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Why can’t I have a healthy baby?

Welcome news from the Telegraph yesterday, as a new clinic opening in Nottingham will provide test for genetic disorders in embryos. This ensures that the parents have the choice of selecting a healthy embryo and can bring the child to term. The price of the test is six thousand pounds. This will also allow parents to conceive “saviour siblings” who hold the potential for curing their sick brothers and sisters through transplants. It is overdue for such facilities to be established in Britain.

The opposition was opposed to family values. They accused any parents exercising this choice of eugenics.

But campaigners last night said it represents a further step by the IVF industry on the slippery slope towards eugenics and parents being able to choose characteristics for their children such as blue eyes or blond hair.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “Paying £5 million for a state-of-the-art centre in order to eliminate more embryos with disabilities sounds like aggressive eugenics. We need to develop real cures for genetic diseases, not kill the carriers.”

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority continues to exercise unnecessary regulation on parental choice. They should have no say over this matter.

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said: “A small number of centres are licensed for genetic screening but each patient’s case is approved separately by the HFEA, based on its own merits.”

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52 comments to Why can’t I have a healthy baby?

  • Verity

    They need to outlaw marriage between first cousins and that will get rid of one-third of British birth defects right there.

  • Patrick

    As someone who could hardly believe more firmly in the beneficial effect of progress, I can’t oppose these developments.

    But I can’t help but be aware that to at least a tiny degree there is something about it that diminishes us all, to borrow an eloquent line.

    Why? Because human love is surely as much a part in our success as our rationality and our opposable thumb, and somehow I feel that advances like these will, often, assist in the the slow and slight but steady degradation of the universality of human love.

    But I cheer myself up with the thought that it was ever thus, and my cherished agape was probably never so universal as I might like to wish.

    And that other advances of the same ilk assist us to care for the disabled more comprehensively and cheaply than ever.

    And who could oppose someone’s wish to avoid the extra pain and work of a disabled or even fatally diseased child?

    But I’d suggest that no-one ought not to feel just a twinge of regret – except once again, here is where libertarian-conservatives and conservative-libertarians might part ways.

  • Johnathan

    This is something that stirs up very mixed thoughts in me. I think that medical advances that draw on new ideas from genetic science should be embraced if they can be used to combat disease, improve the quality of life, and so forth (that is the “extropian” in me). I kind of worry, though, when such knowledge becomes the tool of the State. The history of eugenics is not a very pleasant one.

  • Steve P

    Re. “saviour siblings;” How would it feel to know that you had been conceived solely for the purpose of providing spare parts for a brother/sister?

  • So what is the rationale for preventing people from having “savior siblings” or eugenic abortion, as long as they pay for it? Is abortion only to be allowed when the baby is proven to be perfectly healthy? As to how a “savior sibling” might feel, how about “alive”?

  • Re. “saviour siblings;” How would it feel to know that you had been conceived solely for the purpose of providing spare parts for a brother/sister?

    It couldn’t be worse than knowing you were conceived solely because your parents weren’t wise enough to use contraception, and knowing that your conception was probably the only reason they got married. As a saviour sibling, one’s life has a purpose even if you otherwise become a colossal waste of oxygen.

  • Dave

    Weren’t wise enough to use contraception? you mean natural instincts took over and the baby was created out of passion.

    Well how incredibly disgusting!

    Knowing your parents got married in a large part because they wanted to raise a family in the best environment is hardly something to be ashamed of. Could be a lot worse.

  • Midwesterner

    What do you mean “They accused any parents exercising this choice of eugenics.” ?

    It is eugenics plain and simple.

  • michael farris

    “Re. “saviour siblings;” How would it feel to know that you had been conceived solely for the purpose of providing spare parts for a brother/sister?”

    – Good news Timmy! Tomorrow morning, you get to go to The ISLAND!

    – Yay!

  • Eddie Willers

    I heartily applaud this private venture from a very personal motive.

    I carry a chromosonal translocation – not a ‘disease’ in the classic sense – which is an inherited syndrome having the capability to cause massive (and often fatal) foetal abnormalities of unclassified types.

