April 12, 2010


Patrick Fagan PhD
Family Research Council
801 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

Dear Dr. Fagan:
I appreciated your contribution to the documentary “Demographic Winter.”  I was particularly struck that you said that it is the love of parents for each other that matters to the child.  That makes good sense.  The old “me first” attitude of particularly the seventies always left me cold.  I blame existentialism myself, but that is beside the point.  I can remember being a child.  Life was of mythic proportion.  Everything was important.  I don’t remember reasoning, “I’m going to stay out of trouble because my parents love each other,” but they did and I did.  (Not that I didn’t push the envelope.  A boy, don’t you know.  But I didn’t get caught.  They say you should worry about a boy who never gets into trouble, and you should because he isn’t getting caught. :o)

The news that as you mentioned there are parts of Spain and northern Italy where the birth rate is below one per woman is dire indeed.  And they say it’s all choice.  Like Italians don’t like bambinos and longer.  There is a story about an American couple with their baby.  They had rented an apartment for a month in Italy.  They let the landlady hold the baby while they moved their things.  Presently they looked up to ask for something.  Where’s the landlady?  AND WHERE’S THE BABY.  They soon found the landlady running from door to door showing it to the neighbors. 

As a psychologist you are aware how people kid themselves.  I think the same thing happens with fertility.  Something happens or does not happen and they think, “Precisely as I wished.”  Of course if there is a baby they love it beyond words, if they love each other, so they are happy.  And if there is no baby there is no baby to be missed.  So it should not be surprising. 

I prefer to look at the numbers.  What are people actually doing and what do the numbers say about why?  As it turns out there is copious data to support the case that fertility depends on the kinship of the parents.  Excluding severe inbreeding, which is quite rare, the closer the kin the more progeny.  I don’t have hard data on whether that is true in the first generation, which considering the importance of the matter strikes me as very strange.  But it is beyond question that it is true and that it accumulates over generations.

My data and letters are at nobabies.net.  Easiest approach is the March 25, 2010 entry.  Fertility follows kinship with precious little effect of anything else.  And history follows fertility again with a trifling input from things like famine, plague and war.  Those things matter to individuals, but in the big picture they are generally a wash.  Take a look at the graphs I have collected.  There is no other explanation.  And there is no wiggle room for statistical fluke.  There is just too much data. 

So it all does come down to love and family.  It’s just that hardly anybody understands that you need to fall in love with a member of the family, you know, kissing cousins, second cousin once removed out to maybe fourth cousin.  If that is the rule, there is not much room for promiscuity.  There just aren’t that many cousins that close, once you deduct the half who are your own sex and the vast majority who are not your age. 

Getting the word out requires getting the question asked, which is taking some time.  And it requires pointing out that there really is a problem, your documentary being an enormous help.  Incredibly not all are convinced.  I know at least one person who, having seen “Demographic Winter” said, “Great.  We won’t be killing each other for food.”  When I pointed out that the first to go would be the parts of the world that produce the most food the subject was changed. 

Let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD  

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