July 17. 2015

Barbara Eden
P.O. Box 6061-617
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413

Dear Barbara Eden:
My mother was an intellectual powerhouse.  Back in the day professional demands meant I watched almost no television, although what I saw of “I Dream of Jennie” I totally liked.  But my mother was a big fan, and since she liked you I need no further introduction to attempt writing you as another powerhouse.  Forgive me if this is impertinent. 

It is in the news that you had a problem with the fact that your character thought she was human and her husband knew she was not and didn’t tell her.  This discordant note of less that total mutual trust is certainly all that is needed for your remark.  But there may be something else on your mind.  In what follows have no fear.  I am not interested in race one way or another.

I’m sure you know the word, but for form’s sake I’ll define it: fungible.  It means interchangeable in a business transaction.  Say you are a silver merchant and have a lot of silver in Sherman Oakes and a customer available in Delaware who would like to buy a large amount of silver and would like to have it soon.  Before you can make arrangements you get two phone calls.  Somebody in Delaware wants to sell and somebody there in Sherman Oaks wants to buy.  Cleverly, instead of sending silver from California to Delaware you change your mind and buy the Delaware silver and have it delivered in Delaware and just send your local sliver across town.  You save money on the shipping, your customers get their silver sooner and all sides are happy.  The silver is “fungible.”  Everybody knows what it is, what purity is standard and so forth.  This kind of thing happens in business all the time and benefits everybody.  So here is what I am thinking:
People are not fungible.

Imagine a 14 year old girl who finds the boy she loves doesn’t love her.  He is heartbroken.  The parents say, “Don’t worry.  There are a lot of fine boys in the world.”  But she is right.  It is not a fair exchange.

Now suppose we are in our twenties, that we are unrelated out to 10 generations back, that you are interested in my fourth cousin, I am interested in your fourth cousin and we all want a lot of children and grandchildren above all else.  Much as we might in fact be interested in each other, for biological purposes and for children and grandchildren our best bet is for each of us to marry a fourth cousin.  Yes, I know.  That’s not what you hear.  But the science is now out in the form of chapter 19 “Marry in or Die Out” by the brilliant Robin Fox of Rutgers in the new textbook Handbook on Evolution and Society.  If you followed the idea of fungibility, you’ll be able to follow Fox; he’s a far better writer than I. 

I have taken an interest in this for many years and frequently write experts in hopes they will work on the issue.  I do not expect that of you.  But if you are interested do get in touch with me.  I could certainly do with another perspective.  I intend to post this letter on my web site in hopes somebody will respond and by the time this gets to you it will have been up a long time.  Not to worry.  It’s well intended and reflects on you not at all except that a lot of us like you, which you already know.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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