you track abilities through the family tree? Would this support the ‘born with it’ argument on one side of the G & T debate?

Inbreeding exaggerates the characteristics, but whether it is the positive characteristics or the negative ones is up to chance… With animal breeders, this wasn’t as issue as you would just destroy the undesirable offspring.

Eugenics Movement, social a political movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Aimed to improve human condition through controlling breeding. People were being sterilized based on Eugentics laws, not just in Germany, but also in more liberal countries.

The data says the risk increase for off spring is 3%. Is this a large risk? It is the same risk for older mothers’ having children. It is much smaller than the 50% risk of carriers of dominant diseases (eg. Huntingtons) But the data is from a community with a much high proportiion of cousin marriage with more multi-generational interbreeding so the actual risk could be a lot lower. The community was also from a developing nation so the figures would have been screwed due to health care deficits.

This seems to now be a political question as the public health issues seems to have been exaggerated.

** look to the Alan Wilson Center for any evidence about abilities being hereditory.

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