Professor Thomas K. Hubbard
Department of Classics
University of Austin

Dear Professor:
I was much impressed with an interview you gave a few days ago.  Starting with the tie, it appears to be a silk screen of Michelangelo’s Adam giving God a rather limp finger.  I thought about it a bit, trying to discern a message and finally concluded it means, “Think about it a bit.”  But actually before I paid attention to the tie I had thought, “This man has brains, moxie, presentation and prestige.  I must recruit him.” 

Better Argument was immediately at my elbow saying, “His interests have nothing to do with yours.  What he must teach has never crossed his mind.  It isn’t his field.”  But Worse Argument said, “It’s nobody’s field.  (Actually you can count those who understand it on your thumbs)  It has crossed nobody’s mind.  That’s no excuse; the world needs him.”  So I read your book Homosexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome.  Sure enough, it is airtight.  I could not detect a weakness that would let me gain entry. 

But there is one thing you probably know and might have included; I imagine it is outside of the time restrictions you placed on yourself.  I got this off the history channel, oh the shame.  The story is that in a city in Asia Minor a Greek and a barbarian were chatting.  The barbarian said, “See that well?  There’s something there that makes everybody who drinks from it effeminate.”  I don’t know what he meant by that, and what I am thinking isn’t even a guess.  I’m making it up to serve my own purpose.  Perhaps he meant that the men weren’t making the women pregnant.  That much, of course, is true.  Cities never produce enough babies to survive; they must recruit.  This infallible (so far) law should be causing alarm in a world that is rapidly urbanizing and in which just about all the capable, productive people live in cities.  It is not.

The Greek replied, “There is nothing wrong with the well.  The people who drink from it live here in the city, where they see the advantages of civilization and naturally become civilized.”

Urban infertility, as I call it, continued until the ancient empires collapsed and long into the dark ages.  (I am stitching together things I heard from a number of sources.  Forgive me.)  In Western Europe people stopped living in cities.  Eventually the villages were able once again to produce excess population.  In England they adopted a system whereby boys would leave home and work elsewhere.  That meant they avoided the Westermark effect, whereby couples do not marry who grew up together; people could then marry cousins, of which more later.

Eventually there were enough people to have cities, but lo and behold urban infertility struck again.  They decided it must be because of murders, so the young men started carrying swords.  It made no difference.  So police forces were put into place, who could then confidently point out that the murder rate was trivial.  Still there were not enough babies.  Young men with swords will generally start sparring, which is a lot more pleasant than establishing dominance by fisticuffs, if rather more dangerous so dueling was (eventually) outlawed.  That had no effect.  So they invented élan vital, a sort of oxygen-like thing that was depleted in the cities while in the wholesome countryside people – in the villages of course – were not so afflicted and had lots of babies.  This notion was crushed by Pasteur, who found more germs in town than on a mountain top, so we all did a one eighty and blamed the demographic shortfall on germs.  But now very few children die of infectious disease, and there are still not enough babies to survive.  We don’t call it urban infertility; it’s “demographic transition,” which means the same thing.

So we are back to choice and pollution.  After thousands of years we have gone sweet nowhere. 

So here is the pitch.  Fertility requires a degree of consanguinity.  If a population stops marrying cousins their fertility will drop.  Then, if I am correct, the birth rate will stabilize for some years comfortably close to replacement.  All seems well.  But my own work suggests that after stabilizing for a while the birth rate will go right to zero.  Proof is at:

If only good people marry cousins, soon everybody will be bad.  Check out YouTube “Babies Triumph over Evil.”  (You’ll want to watch the whole thing or at least the last five minutes.)  The same logic applies to gifted people, such as you.  Imagine where we shall be when the brightest political minds are of the ilk of that interviewer.  (He ended the show by asking, “Why should we care about what the Greeks and Romans thought?  They had slavery.”  I screamed, “Because they were developing the intellectual tools that led us to abolish slavery, establish democracies and give women rights.”  After all, the first person to suggest democracy must have grown up under some other sort of political regime.) 

Whether infertility here has anything to do with homosexuality is really beyond me; sometimes I suspect so but usually dismiss the issue for lack of evidence.  However, that conversation in Anatolia gives you a doorway into the subject.  Check out the site and the movie.  If you don’t have five minutes go to and look at the recent letter to Jon Stewart.  Scroll on down to the pictures at the end and see if in thirty seconds Florida Man can inspire you where I have failed. 

Let me know how you decide.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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