    Although this can be detected at an early stage by conventional amniocentesis or chorion villus sampling, the NHS is reluctant to offer any newer technologies (such as the IVF Pre-Implantation testing – discussed in this piece) due to the cost.

    Indeed, in London, our local Socialist health authority declined to pay for such a test – although the proposed cost here seems rather steep

  • Eric Jablow

    What is the opposition’s view of organizations like Dor Yeshorim, which offers genetic screening to Jewish communities to prevent Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick, and other terrible diseases common in the population?

    On the other hand, I do worry that, as in India, Pakistan, and China, clinics like this can be used for sex-selection. We know the problems that can cause.

  • guy herbert

    On the whole “they” ought not to be encouraged to ban things, Verity. Which is why Philip is understating the case rather: the HFEA ought not to exist at all, never mind have no say in this particular matter. (This is, interestingly, now the view of Baroness Warnock, whose report was the starting point for its creation.)

    I realise the ‘first cousins’ thing is just disguised Paki-bashing, but is it also just rhetoric? Leaving aside eugenic justification for interference in other people’s lives, is attributing one-third of British birth-defects to first-cousin inbreeding remotely accurate?

    I can’t readily find the UK figure, but in America first-cousin marriages produce 2% or 3% more birth defects on average. (Bennett, et al., Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2002, cited here.) In urban Pakistan the effect is not detectable, perhaps because the pressures of natural selection are greater. So let’s take the higher US figure.

    Assume a 3% elevation of birth-defects in cousin-marriages does result in a third of birth-defects being due to cousin-marriages. For this BOE purpose ignore the higher fertility of close relations, and marriages closer than first cousin. Total birth-defects would then be proportional to total marriages, and defects from cousin-marriages in the same proportion to 103% of cousin-marriages. Which would imply 32.4% of Britons who have children have them by cousins. Is that plausible?

  • Nick M

    I think we’re missing the point on “saviour siblings”. Seeing as most UK parents plan on having more than one kid anyway they are not conceived solely for their brother or sister. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

    Now, as Mick Jagger put it (somewhat anachronistically even then) “it’s hard to have just one girl when there’s a billion in the world”. So there is absolutely no excuse for marrying a cousin. I know why the muzzies are in favour, but that is hardly an “argument on the side of the angels” – as Abe Lincoln would put it.

    An interesting side note to this is that I’m blue-eyed and blonde and so is my bird. We are frequently taken for brother and sister in assorted Pakistani run corner shops in Manchester. I assume this is because the alternative (and they ain’t seen a ring) is to assume that we co-habit and this is beyond the ken of muzzie. The idea that we have sex because we like each other, and not to strengthen family ties by producing deformed offspring and giving ol’ Uncle Ahmed the opportunity to drive a minicab erratically round Luton is completely beyond Islamic comprehension.

    But fair play to the East Midlands. I used to live in Nottingham.

  • Nick M

    And it’s always bloody Luton. What a God Awful Dive. The Kandahar of Bedfordshire. The GM plant is clearly not long for this world and when that shuts it’s game over. The only thing it’s recently been famous for is the “Great Debate” jilbab or shalwa-cahmiz which is so odd as to be possibly amusing if it hadn’t cost the PBI of the UK a fecking fortune to decide which particular form of ugly arabian dress some tart had the right to wear in school. I didn’t like my school uniform, but I got over it, at approx 18.

  • J

    Nick M

    Generally speaking I don’t find racism amusing, but I make an exception in your case. My parents were often mistaken for brother and sister when they were first married. That was 40 years ago in Montana. Obviously there were more Paki’s there then I had realised, as it is only islamic types that mistake couples for relations.

    You may not be an idiot, but you do write like one.


  • Andrew Duffin


    “They need to outlaw marriage between first cousins and that will get rid of one-third of British birth defects right there.”

    Marriages, Verity? Whatever makes you think they get married?

    Quaint, old-fashioned notion.

  • Nick M

    I know a racist when I see one, and I’m not one. I have absolutely nothing against anyone on the basis of their country of origin, or their parent’s country of origin, or so on. I was making a comment on muslims and the complete failure of them to integrate into British society. The last time I checked in the OED Islam was a religion, not a race. I don’t even dislike muslims. I feel sorry for them. They are victims in the greatest con of all time.

