The Ick factor:
I was chatting with a friend the other day.  I happened to remark that my project was to reduce prejudice in the world.  She is a high minded, intelligent and knowledgeable person, the kind you respect as well as like.  She gave her approval. 

I said I specifically was working to reduce the prejudice against marrying cousins.  The bright brow darkened.  She didn’t have to say that this would produce inbreeding and that meant genetically expressing characteristics that were undesirable but recessive.  I said no, that was last week.  Sweden has just made it legal for brother and sister to marry.  So far there are apparently no takers, but it’s on the books.  A trace of furrow appeared on the brow.

I went on to explain that in Sweden they think you ought to have the right to do anything that does no harm.  And in this case, it is no longer true that there is an increased likelihood of genetic problems between siblings.  It is possible to screen for such things.  Besides, the law against marrying siblings does not prevent those diseases; they turn up among people who have married strangers anyway.  To make matters more interesting, a typical couple is not likely to get screened.  It is not very romantic to say, “I love you and think you are the best thing in the world.  But before we get married let’s get our genes screened to see if you are harboring some awful disease.” 

So the very widespread prejudice against cousin marriages is, in this late age, just that – only a prejudice.  They can get screened and have a lower chance of expressing bad genes than a random couple would have.

She said, “But what about the ick factor.”

Have you ever been in a conversation and later thought, “I wish I had said that”?  This time was different.  What I might have said was, “That’s your prejudice talking.”  Fortunately I was too slow witted to come up with that.  My friend deserved no such rough treatment.  Instead I said more mildly, “What ick factor?”  The whole idea of an ick factor is just part of the prejudice.

The shadow passed from the brow and now two eyes as bright as million candlepower searchlights examined me.  “I’ll get back to you on that one,” said this splendid creature. 

I must hurry out and try it on an enemy if I can find one.

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