April 12, 2010

Phillip Longman
The New America Foundation
1899 L Street, N.W., Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Phillip Longman:
I have looked at the movie “Demographic Winter” with a pounding heart thinking, “I’m not the only one who sees it!”  I have ordered your book, The Empty Cradle and shall read it with great interest. 

Why is it not a household icon like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?  The secret to journalism is, “Oversimplify then exaggerate.”  These she does.  She starts with a small New England town and visits upon it every human caused environmental disaster she has ever heard of.  But that same town, if it existed, has suffered far more from empty cradles than from all of those things combined.  According to Albion’s Seed the Puritans have just about died out.  This was the people who whipped Robert E. Lee.  These Congregationalists would cheer as they charged into Lee’s meat grinder, crushing rebel resolve with sheer numbers.  Now they are gone, along with the Quakers and the Episcopalians.  (A bunch of us Scotch Irish and Blacks remain.  That’s all that’s left in significant numbers of the original colonies.)  Look, I love pelicans.  I frequently see them through my window here.  DDT was causing their eggs to break.  That has now been fixed.  Good.  But as important as human babies?  Get real.

I was particularly pleased to get the reference to the speech of Augustus Caesar to the knights in which he complained that ancient Rome did not have enough babies.  I heard about that speech many years ago but had not been able to find it.  Why not?  It is itself a cultural icon.  “Have more babies,” the emperor demands.  More simply, “Go have sex.”  Crudely, “F**k you.”  That is still the gold standard expression of anger and contempt. 

I acknowledge that there are serious economic concerns here.  But they pale in comparison with landscapes laid bare. 

And you say that real demographers knew there was a problem in the 1970’s.  That is a sad piece of timing.  At Harvard Medical School I was shown some of the original data about the genetics in Appalachia.  The man, I never tried to remember his name, walked around the hills chatting with people about family.  That of course was standard conversation for the time and place.  Everybody was willing to talk about family.  Then he published his data and showed that certain things in humans were inherited by standard Mendelian laws.  People have genes.  Well and good.  But other people looked at the data and said, “They have all of those diseases because they are marrying cousins.”  That does not follow.  There was no control.  You couldn’t say whether there was more genetic disease in Appalachia than elsewhere or less.  But when I looked at the data I thought, “Wow.  Yes these particular families seem to be marrying traceable cousins.  And look at how many babies they have!  That can’t be all bad, can it?” 

By the time the birth dearth was visible, years had passed and I had embarked on a totally consuming medical career.  If the timing had been different I might have pursued this long, long ago.  Only after decades, while in pursuit of something else, did I discover that yes, it is true.  To have plenty of babies you must have marriages between distant cousins.  And we don’t have enough babies in the developed world for survival.  And the rest of the world is walking in our footprints.  Time is very short. 

My reasoning, computer model, letters like this and collected data are posted on nobabies.net.  I wish I had thought of Demographic Winter when I got started.  The easiest way to get at the best data is to look at the March 25, 2010 entry.  I also have a DVD, but it lacks the most recent, and very critical, paper. 

Please have a look at the entry.  Or get back to me and I can mail you a print out or a copy on CD or the DVD or a CD of my computer program or all of them. 

When you suggested that a return to patriarchy might restore the birth rate I thought, “Somebody with more audacity than even I.”  But it really doesn’t matter.  (In fact with modern mega churches and eager missionaries, the role of religion at present is problematic.)  All that matters is who marries whom.  Period.  Full stop.  Every dewy eyed adolescent girl in history has been right.  When the parents say, “Don’t worry.  There are lots of fine boys in the world,” she says, “No you don’t understand.  This is worse than death.  The universe is going insane.”

Actually that is an understatement.  The universe is already insane.  Since time began there has never, not once, been a community with a rational mating strategy (except for animals that are raised by humans, and even there the mechanism is not suspected).  That is madness.  The difference between an animal and a vegetable is that an animal has self awareness.  The universe has self awareness only to the extent that there are literate humans in it.  Oral traditions of the nature of the universe are, shall we say, of limited convincingness.  Lose literacy and the universe goes into a permanent vegetative state.  And that will happen, I absolutely guarantee, unless a sufficient number of those girls fall in love with the right guy.  And they will never do that until they know.

If you believe all the numbers (and this time it is so dreadful that even I cannot bear to dwell upon it) the last German who will ever have a child is already 10 years old.  The rest of the developed world seems to be marching abreast.  By the time a girl is 15 she falls in love and for the rest of her life will love that person or somebody just like him.  You have 5 years.  Good luck.  Let me know if I can help.


M. Linton Herbert MD 

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