January 14, 2014
to be posted on nobabies.net

Richard Tremblay
GRIP/Université de Montréal
3050, Edouard-Montpetit Blvd.
Montréal, (QC)
H3T 1J7
(514) 343 6963

Dear Dr. Tremblay:

I have read the article on your noble work.  (Stephan S. Hall The Accidental Epigeneticist NATURE vol. 505 no. 7481 January 2, 2014 page 14) I see that you are pursuing a link between a nurtured childhood and later exemplary behavior as opposed to an un-nurturing upbringing and later violence mediated through acquirable epigenetic effects.  I trust there is a link, else my parents wasted an enormous amount of effort giving me the better sort of home.

My own interest is also a link between epigenetic events and violence.  One would think that we had more in common than we do, but let me explain.  The violence I most rue is warfare.  People fight wars because they want to; at least some of them want to, even though after the fact they tend to be most bitter about it.  Years ago I wondered whether those who dislike outsiders had more babies than those who were more tolerant.  That would account for everything.  As I pursued it I was amazed not only that the phenomenon exists but just how strong the effect is and how light a leash nature keeps on our mating strategy.  It turns out that for optimal fertility a couple need to be rather close cousins, and if they marry out past, say, tenth cousin then the line will die out after five or ten generations. 

I know.  That’s not what you have been told.  If you doubt me check out my web site mentioned at the top.  The evidence is enormous.  I have even demonstrated the effect in fruit flies.  I’ll attach the paper.  Of course fruit flies are rather more hardy than humans, but the principle applies as it does to all higher organisms. 

Nature’s punishment is applied and her forgiveness extended far too fast for this to be a genetic phenomenon.  It has to be epigenetic.  Of course your interest is in personal violence and is – I’m sure you are right in this – mediated by an acquired epigenetic change.  My interest is, or was initially, at a political level and mediated, I do believe, by an inheritable epigenetic effect.  So there is no difficulty in us both being right. 

Of course I would be interested in knowing whether you have collected information about the consanguinity of your subjects.  Does it relate to their fertility?  But that phenomenon has already been demonstrated and published.  Does increased consanguinity correlate with increased violence?  There is no reason to suspect otherwise; those who are rich tend not to be violent and tend to outbreed to a degree that I now no longer worry much about war.  I wonder how many of us are going to be left when the dust clears. 

On the other hand, some couples seem to be predestined to have an unhappy marriage while others seem to be predictably blessed even though they might not know it.  (James K. McNulty et al Though They may be Unaware, Newlyweds Implicitly Know Whether Their Marriage Will Be Satisfying SCIENCE vol. 342 no. 6162 November 29, 2013 page 1119) There may, and in terms of evolution should, be an instinctive preference for kin.  Ignore that (or flout it all unawares) and there might be trouble for the parents and – yes – that might make it unlikely they provide the nurturing environment we would all like to see. 

It’s probably not in your data banks, but I thought I’d pester you with the idea.  In the right hands it might prevent a lot of heartbreak.


M. Linton Herbert MD

There have been 68 visitors over the past month.

Home page