  • rosignol

    I can’t readily find the UK figure, but in America first-cousin marriages produce 2% or 3% more birth defects on average. (Bennett, et al., Journal of Genetic Counseling, 2002, cited here.) In urban Pakistan the effect is not detectable, perhaps because the pressures of natural selection are greater. So let’s take the higher US figure.

    Mm… isn’t cousin-marrying something of a long-standing tradition in Pakistan?

    I suspect that have something to do with why the effect isn’t detectable.

  • Nick M

    marraige to close relatives is very common for Pakistanis and other muslims. It’s got a lot to do with the cute intricacies of Islamic inheritance law.

    Any attempt to compare health statistics between countries like the USA and Pakistan with massively different standards of healthcare is bound to run into problems. A better comparison is between UK Pakistanis and the rest of the UK population. A recent study found that the rate of genetic birth defects was 10 times higher for the Pakistanis than the general population. The blame was firmly laid at the door of cousins marrying. This did not apply to UK Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists or similar South Asians. It was also far less of a problem with British Bangladeshis who are rather more free-wheeling than their Pakistani co-religionists.

  • Verity

    No, Guy Herbert, it’s not “remotely accurate”. It is absolutely accurate. Having been challenged on it once before on this site, and having looked it up and provided the official NHS statistics, I’m not going to do it again.

    Do you believe in freedom of expression, Guy Herbert? You strike me as the same thought control type who shrieks, “Islamophobia!” whenever anyone makes a negative remark about Islam, or “xenophobic!” or “racist!” whenever someone says we should get out of Europe, of “homophobic!” if someone makes a joke involving gays.

    What I wrote is not disguised Paki bashing, although they would be well-advised to join the 21st Century and rid themselves of this primeval habit to keep money and land in one family. Sending off to their tribal area for a cousin to marry, when both the parties to the marriage are themelves the products of first-cousin marriages, as were their parents and their parents back into the mists of antiquity does strike one as a little backward to say the least.

    Pakistanis account for 3% of births in Britain (that may have been England, I can’t remember) and 30% of birth defects. Look it up.

    If they were paying for the treatment of their defective children themselves, I wouldn’t say marriages between first cousins should be outlawed because I wouldn’t give a toss either way. But they are an immense burden on the NHS – this is the NHS which wants to ban smoking because of the cost of treating smoking related ailments, and sweet, salty and/or fatty foods because of the cost of treating related ailments.

  • YogSothoth

    I think most people would agree with both of the following:

    1) Genetic tinkering that alleviates disease, birth defects, etc. is a feature.

    2) Genetic tinkering that ultimately leads to a gattaca-type society would be a bug.

    How can we benefit from the first type of genetic manipulation while avoiding the truly grim outcome warned of in the second?

    My idea would be to only allow genetic manipulation that results in a move to the median. Most people don’t have multiple sclerosis so curing it would be moving to the median. Most people aren’t 7 feet tall so engineering a yao ming wouldn’t be.

    Granted, the presumptive libertarian in me tends to think that using force to prevent a transaction undertaken by consenting adults is a cure that exceeds the magnitude of the disease – but – if you’ve never seen the movie I references (gattaca) you should watch it. It is beyond prophetic and creepy.

  • Nick M

    if you’ve never seen the movie I references (gattaca) you should watch it. It is beyond prophetic and creepy.

    It’s also a crap film. And what’s so bad about a future in which all women look as good as Uma Thurman?

  • rosignol

    My idea would be to only allow genetic manipulation that results in a move to the median. Most people don’t have multiple sclerosis so curing it would be moving to the median. Most people aren’t 7 feet tall so engineering a yao ming wouldn’t be.


    While there are definite benefits to eliminating disease, I would instead discourage ‘cosmetic’ tinkering on humans on the basis that the person affcted is not in a position to give their consent.

    Someone affected with, say, spina bifida is very unlikely to object to having the condition remedied once they learn what it is and can express an opinion on the matter. But I can see reasons why someone might object to being extraordinarily tall (I have a bit of experience with being unusually tall, being extraordinarily tall would be a royal pain in the neck) or something similar.

