Duh, only Royals can be inbred.

A British politician has caused quite a stir with his statements regarding the defective results of the arrangements Asians accede to…

A minister who warned about birth defects among children of first cousin marriages in Britain’s Asian community has sparked anger among critics.
Phil Woolas said health workers were aware such marriages were creating increased risk of genetic problems.
The claims infuriated the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) which called on the prime minister to “sack him”. [BBC]

As far as Woolas is concerned, he’s bravely confronting a worrisome issue which is politically incorrect; he has been quoted as saying he has an obligation to bring this up. He isn’t attacking the marriages as illegal or even a religious problem, his point is that this is a cultural practice which should be examined. Children of such unions are 13x more likely to suffer from recessive disorders.

“The issue we need to debate is first cousin marriages, whereby a lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins, and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability [in children]. If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the… Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it’s caused by first cousin marriage….Awareness does need to be raised but we are very aware of the sensitivities,” [BBC]

Critics wonder about his motives, since his political position deals with the environment instead of health. The timing for this hullabaloo in the empire’s orchard is awesome:

His comments follow the storm sparked by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who suggested some aspects of Islamic Sharia law could be allowed in Britain. [mirror]

Anti-green team, please note, both Woolas and the the cabinet minister who has his six, Geoff Hoon, are taking pains to point out that this conniption about cousin-coupling doesn’t involve the “wider Muslim community”; oh no, this backwardness is alll Asian.

The junior Minister has other vocal supporters besides Hoon:

Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, said she was delighted that Phil Woolas had triggered a public debate on the issue which she said affected some sections of the Pakistani population in her constituency.
An expert in genetics, Steve Jones, also defended Woolas today, saying that first-cousin marriages doubled the risk of babies being born dead or disabled. [Guardian]

Cryer, like Woolas, reps significant numbers of Pakistanis. She has plenty of gasoline for this fire:

“I am delighted we are talking about. I have been fretting about this for 10 years and at last we are having a debate about something that is having a very large impact on my Pakistani constituents,” Cryer told the Today programme.
She stressed that she was only talking about “certain sections” of the Pakistani community. The problem related to families who engaged in “trans-continental marriages” because most of those marriages were between cousins.
There was often “a price to pay”, she went on. “The price to pay is often babies being born dead, or babies being born very early or babies being born with very severe genetically-transmitted disorders.” [Guardian]
“This is to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family.”
I have encountered cases of blindness and deafness. There was one poor girl who had to have an oxygen tank on her back and breathe from a hole in the front of her neck,” she added.
“The parents were warned they should not have any more children. But when the husband returned from Pakistan, within months they had another child with exactly the same condition.” [BBC]

Anyone seen Razib? :) Someone page him. He HAS to chime in on this…

193 thoughts on “Duh, only Royals can be inbred.

  1. MoorNam:

    Inbreeding increases intelligence and mental strength. Indeed, most intelligent communities across the world have selective inbreeding as a part and parcel of their culture.

    What? No. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia run in families. Inbreeding would only increase the probabilities of having mentally unstable children.

  2. Also, wtf is up with everyone getting so defensive? The cousin-marrying proclivities of the Pakistani Brits(and the rural Finnish, may I add) were even discussed in first year genetics class, and I live neither in the UK nor in the USA.

  3. Chaz — you have a hypothesis about the intelligence of Mirpuri-Britons — fine. But you haven’t explained why a study of children in a town in Uttar Pradesh supports your hypothesis on the intelligence of children in Bradford, UK.

    Exaclty what factors make the population studies in Aligarh similar to that of Pakistani Britons? Why have very high levels of inbreeding among South Indian populations (see Razib’stats above) not brought about the same result? Why do you think the result of inbreeding in the UK will be similar to Aligarh and not, say, Pondichery or rural Tamil Nadu?

    If you’re going to make strong definitive claims (you said “I’m certain”), provide strong evidence. The study you cite does not provide definitive evidence for the claim you make.

