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When Cousins Wed by John de Roe.
When Channel 4 showed a Dispatches doumentary about the problems caused by marriages between first cousins in Britain's Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities it was bound to kick off a few rows. The problem is not confined to Muslim cultures in the UK however, as with some many other social problems at its root lies politically correct thinking whch through the threat of branding people racist stifles intelligent debate.

When Cousins Wed
by John De Roe.
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: cousins, brother, sister, gene, genes, marry, wed, children, child, DNA, Pakistan, Bangladesh, cultures, disabled, politically correct, society, welfare. finance

Some years ago researchers carried out a study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) taken from 147 people across all of the major ethnic groups. The team of geneticists concluded that every person on Earth right now can trace his or her lineage back to a single common female ancestor who lived around 200,000 years ago. This conclusion has now been questioned as evidence grows that there were several root races. That discovery was some years away at the time however so the scientists, showing all the wit and imagination we expect from scientists called their common female ancestor Mitochondrial Eve.

Because of this study it is assumed that pairing of brother and sister was commonplace. As early man progressed from hunter - gatherers to farmers we may guess they observed the breeding patterns of animals. As they did so they would have noticed that in young animals whose bloodlines were closely intertwined mutations were frequent and infertility common. And so they learned it was good to give the gene pool a bit of a stir for every generation.

It is well know now that the problems of inbreeding are much more apparent in large brained mammals, humans and apes, dogs, bears, elephants and marine mammals than pea brained ones like cats. So maybe the early stockmen learned about the benefits of mixed breeding by observing human children and noticing how often imbecility and deformity occurred in children born to couples from the same parents and grandparents. Life was hard then, a daily battle for survival against a hostile environment. Thus those early clans and tribes gained the nous to understand if they wanted strong, smart, able bodied young to defend the village or contribute to the task of supplying food it was best to keep brothers and sisters from getting at each other especially at that age when hormones start to flow and hair starts to grow in funny places.

Likewise the tribal elders learned that herds and flocks were healthier and more productive if animals were not bread within a small group.

To put it bluntly the encouragement of mating between pairs desirable characteristics produced stronger stock and the restriction of couplings involving two partners with similar undesirable characteristics were seen to create weaker stock. It was the goal of human communities to have more food and less ‘passengers’ in his tribe that led to this, nothing to do with racism, colour, religion, sexual proclivity or other inflammatory debating subjects. They only came into play later.

These rules worked well for millennia, imbeciles and people with deformities and other congenital defects were not encouraged to mate with partners having similar problems. It is only in recent decades we began to muddy the waters and bury the antecedents of genetic selection supported by religious restrictions and tribal taboos under a suffocating blanket of politically correct thinking, anti-discriminatory legislation and 'human rights' treaties . Which is why the Channel 4 Dispatches programme screened last night (23 August 2010) at 8pm was bound to kick off a storm of outraged protests from groups that like to style themselves 'progressive'.

The central premise of the Dispatches programme is that whilst ‘first-cousin’ marriage is not outlawed in Britain, it is relatively rare amongst the ‘white’ population. As recently as three or four decades ago 'coupling cousins' relationships were not just frowned on, they were strenuously discouraged. There is a reason why attitudes have changed. Up until the period between the World Wars of the 20th Century it was normal for families to live in the same area for generations, and men typically went courting no more than about five miles from home – the distance they could walk out and back on their day off from work.

Now we prefer to select our family making sexual partner from further afield. This used to work quite well until sex was casualised and people would set up home together and get down to the business of making babies after only a cursory acquaintance Not surprisingly, such marriages have a high failure rate, and the partners repeat the process several times before the baby making lease expires. It is quite possible because of the randomness of this process to unknowingly run into close blood relations and on average we have a 1 – 2% chance of mating with suspect genes and producing a child with an unfortunate disability. Thus we had the problem of inbreeding if not beaten then pretty well under control.

