February 19, 2014

Joseph D. Terwilliger, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Neuroscience
New York State Psychiatric Institute
622 West 268th Street PH 18-302
New York, NY 10032

Dear Dr. Terwilliger:
I’m looking for someone with a strong genetics background, fabulous audacity, a desire to improve the world and who is frantically busy.  That last is because if you’d like somebody to do something difficult, ask somebody who is already busy.  A person with leisure will put it off and eventually forget.  A busy person will make a snap decision on whether it is important.

The effect, the phenomenon, nay the hidden law of nature I pursue is that making babies takes more than getting a healthy sperm to meet a healthy ovum.  The outrageous truth is that it matters just which woman made that ovum.  Choose the wrong one and, alas, the sperm is wasted, perhaps not in the first generation but in generations to come.  And to paraphrase a line from Monty Python, “Nature gets most irate.” 

Quite roughly speaking if a person marries a sibling there will be reduced fertility, either in the first generation or later.  If a person marries a third, maybe a fourth cousin, fertility is maximal.  Out at ninth cousin fertility is dismal.  Beyond ninth, and this is lost on just about everybody, it makes no difference at all.  Chose a mate from the far side of the planet.  Nature doesn’t care.  Actually, so far as I can tell in real life, the number of offspring drops by about half every generation the parents marry outside the golden circle.  Of course it gets complicated if one parent comes from a line that has an optimal gene pool size and the other from a line that has a catastrophically large population it gets harder to predict.  Logically I would suspect that the fertility would be somewhere in between the expectations of the two parents. 

I’ve managed to demonstrate the effect in fruit flies.  I’ll attach the paper. 

The effect takes place faster than would be possible from the mutation rate of DNA, and it is at least in part reversible.  It has to be epigenetic.  According to Michael Skinner epigenetic markers can be passed from generation to generation, and I believe him because from the data I have it simply has to be true.

There are those who say that there are too many babies in the world.  And I do agree with that.  But what’s worse, the babies are arriving where they face disadvantages.  The prosperous families, particularly families that have been prosperous for generations, have very few babies.  That is as one would expect; prosperous people have a larger range of marriage possibilities.  In other words it’s probably not just the rich countries that are dying out.  It’s the middle class the world over.

Imagine a world with nine billion people but not enough educated ones to run the technology.  I submit that this is an important problem.

If you agree that there is at least a chance that I am right, say one in a thousand (although I think it’s more like 999 in a thousand or better) then it is well worth your while to check this out.  Here’s the address of my latest summary of what I have accumulated over the years. 
If you are going to have 3 billion seconds in your life and want to save lives by putting some energy into this, then saving essentially everybody will cost you a third of a second per life.  Even discounting it by a factor of a thousand, that’s about five minutes per life saved.  So take a gander at my evidence and see if you can really dismiss the conclusion with a confidence of p < .001.  If you cannot, please get in touch with me and we can communicate about the evidence and about strategy. 


M. Linton Herbert MD

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