  4. Ikram

    My hypothesis is that inbreeding is lowering the IQ of British Pakistanis, given that inbreeding is well known to reduce IQ in other populations (not just North Indian Muslims) I don’t see why British Pakistanis would be any different.

    “Why have very high levels of inbreeding among South Indian populations (see Razib’stats above) not brought about the same result?”

    Have studies been done on these populations regarding the inbreeding IQ deficit? Did they produce a different result?

  5. Duh, only Royals can be inbred.

    a foolish choice of title, actually: the Habsburg family are famous through Europe, with Carlos II, the last Habsburg king of Spain, cited as the disastrous final consequence of generations of cousin marriage. One marriage between first cousins will increase a low probability of handicap to a higher but still low level. As Razib points out and the Habsburgs show, it is repeated cousin marriages that have a disastrous effect. On the other hand, repeated cousin marriages may concentrate useful genetic qualities: one English family, famous for its long tradition of cousin marriags, produced many depressives and also great composers, scientists, businessmen, economists and many eminent but lesser people. I refer to the Wedgwood-Darwin family, which included Josiah Wedgwood, Charles Darwin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, J.M. Keynes, Francis Galton and quite few secondary emineneces.

  6. Also, wtf is up with everyone getting so defensive? The cousin-marrying proclivities of the Pakistani Brits(and the rural Finnish, may I add) were even discussed in first year genetics class, and I live neither in the UK nor in the USA.

    Meena, I already explained in an earlier post why I would get “defensive”. It’s not that hard to understand, especially when someone refers to your people as “inbred tards”. I’m sure they didn’t refer to Pakistani Britons in manner in your first year genetics class.

    Digitalcaptive, dont you think it would be mad nasty procreating with your cousin? If you marry your cousin, your kids marry their cousins and your grandchildren marry their cousins, somethings going to go wrong by that time.

    It doesn’t matter what I think is nasty. All I know is that this was a traditional practice, and not something new. For generations cousins have married and what’s the result? Are these cousin-marrying populations significantly “inferior” to those that have not? I just don’t see enough substantive evidence for it to be used as a rational for everything from Pakistani under-acheivement in British schools to the fall of muslim empires, to the point where people are absolutely “certain” of it. Give me a break. From my perspective, all of this just seems like another way to malign a people that refuse to “integrate” and “westernize” themselves. Oh well.

  7. digitalcaptive:

    Meena, I already explained in an earlier post why I would get “defensive”. It’s not that hard to understand, especially when someone refers to your people as “inbred tards”. I’m sure they didn’t refer to Pakistani Britons in manner in your first year genetics class.

    Where was anyone referred to as ‘tards’? The royal family of England is btw hardly representative for the whole of Britain. Though according to one of my second cousins who is a doctor and has lived in England there are still pockets of inbreds in and around Scotland. But largely yes it is a cultural issue.Those percentages of native Brits who marry their cousins for generations still don’t match up to the proportion of Pakistanis keeping it “all in the family”.

  8. 156 · Roger said

    a foolish choice of title, actually:

    Forgive my inability to comprehend you, but I don’t see how it’s foolish, given your comment. I’m open to understanding why I might have made a mistake, but your explanation just confirms that Royals are married off to their cousins, and people don’t seem to care about that.

    I’m not sure why you find it objectionable…it was just a catchy title which is consistent with my voice and the overall preference for snark on SM.

    There was another comment I was confused by re: gothras preventing inbreeding and someone said it wasn’t true, because you could marry a cousin on your mom’s side…because that person would be from a different gothra. If they are from a different one, isn’t it okay? Isn’t the prohibition only about knockin’ chappals with someone from your own clan (which seems logical, though I’m neither a geneticist nor an expert on South Indian customs?

  9. Anna writes:

    There was another comment I was confused by re: gothras preventing inbreeding and someone said it wasn’t true, because you could marry a cousin on your mom’s side…because that person would be from a different gothra. If they are from a different one, isn’t it okay?

