April 26, 2013
to be posted on nobabies.net

Randall Kennedy
Areeda 228
Harvard Law School
1583 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Mass. 02138
617 495 0907

Dear Professor Kennedy:
I read that you think novelty is oversold. (Craig Lambert Black, White and Many Shades of Grey Harvard Magazine vol. 115 no. 5 May-June 2013 page 25)  Brace yourself.  You are about to be told something new and it’s the most important thing you will ever learn after issues of self preservation and the mechanics of sex. 

You need not attend it now, but there is a real possibility that your impassioned voce will be needed on this.  On that day it may help if you have already learned and forgotten what I am about to say. 

But first, here is a kind of a joke for you.  A hate word is applied to a person denoting some group that person belongs to and connoting some undesirable characteristic ascribed to all of the members of the group.  Thus “racist” is a hate word for white.

I am an optimist on the point of people getting along, but the allegation probably sticks.  It was in Harvard Magazine that I read about a study in which people were given a computerized test which divided them into four groups.  1) People who said they were racially biased.  2) People who denied it but it was revealed by bias in their answers to questions (shown a face and being asked is this person honest, for instance) 3) People who answered all the questions properly and fairly but took longer to say nice things about racial groups other than their own and 4) people who were smarter than the researchers.

The objection is that the concept “white” I cannot strictly define, nor have I heard of a useable definition.

Not to put the point off too much longer, the thing I am going to say has nothing to do with race.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  But people think it does.  They assume it does.  People are obsessed with race. 

Here is the pitch.  If you wish to have reproductive success, that is to have the most number of grandchildren, you want to marry a third or fourth cousin, preferably third, and preferably someone whose parents were also third or fourth cousins. 

It’s not quite so simple, but that is the gist.  It was found in a study utilizing the extensive Icelandic genealogy.  There is a lot more evidence for it.  You will find the evidence hoarded up at nobabies.net, where I shall also place this letter since I try to include a wide range of subjects on the web site.  I shall attach a paper I was involved with in which I believe I have demonstrated a similar effect in fruit flies.  I am hoping that knowledge can be turned against the mosquitoes that carry malaria.

I don’t really know whether my flies favor kin.  Perhaps I shall figure out how to run the test.  But it has been done in Japanese quail by a man named Patrick Bateson.  Sure enough female quail are more drawn to their cousins than to brood mates or to “unrelated” quail.   Since this is a matter of fertility, the evolutionary pressure to recognize and be attracted to kin is very strong indeed.  It’s not going away.  If you try to make it go away by erasing all ethnic differences through intermarriage you will drive your experimental population extinct long before your project is done.

All right.  I don’t have the proof of that.  But that web site will load you up with a lot of circumstantial evidence.

I would not be so bold as to say that there is absolutely no difference between “races” as commonly understood except cosmetic ones.  But I will say that I see absolutely no effect of different “races” acting differently in my data, and if they did, I really ought to see it.  On that site if you look over the survival of Mesopotamian civilizations you will see that neither race, religion nor anything else internal to a society affects is survival, nor does climate change or environmental carelessness or anything external either.  

So let’s take it as read: “race” is nothing but cosmetics.  But of course cosmetic issues are important.  That’s how you recognize kin.  And that means survival in the long run.

BUT that is not to say that there is anything wrong with marriage between races.  Once you get out past, oh let’s say, 10 generations of separation, it does not matter the least little bit how much less kin you get.  The most pathological sorting of people by ethnicity, religion, language, accent, you name it, will not help one little bit.  It’s family or the long walk, pure and simple.  What does matter is how many generations this outbreeding goes on. 

You may be skeptical or simply not think it is within your field.  Personally I think avoiding extinction for humanity is everybody’s business, and that looks like what well may be on the table.  But at least now you know.  And some day, I feel quite sure, the world will know.

At that point I fear there will be a hue and cry, “We’ll have to stop all this race mixing!”  That will happen because – let us hold hands and all recite in unison – people are obsessed with race.  And it will accomplish nothing.  Besides, who’s to say third cousins have to be the same race anyway?  Last time I walked down the street I saw more young mixed couples than not although this is Florida and maybe we’re different.  There’s going to be a lot of cousins of different races even if you toss in “mulatto” as an auxiliary race. 

So that will be your hour.  Hope that it comes soon, but don’t let them push a stupid law at us. 


M. Linton Herbert MD

I have received a pleasant note from the professor acknowledging my letter. 

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