Besides that the developed nations, recognizing that the support and security provided by the old, close knit communities had eroded, had developed welfare systems in which the state bore the expense and alleviated the physical burden of caring for disabled children.

It was not so in less developed societies however. The Dispatches programme will illustrate how common ‘first-cousin’ marriage is amongst the Pakistani and Bangladeshi population – 50% in the UK generally, and 75% in the city of Bradford specifically, and that the incidence of birth defects is approximately doubled in those groups compared to the rest of the population.

What the politically correct 'rights' police overlook when defending these cultural practices is tribal societies have their own ways of dealing with such problems. Not only is it part of the entire culture of arranged marriages that you know everything about the family that your child is marrying into. What exacerbated the problem in Britain is families from those cultures are selecting from a much smaller gene pool and because of religious pressure to remain segregated from the mainstream population causes. Then we see situations where first cousins who are children of parents who were also first cousins are marrying.

This trend has led to calls for cousin marriages to be banned. Why should the tax payer support ‘double the usual number’ of disabled babies, when the cause appears avoidable?

It is a fair question, in a less well provided for nation, the children would die at a young age – advanced healthcare and a generous welfare state is making it less likely that the practice of ‘kissing cousins’ will be abandoned because of the financial, social and personal cost of bringing up a seriously disabled child.

The problems of inbreeding in remote communities have been referenced in movies like Deliverance

It does not stop there however, there is an ongoing push to help older Mother become pregnant – and the incidence of genetic defects in babies born to Mothers over 40 is exactly the same as that presented by the ‘first-cousin’ marriages in Britain's Pakistani and Bangla Deshi communities 4%. No-one is calling for a ban on Mothers over 40 having children – we accept the risk.

Then of course we have the hand wringers wailing that disabled people, people with congenital defects and hereditary illnesses have a 'right' to have families and live 'normal' lives. Thus the people who once would have died before reaching maturity are now being assisted in passing on their genes.

On the other hand to ‘outlaw’ first cousin marriages, as many states do in the US, penalises all first cousins who fall in love. In practice most first cousins in Europe and the USA are different enough genetically to be at no greater risk than individuals with no family link. While it would be preferable if the Pakistani and Bangla Deshi communities became so integrated partners were chosen from the Christian and non religious sectors of society that is not going to happen.

In the past few years we have endured a financial crisis that will very likely, when viewed as history, be considered worse than that of the 1930s and will probably last longer. One of the main contributory factors to that financial meltdown has been the exploding cost of providing healthcare and social benefits to an enormously increased number of disabled and vulnerable people. In the new era of financial realism that follows the crisis society will not be able to continue to support ever increasing numbers of old and disabled people. Something has to give.

There is no easy political or legislative route to addressing this issue. It is an issue regarding whether any of us really have the ‘right’ to impose on society the financial burden of a disabled child whose conception could have been avoided. Presenting the issue as a ‘Pakistani’ problem as the Dispatches programme did is going to be a gift to the far right and to religious fundamentalists. The problem is not purely one within the Pakistani and Bangla Deshi community, it is yet another problem caused by politically correct thinking that suppressed open debate by the threat of branding anyone whose views are not 'on message' as racist.

The politically correct thought police would love there to be a huge increase in the numbers of disabled people dependent on the state. They believe taxpayers are a bottomless well of money,that reducing public sector deficits is simply a question of buying a few more presses and printing banknotes and do not regard the feelings of the disabled as significant and seem to think parents with a disabled child are somehow privileged. Disabled people themselves exist to be patronised by 'caring' public employees and used in the building of bureaucratic empires.

It is ironic is it not that when the question of religion comes up it is the politically correct 'secular humanists' contingent that are banging on about the need to abandon superstition and magical thinking and rely on sound scientific principles such as Darwinian evolution and yet they are the ones whose sentimentality make them seek to override evolutionary principles.

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A Case Of Reverse Racism

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