April 12, 2010

Norval Glenn PhD
Department of Sociology
College of Liberal arts
University of Austin
Post Office Box Z 
Austin, TX 78713-8926

Dear Dr. Glenn:
I appreciated your contribution to the documentary “Demographic Winter.”  I noticed you remarked, “... as definitive as social sciences get to be.”  Well hold tight because social sciences are about to get a lot more definitive.  Indeed you point out that values are changing and family is important, neither of which I would deny nor claim to be able to crank up a computer program and model that change.

But so far as the falling birth rate, I can crank up a computer program and model that change.  Rather than burden this letter, let me refer you to the March 25, 2010 entry in the nobabies.net website.  If you page through that – is mostly graphs and a picture – you will see that fertility follows a rigid pattern.  Simply put, when people stop marrying kin their fertility in a very few generations falls below replacement levels.  Since this clearly has a hard biological basis, it seems clear that values and customs follow the biology rather than the other way around. 

This biology is in fact quite well established in the literature but remains little recognized by professional geneticists.  For years I have toiled to lay it before the experts in the field.  Most recently I went to a genetics convention in Albuquerque last month.  Not being a recognized authority of course I was not offered a chance to address an audience.  Publishing a paper is like hitting a home run in the World Series.  It is an accomplishment even for the best.  But I was given permission to put up a poster and I took the opportunity to speak with something like two dozen experts.  Not one had seen anything like it, although at least one was quite familiar with one of the papers I cited and another knew a lot more about Chinese history than I.  And not one said in a comfortable tone, “Ah, but you are overlooking this, which makes your idea most unlikely” or anything of the sort.

You remarked quite properly that our present value system is not fair to children.  I agree wholeheartedly.  Also I would like to point out that we are being a lot more unfair than we realize.  You remember the line from the Ten Commandments, “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the sons even to the third and fourth generation”? Well to begin with, they aren’t all commandments.  It’s a covenant.  But leaving that aside, this matter of taking vengeance out to generation number five is about as unfair as you can imagine.

But it’s true.  Look at that website entry.  There is a fertility crisis that develops about 150 years after a population urbanizes or say people start marrying non kin.  (That oversimplifies but seems to be true.)  And the vengeance is the most terrible there could be.  It is the taking away of children.  150 years is pretty close to 5 generations.  Not bad for the social sciences I should think.  Of course the other data I am encouraging you to look at is statistically far more compelling. 

The fate is terrible and falls on the innocent.  That’s why we shouldn’t do it.

So have a look at it.  Please let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD 

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