November 16, 2011
To be posted on

Robert Trivers
William James Hall
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Robert Trivers:
I was much engaged by the article about you.  (Kai Kupferschmidt Sharp Insights and a Sharp Tongue SCIENCE vol. 334 no. 6056 November 4, 2011 page 589)  I have an idea that is looking for somebody.  Maybe it’s you. 

I think of myself as a retiring, phlegmatic, plodding underachiever.  Sometimes it is painful to think about some things, but I plod on.  The article has you as a brilliant, incisive, rude, extraordinarily committed kind of guy.  That is probably much better for the task at hand.  And it is not too far distant from things you have taken an interest in – genetics and kinship.  Oh yes.  And there is an amazing amount of self deception in the environs. 

Along the lines of our differences, you think you are old.  From my end you are a bit young.  You say there are no more big things to enjoy at your age.  I say, “Ah but attend.  How about saving a planet?”  You see conflict where others do not; I see a need for cooperation where others do not.  You find profanity useful; I do not. 

You instinctively stand up for the downtrodden.  Maybe we share that.

So here goes: couples that are related have more babies than couples that are not.  See, I told you there would be genes and kinship.  (It’s actually epigenetic, but no worries.)  This simple correlation between kinship and fertility will be found everywhere you look.  That’s the easy part.  Now the hard part.  It’s biological.

If you want the evidence go to and look at the notes I prepared for the Orlando fertility conference.  Even if you don’t want the evidence, look at it.  This is important. 

Assuming it true, then, notice how this rocks the boat for Darwinian evolution.  A mutation that confers great fitness, if not hedged in with some sort of population structuring, will result in a big population and then a dead population. 

Notice how this undercuts the philandering male.  If he doesn’t keep it close to home he is not having offspring somewhere down the generations, he is destroying them. 

And now the nifty part.  Try this on somebody.  Tell them it’s a causal relationship.  Kinship biologically increases fertility (within limits).  Hearken as they go into word salad mode.  My speculation on what goes on behind their eyes is on the site in the letter to David Goldman on the site. 

The survival of the species depends on getting this right, but the brightest and best run away squealing. 

I’m like a mumbling old hermit in his cave with the Holy Grail sitting on a shelf hoping somebody will come along and take it to Camelot.  No dice so far.  Wouldn’t it be fun, though? 

Have a look at that Orlando meeting.  Then let me know what you think.


M. Linton Herbert MD

There have been 31,785 visitors so far.

Home page