    Gotra system is practised only by Hindus of certain castes. They point to the original few dozen rishis thousands of years ago whose descendants spread out on the subcontinent. If you marry someone within a gotra, it’s like marrying a sibling. Gotras are also a loose way of defining blood groups.

    As far as emprical evidence goes, the Gotra classification has seemed to worked pretty well upto now.

    Some of my relatives who have married within their Gotra point out to their normal children as evidence that the Gotra is just humbug. What they don’t know is that these effects show up after two-three generations, not right away.

    M. Nam

  10. There was another comment I was confused by re: gothras preventing inbreeding and someone said it wasn’t true, because you could marry a cousin on your mom’s side…because that person would be from a different gothra. If they are from a different one, isn’t it okay? Isn’t the prohibition only about knockin’ chappals with someone from your own clan (which seems logical, though I’m neither a geneticist nor an expert on South Indian customs?

    gotra refers to the sage you are descended from, and is inherited from the paternal line. gotra doesn’t preclude marrying within the clan, not all members of a clan belong to the same gotra. However, gotra is not a fail-safe to prevent inbreeding because people can marry relatives descended from their mother’s side (for example, mother’s sibling’s child) without violating this restriction.

    Also, I have another question: Is gotra universal to all Hindus, or is it Brahmin-specific?

  11. Meena,

    “Where was anyone referred to as ‘tards’?”

    Um, within the body of this thread. See post #9.

  12. That’s Razib, tho. It’s not like the people in the original article used the term or anything near it. Just because you object to someone’s use of the phrase(one who is notorious for such provocative terms) doesn’t mean all avenues on discussion of inter-familial marriages should be closed off…and they ARE a bad thing.

  13. Meena,

    As well, I didn’t say anything about native (read: White) Britons, so I don’t know what you’re going on about in that respect. I said Pakistani Britons.

  14. the gotra system is cute and all, but as has been pointed out, flawed. it would, for example, prohibit marrying a tenth-cousin, but permit marrying a maternal first cousin. yeah.. that’s not how it works. chances are, if you marry someone of the same gotra(m), and you don’t share any known ancestors, that’s much, much safer than marrying your first cousin of a different gotra.

  15. 166 · jackal said

    the gotra system is cute and all, but as has been pointed out, flawed. it would, for example, prohibit marrying a tenth-cousin, but permit marrying a maternal first cousin. yeah.. that’s not how it works. chances are, if you marry someone of the same gotra(m), and you don’t share any known ancestors, that’s much, much safer than marrying your first cousin of a different gotra.

    I believe among people who have a gotra system, marrying within the gotra is taboo and marrying cousins is also taboo. Its not like gotra system is the only restriction.

  16. nope, us tambrams have followed the gotra system historically, and a couple of my mom’s cousins married their maternal first-cousins. of course now it’s discouraged. but even a few decades ago, my dad’s uncles/aunts were trying to convince him to marry a cousin, which he refused to for obvious reasons.

  17. I believe among people who have a gotra system, marrying within the gotra is taboo and marrying cousins is also taboo. Its not like gotra system is the only restriction.

    Not true among Tamil Brahmins, at least. Cousin marriage is not uncommon, at least in my parents’ generation. The non-inbreeding justification for gotras smacks of pseudoscience.

  18. As far as emprical evidence goes, the Gotra classification has seemed to worked pretty well upto now.

    I know tons of my friends’ families who have religiously followed the gotra system, while still marrying maternal relatives, and there is a disproportionate and non-negligible number of them who have assorted chronic conditions.

  19. 168 · jackal said

    nope, us tambrams have followed the gotra system historically, and a couple of my mom’s cousins married their maternal first-cousins. of course now it’s discouraged. but even a few decades ago, my dad’s uncles/aunts were trying to convince him to marry a cousin, which he refused to for obvious reasons.