    But what about non-cosmetic tinkering? If there is a process that can make a child smarter, stronger, and healthier than usual, what parent with the means would not want it for their child? What right would anyone else have to tell them they can’t have it?

    I know, I know, someone’s going to wave the eugenics-monster around again. It should be remembered that few people objected to Adolf’s intention of making more of his UberArayan types. What was objected to- rightly- was how he was getting rid of the undesirables.

    When you lay out an argument against eugenics, please make sure it is an argument against eugenics, and not an argument against genocide that’s pretending to be an argument against eugenics.

    With regards to marrying cousins- inbreeding is known to have many effects on the descendants of those who practice it. Very few of them are beneficial.

  • ian

    Do you believe in freedom of expression, Guy Herbert?

    Do I assume you define freedom of expression as the right to agree with you then, Verity?

  • Nick M


    Are you suggesting that the future is in danger from “The Attack of the 50ft Women”? Smarter, fitter, healthier and more attractive, yes. Who doesn’t want that?

    Who but a basketball coach wants 7′ tall kids? Certainly not the women who’ll have to squeeze out these supersize puppies. And I very much doubt they’ll want to have GM supersized pelvic girdles to accomodate the massive fruit of their loins.

    Science is capable of doing a lot of things now which people are scared of. You can either carp from the sidelines or seize the Promethean Will to Power. The alternative is to put up with the same old shit from here to eternity.

    I cook, work inside computers and type a lot. I’d like an extra arm, who wouldn’t?

    More seriously. What counts as a cosmetic change? I see two major issues here. DNA codes for proteins and the same gene can be linked to two very different traits. Secondly, people have way different views on what counts as cosmetic changes. Some people criticised the French face transplant as “mere cosmesis” but while the result was a woman who was cosmetically transformed from something in a nightmare to a scared, but otherwise quite attractive woman it also meant she could eat normally again.

  • Nick M

    Leave off Verity, Ian. She’s 100% right on this. She was stating a scientifically verified fact. You know the kinda facts that are either true or false, regardless of what you desire to believe.

  • Verity

    No, Ian – I mean does Guy Herbert support the rights of others to differ from him. Guy Herbert leapt to this eager conclusion: I realise the ‘first cousins’ thing is just disguised Paki-bashing because I had written something with which he does not agree.

  • DuncaS

    If I would prefer my child to have blond hair and blue eyes, and could pay to assure it… what’s wrong with that? Who’s business is it other than mine (and my wifes in this case)

    Eugenics, as in state sponsered engineering for the good of society, is wrong… very, very wrong. But on an individual basis, I don’t see how anyone could object to one being left alone in this most personal decision.

  • Nick M

    Well DuncaS, no one should care. But why would you pay to ensure that? I’ve known a number of absolutely gorgeous girls with brown hair. I think part of the fun of having kids is playing the genetic lottery and not knowing exactly what you’re gonna get on such dull issues as the exact details of colouration.

    Having said that, getting a kid who doesn’t suffer from a debilatating disease should not be part of that lottery if the technology exists to prevent it.

    A major part of that technology was figured out way back. Cousins should not marry.

  • Verity

    (Link) Ann Cryer represents a Pakistani constituency, Guy Herbert. Are you going to accuse her of Paki bashing?

  • DuncanS

    “I think part of the fun of having kids is playing the genetic lottery and not knowing exactly what you’re gonna get on such dull issues as the exact details of colouration.”

    Ok Nick, well that’s your opinion. Perhaps ‘exact details’ such as coloration and such are ‘dull’ to you, (and perhaps me) but it’s still YOUR preference. Maybe to someone it DOES really matter. Shallow perhaps but so what? It’s certainly not the governments place to make that call for someone. (which I think your agreeing with, I just don’t think it’s as inane as you make it out to be.)

    If the technology exists to make these choices, people will make them, and no governing is going to make any difference in the end. Much as the long established music industry is having to rework it’s thinking with the advent of mp3s and ipods and file sharing, society is going to have to adjust to the technology in the end I think.

  • Sigivald

    This will also allow parents to conceive “saviour siblings” who hold the potential for curing their sick brothers and sisters through transplants.

    Making people solely for the purpose of using their organs for someone else’s benefit seems a bit much. Will these siblings be asked if they want to donate their parts?

