Open letter to the Supreme leader of Iran.  First the message:

I see by this article, Make More Babies ECONOMIST vol. 411 no. 8890 June 7, 2014 page 53, that Iran has joined a very large number of powerful nations that have tried to restore a healthy birth rate.  All have failed.  It must be possible; there are, after all, people.  And there must be a deadline for making the right change; when the last person is my age, it is too late. 

So there is something new and untried that might work.  I am sure I know what it is, and I shall try to explain it in a way you might consider.  Since this will require graphs, I shall send it as an attachment.

Then the attachment:

June 8, 2014

Sayyid Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of Iran

Since our two countries are not on cordial terms, you have no reason to expect me to be a friend.  But anything worth fighting is worth learning from, and if I cannot make my case against a presumption of hostility, then I am not the wise friend I wish to be.

“If people want to have babies they need to marry cousins.”  This statement contradicts everything you will hear from the shriek of the media worldwide.  But if you look at the evidence, it is unquestionable.  Here is an article that summarizes field counts of wild animals in different years, over a thousand such studies: 
On the Regulation of Populations of Mammals, Birds, Fish and Insects, Richard M. Sibly, Daniel Barker, Michael C. Denham, Jim Hope and Mark Pagel SCIENCE vol. 309 July 22, 2005 page 609

This study found exactly the same relationship in Icelanders:
An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816

And these find the same thing in Danes:
Human Fertility Increases with marital radius. Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim.  GENETICS volume 178 January 2008 page 603

Comment on “An Association Between the Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples,” Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim SCIENCE vol. 322, page 1634b December 12, 2008

The outcome is unanimous.  Kinship determines fertility.  It needs to be close – maybe third, fourth, fifth cousin – or fertility declines  There is no room for economics, laws or anything else, whether you are talking about animals or humans.

I do not expect you to believe me.  But I do expect you to understand me.

Now there are two ways a population can stop marrying cousins.  The obvious one is that it can grow so large that the average couple is not closely enough related.  If this happens, the population will never reach a thousand, and it will die out.  This has only been documented once.  They found a small valley in the American Southwest that had been occupied only for a few centuries.  They combed the valley until they found every fireplace ever built there.  They did carbon 14 studies on the charcoal and found every year that fireplace had been used.  With this they calculated an annual census of the whole valley.

They call this, “Throwing money at the problem,” something Americans do a lot.  And of course throwing money at the problem is the only thing anybody has ever done to try to increase the number of babies.  And of course it doesn’t work. 
Jared M. Diamond, “Life with the Artificial Anasazi,” NATURE, vol 419 no 6907, October 10, 2002 p 567
The red line is the population.  You can see that early on it increases step-wise.  These people moved in groups.  But it does not fall step-wise.  Nobody ever moved out.  The blue line is tree ring growth.  Diamond says, “See?  It’s all climate.  When there is faster tree growth, there are more people living there.”  No, they are cultivating the trees to provide for their needs, which they know years in advance.

You can see that there are two peaks and then a collapse.  The exact same pattern is visible if you chart out the survival of Chinese dynasties.  The royal family could hardly be more different from the hard working Anasazi except for one thing: there was not any limit on their growth.  The same thing can be shown with Japanese dynasties.  You can check it out on
if you like. 

The other way to stop marrying cousins is simply to mix populations.  Then extinction comes sooner.  Here are some field counts of mice in New Zealand and Australia:

You can get the reference by going to the link I gave ealier.

Behold, there are both patterns.  Either there is a single very high peak or there is a double peak, the second higher than the first.

So consider some ancient civilization.  It will do well as long as there are enough babies, particularly among the scholars and other educated folk.  When they die out, so goes the civilization.  According to the Anasazi experience this should take about ten generations, about 300 years. 

So I looked up the survival of civilizations in southern Mesopotamia.  I divided the ages they were when they fell into fifty year increments.  (Look closely now; this is the important part.) And then I calculated for each fifty year increment what proportion went on to survive the next fifty years.  If you believe in “selection,” darling of Western culture, and indeed there is no question that animal breeding works, then the line should at some point go up, because the weaker have been selected out.  On the other hand if you believe like Diamond in “climate” then the line should be horizontal; the fact that your civilization is a certain age does not control the rainfall, although this is getting called into question for the current climate.

So here it is:  the line goes down.

(The Ottomans had a change in the way they recruited their Janissaries, so I treat them as two empires.)
Each civilization takes over when the one before it dies out.  At that moment the “new” civilization is already part way through its course.  The notch seen elsewhere is blurred out.  When it is through its 300 year run, it dies.  Reference and other examples at that link.
If you are buying my evidence, of course you are running to the telephone to call me night or day and asking me to make common cause and save your country.  If you are still reading, you are regarding me as an amazingly sly enemy whose purposes are most obscure. 
After all, there are a million stories in the big city.  Maybe I have simply selected my data.  I have not.  But you might suspect me.  So let’s go to common ground.
Of those myriad of times when Mesopotamia changed hands, there is one for which we have an account at the very moment of disaster.  You know the story of Daniel and the handwriting on the wall.  Babylon was about to be crushed by, yes, Persia.  Belshazzar had called a big party, possibly to assess how many young people among the nobility he could call on (none) while the real king, his father, was down south setting up a temple to a fertility god.  Might I be so rude as to point out that no idol of any fertility god ever produced a baby; it’s no better than money or laws.  So there’s this writing on the wall MENE.  And it’s repeated.  There’s more, but MENE says it all.  They bring in Daniel and he says, “Counted.  It says counted.  It means your country has been counted.  You are out of people.  You are finished.”  The rest follows logically.
Now there is a lot of magical sounding stuff in Daniel.  And a lot of the book consists of prophesies.  Now you can take them either of two ways: either they are infallible predictions of historical events that then did happen OR they aren’t prophesies at all.  Consider in English: I go to a farmer.  “How much are your apples?  Ten cents each.  How much for a dozen?  That will be a dollar twenty.”  The result of a calculation may be given in the future tense.  Maybe they did that in Babylon.  Maybe Daniel is simply doing a lot of scholarship and coming up with some numbers.  Either way, one thing is clear; he looked at a lot of Mesopotamian history.  He looked at the same numbers I looked at when I did the chart there.
So here is the challenge.  If I weren’t so old and lazy and shiftless I’d have done this myself years ago, but I can honestly say I have not done it and you can be the first.  Go over the book of Daniel.  For each prophesy take the number of years the dynasty lasted.  Then graph them out exactly the way I did.  See if you get the same results.
Obviously I didn’t tamper with the book of Daniel.  If that line goes down, then you are under great pressure to listen.  You need to make sure.  So I’m sure you have the resources to take the next step.  Do a survey of a bunch of your own people.  It doesn’t have to be the whole country, but it does have to be enough people to include a lot of cousin marriages, second, third, fourth and so on.  Then just ask how kin couples are and how many children they have.  Graph it out.  Publish the results.  People want babies.  Now you’ll know for sure, and so will they.  Problem solved.
Well there are going to be all sorts of analysts, economists, political sorts and so forth screaming, “Oh no.  It’s because of choice.  The only thing that will work is the one I want.”  Let them scream.  See if it works.  In the meantime, you can amuse yourself by picking up the evidence on that link and burying them with it.
And maybe in the end we’ll be friends after all.
M. Linton Herbert MD

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