    All of the Gujarati Brahmins I know think marrying their cousins is taboo and they have a gotra system. I asked a tambram here and he said his family also considers cousin marriage taboo. May be cousin marriage is more of a village, pastoral tradition?

  20. JGandhi:

    May be cousin marriage is more of a village, pastoral tradition?

    Judging by the lyrics of this song, probable. It’s essentially an ode to the singer’s father’s sister’s daughter and his reluctance to look outside the family, and the movie is quintessentially rural in character, as are many Bharathiraja movies.

    Rahul:

    Also, I have another question: Is gotra universal to all Hindus, or is it Brahmin-specific?

    Can’t speak for everyone here, but usually a gotram that is named after a rishi is a Brahmin characteristic. There do exist non-rishi gotrams like Siva Gotram and Vishnu Gotram, but not everyone identifies with them (or the system).

  21. Parity and XOR are equivalent, but the resulting outcome of whether a match is legal or not does depend on how 0/1 is mapped to male/female in case of an odd number of links

    pingpong, I also meant to thank you for the boolean logic table.~A xor ~B = A xor B, and I was just extending the result without thinking properly about it, and that’s where xor differs from parity. Good, you learn something new every day.

  22. All of the Gujarati Brahmins I know think marrying their cousins is taboo and they have a gotra system. I asked a tambram here and he said his family also considers cousin marriage taboo. May be cousin marriage is more of a village, pastoral tradition?

    It’s taboo now certainly, but up to a couple of decades ago, in my educated, urban tambram extended family, there were a few cousin marriages.

    Anyhow, saying gotras along prevent inbreeding is silly, and, as Rahul said, a modern pseudoscientific attempt at rationalizing gotrams. They give you some measure of patrilineal descent, but if you don’t have any known common ancestors (in the past 100 years) it’s way safer than maternal cousin marriage (or vice versa in malayali matrineal gotram systems, I presume).

  23. Anna: my compplaint about the title wasn’t wholly serious either. i was referring to the fact that after the Habsburgs cousin intermariage in the European royal families became less common. However, the example of the Wedgwood-Darwin family seems to show that beneficent qualities may also be made more common by cousin marriage. The gotra system referred to may have good effects in making marriage partners more dispersed, but your cousin will share the same genes as you regardless of gotra, so the same risks are there. It’s not the occasional cousin mariage but persistent and repeated cousin marriage that has a serious effect. The fact that current generations are healthy does not alter the fact that potential dangerous factors become more common with every such marriage. Some geneticist pointed out that the most efficient change in marital behaviour in rural England wasn’t the table of kindred or injunctions against cousin marriage but the invention of the bicycle; it’s ironic that the invention on the aeroplane makes cousin-marriage easier now.

  24. 175 · Roger said

    The fact that current generations are healthy does not alter the fact that potential dangerous factors become more common with every such marriage. Some geneticist pointed out that the most efficient change in marital behaviour in rural England wasn’t the table of kindred or injunctions against cousin marriage but the invention of the bicycle; it’s ironic that the invention on the aeroplane makes cousin-marriage easier now.

    Are young Pakistani men in the UK being forced into cousin marriages, or are they choosing to get married to girls in rural Pakistan?

  25. Also, I have another question: Is gotra universal to all Hindus, or is it Brahmin-specific?

    Interestingly, even the Jatts refer to their clan names (such as Dhillon, Sandhu, Dhaliwal, Gill, etc) as ‘got’. Although it is not the same system and has none of the ritual basis that Brahmin gotras do. But I believe it does affect their marriage choices…apparently they can’t marry people from their paternal or maternal got, or their dadi’s (paternal grandmother’s) got…but, correct me if I’m wrong here Jatto, but maybe they can still marry from their nani’s (maternal grandmother’s) got? Seems like a good system to prevent inbreeding while still marrying within the caste. Muslim Jatts in Pakistan I believe do marry their first cousins though.

