October 29, 2012
to be posted on nobabies.net

John J. Hamre
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

Dear John Hamre:
I read your article (John J. Hamre A Threat to National Security SCIENCE vol. 338 no. 6705 October 19, 2012 page 304) and I am thunderstruck.  You propose that the greatest threat to our National Security (as distinct from national security lower case, which is military preparedness) is our inability to form a consensus.  You specifically refer to the gridlock in adopting a rational economic plan, but the implication is that there is difficulty in adopting a consensus on other matters: states’ right, women’s rights, fetal rights and so forth.  You tread a treacherous line even though you echo no less an august figure than George Washington in his inaugural address.  And I would put you in his company. 

I have no ideas about how one forms a consensus, but anyone knows how to sabotage one.  You add to the group that must consent a sufficient number of people whose fundamental values are in conflict with each other.  In other words, continuing to add to the emotional, cultural and ethnic diversity of a country will destroy that country. 

The hazards of such a suggestion are clear.  (Fighting Chance NATURE vol. 490 no. 7419 October 11, 2012 page 144)  Some geneticists compared genetic diversity – as a surrogate for ethnic diversity – in some countries and compared it with economic development.  It was a useful corrective for me.  When I think of much diversity I think of places like Syria and Lebanon and when I think of little diversity I think of places like South Korea and Japan.  This turned out to be wrong.  They found that there was an optimal range of ethnic diversity which yielded better development than either too little or too much.  The implication was that at low levels of diversity introducing new ideas is advantageous while at high levels it frustrates consensus. 

Well and good.  You can have too much or too little of anything needed for life.  For their pains the researchers became the brunt of a vicious attack.  They were accused of promoting “ethnic cleansing,” the name the Khmer Rouge gave to their hideous mass murders.  

That is not a field to approach lightly. 

My own interest has nothing to do with ethnicity.  I simply take an interest in the well established principle that there is an optimal degree of kinship for having the most grandchildren.  Here are references, although I can’t see much reason you would want to look them up:

On the Regulation of Populations of Mammals, Birds, Fish and Insects, Richard M. Sibly, Daniel Barker, Michael C. Denham, Jim Hope and Mark Pagel SCIENCE vol. 309 July 22, 2005 page 609

An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816

Human Fertility Increases with marital radius. Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim.  GENETICS volume 178 January 2008 page 603

Comment on “An Association Between the Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples,” Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim SCIENCE vol. 322, page 1634b December 12, 2008

It turns out that once consanguinity is past about 9th cousin, further distance is of no significance at all.  One seldom refers to a group of a thousand or less as being an ethnic group, although of course there are languages with fewer speakers.  For almost all of us, there is no fertility consequence to being in or out of the same ethnic group.  It does make an enormous difference whether low consanguinity has been indulged in for multiple generations, but that’s beside the point.  The biology, at least the biology I can see, simply makes no distinction between large groups. 

But many people listen to me try to explain and respond as if they were thinking, “It’s code.  He’s talking about ethnic groups.”  I’m not, but try to get that past a closed mind.

So your subject and mine are totally different except in one respect: you will be misunderstood. 

It seems to me you tread the line with the utmost care.  I commend you both on your courage and your prudence.

It really would be good if enough people took your remarks on the economy to heart.  Thanks for the attempt on that.


M. Linton Herbert MD

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