January 26, 2014

Michael Lynch
Distinguished Professor of Biology
Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics
Department of Biology
1001 E. 3rd St.
Jordan Hall 142
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405-7005
812 855 7384/6-0115(lab)

Dear Professor:
I recently found your article (Michael Lynch The Genetic Interpretation of Inbreeding Depression and Outbreeding Depression EVOLUTION vol. 45 no. 3 May 1991 page 622) and am most interested.  For several years I have pursued the notion that there is outbreeding depression just as there is inbreeding depression.  It seems obvious that anything that you need to survive will kill you if you get too much of it.  Anything important must exist in a state of balance, and indubitably gene pool size is important. 

I notice you are quite comfortable with mathematics.  Like most mortals, I stand in awe.  I recently was working on a problem that reduced to, “How many times must you throw a coin before you get heads?”  I take it that the mode is once, the median is somewhere between one and two and the mean is two.  It would be nice if I could demonstrate that clearly, but I can’t. 

The question is not trivial from a genetic standpoint.  If two populations of a species were guaranteed to undergo speciation at exactly two thousand generations, then the laws of Mendel require that the population cannot exceed a thousand for very long.  Kind of, more or less, I think.

I have spent several years in pursuit of this issue.  You can look at nobabies.net and see what I’ve done.  An overview is posted there dating to the first of this year.  I now see that you were publishing on the issue at a time when for me it was only a kind of an itch.  I’m wondering whether you have published anything relevant more recently.  I see you have a recent book out, and if it includes recent thoughts by you I’d be happy to purchase it, although I’m too much of a skinflint (or have been too thoroughly ruined by my fool’s errand) to buy a copy and just spend five minutes with the table of contents. 

Thank you for being an early beacon in a generally ill lit field of such importance.


M. Linton Herbert MD

I am happy to say that Dr. Lynch was kind enough to make a prompt reply.  He says he has not done much with the issue over the past decade. 

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