  26. “Absolutely incorrect. In North India mom’s side cousins are still cousin-brothers and cousin-sisters. Marraige with a couson-sister or cousin-brother from Mom’s side would never occur.”

    I never said that cousins on your mom’s side aren’t cousins. What I said was that the gotra system is patrilineal for the most part. That means the kids of your aunts do not necessarily have the same gotra as you. In the case that the gotra system is matrilineal (I suppose among some groups in Kerala), well then the kids of your uncles do not necessarily have the same gotra as you. Either way, the gotra system does NOT prevent you from marrying cousins birthed from either the aunts or uncles of your family.

    example: say your grandfather’s gotra, and by extension you and your father’s gotra, is bharadwaj (or bharathwaj or however you may spell it).

    your mom’s sister marries a guy who’s gotra is Bhargava. Her child, your first cousin, will now be Bhargava.

    And, according to gotra rules, it would be acceptable to marry that cousin.

  27. johnson, you seem to be describing southern indian (if anything) traditions. What you are talking about certainly does not hold true in the North.

    I think the real hard-core gotra system in the true sense only applies to southern brahmins.

  28. 80 · JGandhi said

    Most of my relatives use the words “cousin-brother” or “cousin-sister” when referring to cousins. Its also customary to call older cousins bai or ben (brother or sister). Do Pakistanis or Indian Muslims do this? I’m guessing probably not since that would make cousin marriage even more weird.

    Every (US) Pakistani/Indian Muslim I have met do. I don’t see why it should be any different. Then again, Bhai or Baji/Aapi is used as an honorific term for any older peer and does not specifically connote blood brother/sibling in this use.

  29. Am always fascinated by discussions of UK Desis…

    134 · razib said

    1) bangladeshis are more foreign-born than pakistani, who are actually a relatively native-born community among brownz. that’s why the pakistani (especially) educational performance is so dispiriting. i think it’s probably a generalized issue with lack of integration and what not.

    Could you say more about why you think nativity should result in higher achievement? U.S. immigration research suggests that successive generations of non-white immigrants fare increasingly worse. (call it the brown factor)

    2) but, i didn’t say it was all due to inbreeding, but i’m saying that the likelihood is that some effect does occur.

    But, quantitatively, wouldn’t that just be a drop in the bucket? C’mon, how much of the difference do you reckon it actually accounts for? I’m with digitalcaptive on this – there are far too many other (largely structural) factors that likely account for the disparities.

  30. “Johnson” Under NO conditions may the sisters children or brothers children marry each other according to Hindu Dharma. Chidren of brother and sister may marry. Grand-children of sisters MAY marry, I am not sure. Children of sisters and children of brothers are considered blood siblings :-) and thus taboo to marry even with different gotras. In the South, first right of refusal is for the mama(brother of mother of bride) or his sons. That is why in many marriages, it is the mama who brings the bride to the mandap.

  31. I’m certain that some Hindus in Kerala marry their cousins; I had a classmate who knew that he was going to marry his cousin right from the time they were kids (she was his “murapennu”). I know that they were madly in love and wrote to/called each other regularly when he was 15 and in Boarding School; having a girlfriend at that age and his parents being cool with that made him quite popular. The only reference that I could pick up from a bit of googling was from this site:

    It is also worth mention here that all Hindu communities in Kerala except the Namboodiris practiced cousin marriage. A boy could rightfully claim the hand of the daughter of his maternal uncle or paternal aunt, in marriage. Among Muslims cousin marriage is a common practice but Christians never marry among their blood relations and cousins.
  32. “johnson, you seem to be describing southern indian (if anything) traditions. What you are talking about certainly does not hold true in the North.

    I think the real hard-core gotra system in the true sense only applies to southern brahmins.”

    Perhaps that is so. I’m not too sure how it is in the North. So North Indian brahmins don’t use the gotra system?

    Regardless, as many south indians hindus DO practise cousin marriage, how can it be considered taboo according to hindu dharma, as these people are clearly hindu?

