Tests for genetic disease:
Yesterday someone questioned me about my work.  I had hardly begun when the shadow came over his eyes, and he turned away and struck up a conversation with somebody else.  I imagine him going home and saying to his wife, “I saw one today – a real redneck.  He was inbred and prejudiced just like in the movies.”  In fact I imagine him saying that in a very countrified dialect, which was not the way he spoke.

We are going to have to go back to marrying cousins, not first cousins perhaps but judiciously close.  And of course that invokes the squawk, “But you are going to be expressing bad genes,” or words to that effect.

Nay, it is not so.  There are a lot of bad genes that are known and for which it is possible to screen.  Usually testing for all the known ones would be very expensive.  That has now changed.  (One Hundred Tests, Mary Carmichael SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 303 no. 6 December, 2010 page 50) A company named Counsyl has a test that screens for more than 100 at reasonable cost. 

So the phone rings and a woman says, “I’m your third cousin.  I’ve read your web log, and you are right.  So you need to marry me.”  Well there is not a relative I have ever met whom I would not marry if it were legal and she interested, so the answer would be a breathless, “Yes.”

And of course I would suggest we get screened.  Maybe our chance of having a problem with a child would be no more than trivially greater than the chance everybody takes, but the, “I told you so,”s would be most annoying.  And I think anybody doing the same thing would have the same attitude.  That would not present an insurmountable obstacle to marrying and having children.  There are ways that I think most would find acceptable to avert trouble.  Read the article if you are interested. 

And now that produces an irony.  Suppose we divide marriage couples into three groups.  One group has a known family incidence of a genetic disease.  They should get screened.  I think that’s reasonable.  The second group would be prudent cousin marriages.  They also would be more likely to have screening done; say they all do.  Then there are the those who are unrelated (so far as they know) and they are less likely to seek screening; say none are screened.  Then we have the ironic situation of those who are unrelated having a higher rate of children with genetic difficulties than those who are known to be related.

Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot.

At all events, the screening has been developed.  That waves off the biggest, essentially the single, objection to marriages which on fertility criteria would seem to be the most promising.

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