    (Partially this is arguendo, but more seriously, what’s British law on that? Can parents decide for a minor child that said minor child is Going To Donate A Kidney And That’s That? Can the court decide it for them if the parent can’t? Or under current law, do the “saviour siblings” have to hope their “purpose” isn’t ruined by the 16 or 18 year wait to majority?)

    If so, lots of luck persuading them… well, without the 18 years of brainwashing the parents get to convince them their Greater Duty is to give up an organ. That they had this “purpose” from conception is arguably worse than having no external purpose at all, and at any rate a purpose imposed on you from outside is not my idea of libertarianism. (I’ve long had the idea that the only meaningful purpose in life is whatever purpose one comes to have; a purpose imposed from outside smacks of totalitarianism, even if benevolent.)

    And if they don’t get asked, this is, of course, slavery; and even a worse kind than normal, since at least with common slavery the slave’s body isn’t parted out.

    And there’s a much bigger problem if the organ is one they can’t live without – I don’t know that anyone’s suggesting a “savior sibling” for heart problems; I rather hope nobody is, given the gigantic ethical issues at the moment. (In the future, when we can make a donor body with no more than a brainstem to keep it functional on life-support for a few years, that’s another matter, granted, as is all of this.)

    That’s the only part of this I have any severe qualms about, though. Selecting for hair and eye color? Big deal. Selecting against birth defects? Kudos.

    But making people for purely instrumental ends? I don’t even like Kant, but I have enough respect for the Categorical Imperative to reject that wholeheartedly.

    (See above caveat explaining why the “people” objection will eventually be obviated by technological/scientific progress, possibly quite soon.)

  • Sigivald

    Verity, Nick: If it’s a scientifically verified fact, surely one of you can post a link to it, rather than Verity just saying “look it up”?

    I mean, this is the intarwebs, isn’t it?

    Traditionally, the person making a disputed claim is the one with the burden of providing some evidence or argument for its truth, no?

  • Verity

    Sigivald – I have already looked it up and posted it once before. I am not going to make a career out of looking this statistic up and posting it for people too lazy to do it themselves.

    I posted this link (Link) above. I see you didn’t go to it. It’s not the original link that I posted before, but it is a reputable report on a study conducted by an MP who is elected by Pakistani constituents.

    I am not researching this subject again. I don’t live in Britain. But if I did, I would certainly resent paying for birth defects arising from incestuous marriages. Tony and The Dhims certainly won’t be introducing legislation against it, that’s for sure.

  • Nick M

    Verity posted this link on a previous thread. I saw the same research in The Times. This is a matter of public record and more to the point something I, Verity and others on Samizdata have posted in the past. We frankly can’t be arsed posting it again. We’ve got lives beyond telling the obvious truth that Islam is a religion of sexual deviancy. One of the things I do is design websites. I spend enough time typing “

    As I said before “saviour siblings” are generally had by parents who would’ve wanted more kids anyway. They are not used for transplants in a medically damaging way, we’re talking small quantities of blood or bone marrow, not kidneys here.

    Well, yes, you’re right it is shallow to decide you want a red-headed girl with green eyes or indeed any particular colour combo. I suspect that, quite simply, most people are smart enough not to pay for that. Even if they do, so what? It’s fashion afterall, and it changes. If the baby choice of 2010 is a brunette you can bet your bottom dollar that the 2011 choice will be something different.

    How many parents have you met who’ve said, “little Jimmy is perfect, except he’s got brown eyes”. The vast majority will be more concerned about whether he’s got 20/20 vision than crap like that.

    There is a genetic defect which results in a near 90% chance of a very aggressive form of bowel cancer by the age of 30. I think people might just be smart enough to want to pay for that to be screened out.

  • Nick M

    Sorry folks, just because I put in a (quote marked) a href= I turned most of my post into a link.

  • guy herbert


    But my supposition about what you were getting at has been proved absolutely right by your response. Do you believe in freedom of choice in marriage? Not if it is only Pakis involved, it seems.

