February 26, 2012
to be posted on nobabies.net

K. David Harrison
Pearson Hall 101
Swarthmore College
500 Swarthmore Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081
610 690 5785

Dear Dr. Harrison:
I was delighted to read (Embracing the Future ECONOMIST vol. 402 no. 8773 February 25, 2012 page 95 about your good work preserving threatened languages.  The loss of a language has always struck me as being as grievous as the loss of a species.  I am so happy that you are working to save some of the more severely endangered ones.  The idea of using computer technology and letting people send text messages in languages other than the obvious big ones is brilliant.  I wish you well.

There is an obscure point that I think one day will see the light of day.  When it does, it should be at least a nudge in your favor.

The fact turns out to be that in order to have normal fertility, enough for long term survival, people need to marry kin.  There.  I know you think that’s madness.  Nobody marries kin any longer.  At least not in the rich world.  But if you recall, the rich world is not having enough babies for long term survival.  Yes, of course there are too many people in the world.  How we manage, I do not know.  But we’re going to need some, don’t you think? 

And everybody says it’s choice.  I heard on TV on the history channel a remark made by a barbarian to a Greek in Anatolia.  The barbarian said, “There’s something about that well.  Everybody who drinks out of it becomes effeminate.”  The Greek responded, “There’s nothing wrong with the well.  It’s just that people who drink from it live here in town, can see the advantages of civilization and make the obvious choice.” 

Not long thereafter the classical world collapsed.  When people began to have cities again in Europe, it became obvious (I suspect) that cities did not have enough babies.  They needed people from the countryside.  At one point they decided lack of growth was from crime; people were getting murdered on the streets .  They built a police force but it didn’t help.  So maybe it was young men killing each other in sword fights.  (It’s irresistible.  My friends do it.  With the greatest of care people get hurt.)  So that was outlawed.  Still no babies, I mean not enough.  So they invented élan vital, some sort of natural vigor present in the countryside but exhausted in the city.  Pasteur put that to the test and found more life, more germs, in the city than on a mountain top.  So then it was all infectious disease, germs don’t you know?  Now the rich world has got that under control.  Still no babies.  So now we are back to pollution and free choice.  And there is no evidence for either. 

That’s all narrative.  I shall attach some material I put together for a conference in Orlando.  It’s hard science and I find it convincing once the evidence and logic are understood. 

So we have to keep our gene pools small, really small.  Sorry.  It’s not convenient.  It’s just biology. 

Most days I despair of our high tech civilization.  People are not just indifferent to marrying kin.  There is a very deep prejudice against it. 

But what about a small, and I mean like a hundred, community that shares an otherwise obscure language?  They probably have a small enough gene pool for adequate fertility.  Of course there is the question of inbreeding.  Gene pool size is just like everything else you need to survive.  There can be too much and there can be too little.

As I said, these are facts few know about, fewer understand and almost nobody cares about.  But that will likely change some day.  When it does, there will be a scramble to find at least a few viable populations.  At that point a small language will be pure gold. 

There’s nothing to do now.  I just thought you would like to know so as to be prepared for when the wind changes.

Let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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