April 2, 2010

Christopher C. Taylor
1401 University Blvd
Heritage Hall Room 360
Birmingham, AL 35294-1152
Phone: 205-934-5634
Fax: 205-975-8630

Dear Christopher Taylor:
Thank you for clarifying a point in your chapter “Rwandan Genocide” in Questioning Collapse.  The notion that the Rwandan tragedy was because of overpopulation had been trumpeted so confidently that I had bought into it, although that troubled me greatly.  My impression is that such things just don’t happen.  The famine in Ireland was as bad as could be, but it didn’t produce genocide.  Political ambitions did that later.  Now you have called it into question my brain feels better although my heart still goes out.

On the other hand you warn against looking for scientific reasons.  If it truly offends you, maybe you don’t need to read any further.

I think there is a valid scientific reason for an enormous number of cases of cultural catastrophe and it is anything but overpopulation. 

I am struck that you use the word imanna for the divine potency of Rwandan kings.  It kind of reminds me of the word mana from the Pacific islands.  Different of course.  I have never heard that the Polynesian word was specific to liquids. 

However you cut it, the fertility of the people is evidently of great importance.  That’s not what you would expect if overpopulation were the only problem.  Fertility cults are widespread.  Even Christianity could be included.  Christmas celebrates the birth of a baby.  Easter celebrates a rebirth rather symbolically from the earth.  The word comes from the same root as estrus and the popular symbols are eggs, flowers and rabbits. 

It appears that fertility cults go far back into prehistory.  When I mention that to people I get the response, “They needed a lot of babies because of high infant mortality.”  If so, then their thinking is odd.  One of the big killers of infants in poor societies is infant diarrhea.  I know a man whose mother, when he was a baby, said to the doctor, “He’s constipated.  What should I do?”  The answer was, “Thank your lucky stars.”  That was in the old Ew Ess of Ay within living memory.  It has to have been true since the dawn of time.  Yet I have never seen an idol to the Formed Stool God.  Why then idols to fertility? 

Maybe the ancients actually knew what they needed.  Maybe fertility has always been a very real problem at least intermittently.  I suppose some people think of them hopping around with mask and rattles pursuing a futile superstition. You know something?  Nowadays the equivalent people are hopping around in lab coats with college degrees pursuing an equally futile superstition. 

The fact is simply stated and not that hard to prove but it seems to be almost indigestible by all but the hardiest.  The fact is that if you want to have babies you must marry kin. 

Yes, that’s what I said.  It is somehow genetic, although the mechanism has not been worked out in detail.  For the short version go to nobabies.net and click on the March 25th posting.  There you will find evidence.  (Along with my correspondence and further thoughts.)  There is no serious contradictory evidence.  Any belief held in contradiction to all evidence, assuming there truly is evidence, is superstition. 

So then what went wrong in Rwanda?  You were there and I was not, but I shall offer my guess based on the kinship-fertility link.  My guess is that the Hutu-Tutsi divide is biologically meaningless.  In fact any such division of populations into large groups is biologically meaningless.  But the division between kin and very distant kin is anything but meaningless.  It means everything for fertility. 

So why commit atrocities across a meaningless line?  My guess is that you can divide people into those who tend to like outsiders and those who tend not to like outsiders.  When it comes time to marry, a spouse must be chosen.  Those who tend to like outsiders are more likely to marry one than those who like them less.  If you buy into that much, the rest is a lock.  In the presence of any such meaningless line, ones family is more likely than not to be on one side of the line.  Those who cross the line are unlikely to find family there.  Hence they are unlikely to marry family.  Hence they will face a reproductive penalty.  After a time just about the only people left are the ones who respected the line.  Respect for the line turns into loss of respect for those beyond it and tragedy looms. 

In War of the World, the author remarks with amazement about one genocide in then Yugoslavia.  “They were getting along fine.  They were even marrying across the line.  Then out of nowhere this happened.” 

It’s just a guess.  What do you think?


M. Linton Herbert MD 

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