January 16, 2010

111 West 57th Street
NY, NY 10019

I read with inevitable horror your article War’s Overlooked Victims ECNONMIST vol. 398 no. 8726 January 15, 1011 page 63 about women being raped under conditions of warfare.  Your treatment of the legal, emotional, social, moral, medical and historical context is thorough, even profound.  But I have a question.  It seems hard hearted, and I do not have the credentials of an expert.  However I did read your article “Kissing Cousins” a couple of years ago (Kissing cousins, missing children ECONOMIST vol. 386 no. 8566 February 5, 2008 page 85), and my question concerns the biological implications of making enemy women pregnant.

A naïve interpretation of “survival of the fittest” leaves one with a paradox.  The way a war plays out depends so much on preconditions and luck that there may be no reason to suspect that the victors have some sort of genetic advantage.  I do not believe this, but as I said a naïve interpretation would suggest it.  Wars go on and on with generation after generation going into battle against the old enemies; I think you can justify that from history.  So the genetically fit victor, or the soldiers genetically fit enough to be alive at a moment of advantage, should not be interested in impregnating enemy women.  It is the last thing they should do.  All they are doing is setting up an improved gene pool against which their own grandchildren must one day do battle.  The scene ought to be the reverse with the women chasing down and molesting the enemy men.  This is not widely observed.

So the society that refuses, whether by genetically determined instinct or socially mandated values, to share its genes has a selective advantage over sequential generations.  But the crime goes on. 

Zorba, as depicted by Anthony Quinn, at one point snarls that he has raped women for his country.  He seems to see it as part of the job, the most distasteful part. 

But according to your article, those who marry those unrelated to themselves, certainly past the 9th cousin level, have fewer grandchildren.  That means that the offspring of such unhappy unions will be relatively infertile.  That means fewer warriors for the grandchildren of the rapist to contend with. 

At a stretch you might wonder whether it really is instinctive.  Women who wish to look glamorous tend to starve themselves and put on makeup that makes them seem sun burnt, have dark shadows under their eyes and have red, puffed, chapped looking lips.  In short they resemble women in a stressed community such as one in the process of losing a war. 

I would very much wonder what an acknowledged authority would say to the question. 


M. Linton Herbert MD

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