July 31, 2015

Bjørn Lomborg
c/o  Ms Zsuzsa Horvath

Dear Bjørn Lomborg,
I have read with interest your article on World Post
My bottom line is that nothing but ancestral kinship, going back several generations but no further, determines birth rate.  As Charles Dickens said, “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am about to relate.”  You should know this fact as Scrooge truly knew that Marley was dead as a doornail.  But I daresay you don’t.  I implore you to look at the work of Robin Fox, who in 1967 wrote the textbook Kinship and Marriage and this year has published chapter 19, “Marry in or Die Out” in the textbook Handbook on Evolution and Society.  That is 49 years of accumulated wisdom on the topic.  If you know of someone who has spent that much time on a subject and is still breaking new ground do let me know. 

If you want to see it in a single scientific article (although I strongly recommend “Kinship and Fertility, and if you can’t borrow nor afford a copy of the book let me know.  I can lend you one), there is an article in a highly prestigious refereed journal you may look at: An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816. 

Now, assuming you have taken a moment to call the article up and are looking at the graphs of fertility declining as consanguinity declines – rapidly at first and then leveling off – notice the error bars.  They are two-standard-deviation markers.  See how tight they are.  That shows that essentially nothing determines fertility but kinship.  War, famine and plague can affect population size but not so much birth rate.  Now that you know you have power terrible to behold. 

With the science established, let’s look at your very commendable suggestions for straightening out the “population problem” which could be stated: countries that could afford enough babies to survive are not having them while countries that are desperately poor are having lots.  Your first suggestion is modern birth control.  I’ll say this for it; it’s a lot better than all those other means of birth control.  However Edgar Allan Poe remarked once, in the context of code cracking, “There is no impediment the human mind can create that the human mind cannot also circumvent” or words to that effect.  In other words there is no program you can install and maintain for altering birth rate but people will find a way to have the number of babies that nature insists upon.  Laudable though your suggestion is, irreproachable though your statistics surely are and hideous though the suffering is that you will alleviate, it won’t do any good for your target problem.

Your second suggestion is wide open immigration.  Again your intention and statistics are as before and if you could bring it off a favored few would move from lives of sheer horror to lives that royalty could not achieve within living memory, but it won’t work.  It is generally known that the fertility of immigrants falls rapidly after their move; it soon resembles the fertility of the host country.  Guess what.  They are marrying outside of their traditional bounds of ancestry.  You are only luring them in to kill them off.  And you of course are killing off the host population to a degree, although those hapless ones are already marrying far from their ancestral hive so it doesn’t make much difference. 

Thus I do not applaud your second suggestion.  And in addition to betraying into extinction those trusting ones driven into the arms of the rich countries, there are going to be social problems.  Ever heard of race riots in England before?  Ever hear of “grooming” as in Rotherham or – ye gods! – Cambridge?  Who are the victims and who the criminals, and what brought them together but immigration? 

So long as you are taking a position, I thought you ought to know the facts.  Let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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