    I’m grateful for the link to the very surprising factoid, which seems to be repeated in many places, though the underlying study appears not to be fully cited or available online. It is clear from the newsnight report and much clarified by a response from the Genetic Interest Group Group in BioNews, that it is not all birth-defects that are at issue here, but specifically recessive genetic defects – which themselves make up a small proportion of birth defects, but a larger one among children born to close relations.

  • guy herbert

    Ann Cryer represents a Pakistani constituency…

    A Yorkshire one, surely. According to politics.co.uk: “There are around 90,000 people in the constituency; according to the 2001 Census, 10.5 per cent are immigrants, and 9.2 per cent come from India, Bangladesh or Pakistan.” Not very Pakistani, really.

  • Nick M

    ut specifically recessive genetic defects

    Everyone with even the vaguest knowledge of biomed knows that there numerous reasons for birth defects. This is a highly avoidable one. That’s the point, and also that marriage between closely related people (who are frequently forced into it) is wrong. Get out, see the world, hook up with someone different. At the least it’s more fun. At the most it brings the sort of unity between peoples that Islam abhors.

  • J

    Christ almighty, unless I’m missing something, this is utterly pathetic.

    What Verity said: “They need to outlaw marriage between first cousins and that will get rid of one-third of British birth defects right there.”

    What the article that Verity cites in support of her statement says: “The report, commissioned by Ann Cryer, revealed that the Pakistani community accounted for 30 per cent of all births with recessive disorders, despite representing 3.4 per cent of the birth rate nationwide.”

    Can no-one here spot the bloody obvious glaring difference????

    “births with recessive disorders” is a subset of “birth defects”. A small one. Other causes of birth defects include:

    Drugs taken during pregnancy, and exposure to
    chemicals during pregnancy.
    Smoking and drinking during pregnancy
    Being over 35 during conception

    So, I think we can all agree that if you want to ban 1st cousin marriages for the good of the NHS bill, please also add forceable sterilisation of the over 35s, imprisonment of those who drink during pregnancy (the USA leading the way here), death to smokers (UK trying hard here).

    But please for the love of God will people actually read the links posted with some kind of vague attention to detail. Since the telegraph fails miserably to support the figures it gives with links to the original research, we have no idea what pathetically inadequate sample size it may have used, or what flawed statistical techniques were employed (e.g. were stillborn defects counted? What about foetuses aborted due to early detection of defects? Are those counted as ‘birth defects’?)

    Once again, it seems a little learning is all you need on a blog. Why let complexity and time consuming research get in the way of making your point? Who needs lefty academics doing research when a link to an MSM article counts as citation in support of your rant.


    Article cited by Verity

    Article that looks about a million times more useful, but is long and difficult so no-one will bother reading:


  • Alice

    Why can’t I have a healthy baby?
    – because a healthy, meaning libertarian, baby is simply unaffordable in France. It would cost his parents two health insurances, the compulsory public one and a private one, and it would grow up collectivist anyway, in a state school or in a private school where teachers are paid by the state.
    – because he would have to share his vocabulary and general knowledge with an increasing number of children with little human capital, so that everybody will be poorly served, except for street fighting competency.
    – because in a perfect market, efficient men rather think flexibility (i.e. about their divorce on a new encounter) than marriage,
    – because it’s not a study case for an MBA. Why bother to put it into practice?
    And so on.

  • Verity

    Yay, Alice! You managed to get through the spam filters!! Bonsoir!

    Guy Herbert [sigh]: As I posted further up this thread, I do not believe in freedom of choice in marriage if the products of that marriage are going to be a big drain on taxpayers – meaning NHS money for bed, operating theatres, doctors and nurses, and free flat and free money to keep the kid because it will never work and neither will the mother as she has to stay home and take care of it. All this money, in other words, will be sucked up by non-contributors.

    If a marriage has a very big chance – as in 1 in 3 – of producing a child with genetic defects or recessive genes, I think we should disallow it. That is, after all, apart from repulsion, the reason we don’t allow brothers and sisters to marry. First cousins, especially those that are products of first cousin marriages for generations and generations, are going to produce children who are going to require expensive medical care all their lives and will hold school classes back as most state school classes travel at the speed of the stupidest in the class.

    These primitive tribal customs should be outlawed in Britain. Instead we are accommodating our civilisation to them.

