April 12, 2010

David Popenoe
National Marriage Project
54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
Piscataway, New Jersey  08854

Dear Dr. Popenoe:
I appreciated your contribution to the documentary “Demographic Winter.”  I have long believed that, nay always believed, that living with married biological parents is the best environment for a child.  It is good to hear you say so thus distinctly.

You point out that the sad state of affairs is that although people used once to organize their lives around their children that this seems no longer to be true.  Cohabitation is widely practice.  It is not the best thing for children, but we don’t care so much any longer about our children; besides we have so few we are not even replacing ourselves.  As you say so mildly, it is hard to see how this can ever be turned around.

The obvious response is, “We need to go back to being the way we were.”  But there is a problem with that.  It is the way we were then that made us the way we are now.  We need not only to recover what we had, but to get something that we never had before and hope the combination works. 

In all due modesty, let me offer a scientific fact that is very new and very obscure.  But it seems to be the truth.  The amount of evidence for it is overwhelming.  The problem is that nobody seems willing to connect the dots.  I have done my best to put it together at my website nobabies.net with the most up to date summary being the March 25, 2010 entry.  There are also letters such as this, other evidence of varying formality and some material I have thought might be useful.  The shocker is this: 

If you want to have an adequate number of fertile children, you will have to marry kin.

That oversimplifies matters.  Intense inbreeding is a poor plan of course.  The effect of marrying non kin accumulates over generations so it is not readily visible in any one family.  There is a study in Iceland that indicates that for a maximum number of grandchildren you should marry third or fourth cousins, but that must be taken with caution.  What they call third cousin is actually second cousin once removed.  And they calculate kinship by going back ten generations and counting shared ancestors.  But at the end of the day it is very simple.  The large gene pool goes infertile, the normal sized gene pool, say in the low hundreds, thrives indefinitely.

Just saying it does not prove it to be true.  That’s what the website is for.  But where does that lead us with regards to restoring the good things about the way families were?  I propose three mechanisms.

First, those who care about children must marry kin.  Failure to do so harms the children in that it reduces the fertility of the children.  Those who do not care may do as they please, but that probably will mean staying on the current track of not marrying kin.  Fear not.  Those who go that way will die out.  It is inexorable biological law as the website data will demonstrate.  So once again everybody will center their lives around their children, starting most conspicuously with marriage choice.  The problem just now is that nobody knows so nobody is doing it so the birth rate is dropping with the end all too clearly in sight.  But that can be fixed.  People can know if they are told.

Secondly we are emotionally prepared for a lifelong commitment to kin.  After all, the only reason we are alive at all is because all the way back through the mists of time our ancestors overwhelmingly chose kin to marry and stuck with those marriages.  So it can be done.  Again, failure to do so is extinction, but that can be fixed.  People just need to know.

Third, you may divide all of women into those who understand this and care on the one side and on the other side all other women.  The division just now is quite disproportionate.  Very few indeed know and care.  Precious  few know or care.  Among those who do, few indeed will be close enough kin to any rogue male wannabe.  The field is just not that big.  According to the Iceland data, by their way of reckoning, don’t even bother going out past sixth cousin.  You won’t replace yourself with offspring.  That leaves about (in a stable population and ours is already in decline at the youngest ages) 127 total cousins or 64 of the opposite sex.  But you really don’t want to go out to sixth cousin.  Fifth would be good.  So there are 32 possible marriage partners.  If a generation is about 30 years, then in order to find one with in five years of your own age you have five to choose among.  Ever.  Since it’s all family and everybody knows what everybody is doing, promiscuity just about has nowhere to go. 

So yes we will go back to the old way insofar as it consisted of children living with their biological parents.  Or we might go extinct after all, but that would seem very silly with the cure sitting right here in your hands (and on the website). 

What’s to do?  Please let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD 

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