  33. I’m certain that some Hindus in Kerala marry their cousins; I had a classmate who knew that he was going to marry his cousin right from the time they were kids (she was his “murapennu”).

    I’d assume that the South Indian Hindu culture starting with food habits and marriage practises are the same (though could differ across castes) and I think mostly that assumption is right. The reason why people are claiming it (marriages within the family) is not present in Kerala is because there are a far fewer Hindus in Kerala, they are either in a minority ( less than 50% ) or just hovering above 50%, so their influence is not that much and people might not be aware.

    Regarding “gotra”, I think it is a big deal for Brahmins / upper castes, but not so for lower castes. I have heard the priests ask for Gothra when they do certain rituals like performing a puja / “thithi” commemorating your dead ancestors. I believe the sanskrit slokas differ gothra wise. But for marriage alliances gotra is not a major blocker.

    I’d not worry too much about cousin marriages contributing to the genetic disorders. Not being a geneticist, I think it is a game of probability (and increase of risk from 2% to 4% is not that high), and I’d assume people take the risk for a “hot” cousin if it is allowed in their “cultural” groups. I never knew that marrying “cross cousins” was taboo in North India for long.

  34. “Are young Pakistani men in the UK being forced into cousin marriages, or are they choosing to get married to girls in rural Pakistan?”

    I don’t know, JGandhi, and my knowledge is limited to personal observattion that acquaintances with ancestors from the Indian subcontinent, whatever their religion, do seem to marry cousins from home more often than is statistically expected. At a guess, this is from a desire to keep family ties despite geographical distance; indeed, if they lived in the same place as their kindred there might not be the same emphasis on it as there seems to be.

  35. 186 · Ponniyin Selvan said

    The reason why people are claiming it (marriages within the family) is not present in Kerala is because there are a far fewer Hindus in Kerala, they are either in a minority ( less than 50% ) or just hovering above 50%, so their influence is not that much and people might not be aware.

    Yes, there are practically no Hindus left:

    Kerala’s principal religions are Hinduism (56.1%), Islam (24.7%), and Christianity (19%). [link]

    To me, “56%” is not just hovering over 50%, nor does it scream “endangered minority”. But don’t let facts or reality get in the way of myth-making. One state in India doesn’t have an overwhelming number of Hindus vs. other religious adherents and it’s a crisis!

  36. lol my mother told me in 06 or 07 that she wanted to set me up with my cousin. i was aghast. tambram from a small village in palghat (palakkad) district in Kerala.

  37. Am probably a little late to this discussion but as a Christian from Kerala, I understand that it is acceptable to marry a third cousin from the mother’s side but from the father’s side it is not acceptable to the church to marry any one closer than a seventh cousin. Don’t ask me the rationale for this.

    My wife is a Hindu from Kerala and although – as has been pointed out by others – they are allowed to marry first cousins under certain circumstances, what is striking is that when we meet other Christians from Kerala, it almost invariably turns out that there is a relationship lurking somewhere whether directly or through marriage. We seem to encounter less of this when we meet with Hindus from Kerala.

    Other Christian mutineers from Kerala will be able to relate to what I am saying because part of the convo when Christian Keralites meet, seems to invariably dwell on the family name (veetu paru) and thereafter there is the invariable identification of relationships. For someone not acquainted with the strictures against Kerala Christians not being allowed to marry relatives, I would not blame them for thinking that Kerala Christians must be a pretty inbred group!

  38. I’m the product of roughly sixteen generations of cousin marriages. My parents and one set of grandparents were both first cousins as well. And I’ve failed most of my classes in school. hahahaha My IQ must be in the negatives.

  39. I’m guilty of this – often due to family and social isolation, kids tend to fall in love, lust or some combination of the two with essentially their close genetic blood relative (of the same generation)

    …glad all my cousins look like gorillas (these days at least)

    …..for better or worse – very little can stop the juggernaut or power of love…

    :first time you feel it, it may make you mad…” Huey Lewis