    I’ve probably met six or seven Pakistanis in my life – having lived most of my life outside the UK – so I know little about them. I wouldn’t want to bash a couple of million people I’ve never met and know little about.

    Nevertheless, congratulations on the Lords chucking out ID cards. I’m sure your organisation educated some minds on the red benches.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Pakistanis account for 3% of births in Britain (that may have been England, I can’t remember) and 30% of birth defects. Look it up.

    , writes Verity.

    I think that rather than urging folk to “look it up,” you should be so kind as to offer some hard, preferably peer-reviewed and credible evidence to back up what is, on any reading, a pretty serious comment. Cite your sources.

  • Verity

    Jonathan – I have twice offered links above. As I said, I am not going to make a career out of re-validating this statement because, honestly, it has absolutely no effect on my life.

    Now I am being caught in the spam filters. This may not get posted and my last post wasn’t posted.

  • Nick M

    Sorry to hear you’ve been having spam problems Verity. Like you I’m not prepared to repost because, as I said earlier, this is Google-able in 30 secs. And I have a life beyond Samizdata.

  • Verity

    Guy writes: I’m grateful for the link to the very surprising factoid, which seems to be repeated in many places, Note the downgrading of an inconvenient fact to “factoid” and “seems to be repeated”, as though this were something disreputable.

    It’s a fact, Guy Herbert. Live with it and work round it. Marrying first cousins, generation after generation, is a bad idea. That’s why no one else does it.

  • Euan Gray

    Marrying first cousins, generation after generation, is a bad idea. That’s why no one else does it.

    Marrying relations has been common practice among some Jewish communities for centuries, which gave rise to the high prevalence of Tay-Sachs disease in them – this is a recessive genetic disorder.

    Tay-Sachs is also common enough in Cajuns in parts of the south-east USA and amongst French Canadians in the St Lawrence River area.

    Too close marriages aren’t unknown amongst long-standing hereditary aristocracies, giving rise to the popular caricature of the inbred chinless wonder.

    The practice is very far from confined to “Pakis” or Moslem groups.


  • Johnathan Pearce

    What Euan said. I should also point out that marriage of first cousins is a staple of jokes about the places such as parts of the U.S. Old South, southern Europe, etc. On that view, mixed marriage is a good thing or at the very least, harmless, rather than something to be discouraged, as “genetic realists” have claimed.

  • Nick M

    Yes Euan, this is not a practice exclusive to Pakistanis or Muslims, but in the UK, in 2006, they are far and away the greatest cause of it. They are also the greatest cause of using these forced marriages as an immigration scam to get cousin Ahmed and all the rellies over to Britain.

  • Midwesterner

    I believe those statistics have a good chance of being true. I’ve certainly found the 3.4% v 30% numbers quoted enough times. But I’ve chased this pig all around the barn (in a manner of speaking) for much more than the 30 seconds stated above, probably wasted a half an hour or more, and been unable to see any original research, only carefully selected excerpts. The most consistently quoted source I’ve found is BBC Newsnight(Link), and here(Link), but I don’t consider this a guarantee of accurate reporting and interpretation.

    Okay, after another bit of searching based on the info in the second link above, I found this(Link).

    It appears that full text is not available except by purchase, I’m not planning on buying it, so unless somebody else here can get it, we have to assume that BBC quoted accurately and not selectively. And since it appears BBC funded the study, it would be interesting to know more about methodology. Because if ‘Because BBC says so.’ is now considered a finding of fact, some commenters here have changed. But I’ve seen the Guardian referenced seriously here today, I guess anything is possible.

    Interesting, though, in the course of looking for it, I also found this(Link).

  • The thing with us, family values folks, is that we believed those embryos with genetic disorders are still human and are still life.

    Progress maybe. Choice, perhaps. However, if you see that the embryo that would be killed as a person – there’s very little to argue on the basis of science and choice. Certainly, parents don’t have a choice of killing neonatal children with genetic disabilities – why doesn’t “choice” come to play?

  • Verity

    Genetically defective babies produced as a result of mating between first cousins should not have been conceived. Most people worldwide regard marriage between first cousins as incest – and people all over the world figured this out for themselves, tens of thousands of years before science validated it.