Response to E-mail - 1400 years of In-breeding
I've just received another e-mail that I couldn't resist responding to. This one was entitled '1400 years of in-breeding', and tried to argue that Muslims are genetically inferior because of rampant inbreeding. For anyone interested in reading this lunacy in full, I've included the full text of the e-mail below the fold. It appears to be adapted from the article, A huge Muslim problem: inbreeding, by somebody named Bryan Fisher (http://action.afa.net/blogs/blogpost.aspx?id=2147498193). It's worth noting that in the e-mail chain I received, Nicolai Sennels himself confirmed the content of the e-mail (Sennels' work was cited in it extensively).
Marriage between first cousins does seem to be particularly high among Muslims, especially in the Middle East. However, there were several other aspects of this e-mail that were either misleading or not backed up very well.
First of all, marriage among first cousins has not been "prohibited in the Judeo-Christian tradition since the days of Moses". Nowhere does the Bible prohibit marriage between first cousins, and in fact, it has several examples of such marriages. If you go to that Wikipedia entry on 'Cousin Marriage' that the e-mail mentioned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage), you'll find a good discussion on the prevalence of cousin marriage in different cultures and throughout history. Here's a good excerpt from the top of the article about social acceptance:
In western culture, they have been legal in most jurisdictions through most of history and were considered socially acceptable until the first half of the 20th century; indeed, they were the norm in royal families, with Queen Victoria-Albert and William-Mary being two of numerous examples.
And here's a good excerpt of the prevalence of cousin marriage throughout history. It seems that it used to be extremely common in the distant past.
According to Professor Robin Fox of Rutgers University, it is likely that 80% of all marriages in history have been between second cousins or closer. It is generally accepted that the founding population of Homo sapiens was small, anywhere from 700 to 10,000 individuals, and combined with the population dispersal caused by a hunter-gatherer existence, a certain amount of inbreeding would have been inevitable.
However, the article also noted that by the 19th century, marriages between first cousins accounted for less than 5% of marriages in Western Europe and the U.S., and that it has dropped even lower in modern times.
The e-mail made a questionable declaration, "This practice of inbreeding will never go away in the Muslim world, since Muhammad is the ultimate example and authority on all matters, including marriage." By way of example, polygyny is also permissible according to the scriptures all three of the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And there are examples of polygyny in all of their scriptures, including Mohammed himself in the Quran. However, according to another Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygyny_in_Islam), polygynous marriages only make up 1-3% of all Islamic marriages. In other words, Muslims don't blindly emulate Mohammed in all regards, even in marriage, so there's hope that given enough education, first cousin marriages could be reduced among Muslims.
The writer doesn't seem to have a good understanding of genetics. The danger of marriage to a close cousin is that a deleterious recessive allele (damaged recessive gene) has a higher chance of finding a match in someone you're closely related to. According to that first Wikipedia article, in populations where first cousin marriage is rare, marrying a first cousin only increases the risk of a birth defect by "1.7-2.8% over an average base risk for non-cousin couples", so it's not a huge risk. To put it in perspective, that's about the same risk for a birth defect as when the mother is over 35. However, when marriage among close relatives is common, the danger increases. This is because the gene pool is reduced, so effects like genetic drift and the founder effect become more prevalent. A good example is the Amish. While marriage among first cousins is rare in their culture, the breeding population itself is small, and derived from a small group of founders, so the risk of birth defects among the Amish is quite high.
But understanding that the risk of inbreeding is deleterious recessive alleles, the following statement seems particularly ignorant, "The massive inbreeding in Muslim culture may well have done virtually irreversible damage to the Muslim gene pool..." Inbreeding doesn't itself break genes, and aside from founder effects or genetic drift, it doesn't change the prevalence of broken genes. It just increases the chances that broken genes will find a match when two people have children. The problem in the Middle East right now isn't widespread damage to the gene pool. It's that all these family groups have isolated themselves into small breeding populations. If Middle Eastern Muslims were to stop marriage among close relatives and force everyone to marry outside their own families, they would be mixing their genes in the larger gene pool, and there would be a much, much lower risk of them marrying a person with the same problem genes. Basically, it would be the same risk as the rest of the world.
I didn't look into most of the stats, but the first thing I noticed is the misleading way that they're presented. For example, just consider the statement, "The risk of having an IQ lower than 70, the official demarcation for being classified as "retarded," increases by an astonishing 400 percent among children of cousin marriages." If the risk is low to begin with, even multiplying it by 400% is still a small risk. The webcomic XKCD has a humorous take on this (http://xkcd.com/1252/). To paraphrase, if you go to the beach 4 times instead of just once, you've increased your chance of being eaten by a shark by 400%. But it's still a small chance. It's not as if regular beachgoers are disappearing at an alarming rate. Likewise, even if the risk of lower IQ is increased with inbreeding, it doesn't mean that populations with high rates of inbreeding have huge amounts of low intelligence people.
It's also important to remember the old adage that correlation is not causation. There are many, many factors that affect how people develop and what they do with their lives. Even if it's true that "Seven out of 10 Turks have never even read a book", this article doesn't come anywhere close to making a case that that's caused by genetics and not social factors. Take a look at the literacy article on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy). To quote a caption on that page, "World illiteracy halved between 1970 and 2005." That's way too rapid of a change for it to be genetic. It must be a social issue.
As far as intelligence, that's notoriously hard to measure. Just consider the Flynn Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect). IQ tests are normalized such that the average score is 100, with a standard deviation of 15 or 16 points. However, IQ tests must be re-normalized on a periodic basis, because the raw scores tend to go up as time goes on. If the tests weren't re-normalized, then it would appear that average intelligence increased at around 3-4 IQ points per decade. Just as with literacy, this is way too rapid to be caused by genetics. This also must be a social issue. So, even if Middle Eastern immigrants don't perform well on Danish IQ tests, there's just not enough data to even suggest that this is a genetic problem.
So, while marrying first cousins is riskier than marrying only distantly related individuals, and this type of marriage is a problem more common among Middle Eastern Muslims, the broad conclusions reached in this e-mail aren't really backed up. The generalizations seem more like plain old racism than any type of real science.
Here's a related article if you want to read more:
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
For anyone interested, here's Sennels' response to a query on whether or not this e-mail was true. I can't be absolutely positive he wrote this, but I trust the chain of people this went through enough to trust that this was truly his response:
Yes, unfortunately it is true. Find links in my articles on inbreeding here: http://nicolaisennels.dk/?page_id=211
All the best, from Denmark
And here's the full text of the body of the e-mail that prompted this entry:
very interesting ....
Subject: 1400 years of in-breeding. Food for deep thought.
Now you know the scientific answers to a growing problem within the United States. And for that matter the world. Facts are facts.
Wake up Americans.
Instructor pilot's experience in Middle East!
I've seen this first hand in my 3 employment trips to Saudi Arabia. During the pilot transition program with the KV-107 and C-130 with Lockheed, we found that most Saudi pilot trainees had very limited night vision, even on the brightest of moon lit nights. Their training retention rate was minimal, including maintenance personnel. Some had dim memories and had to be constantly reminded of things that were told to them the day before. Needless to say, an American, British or any other western instructor gets burned out pretty quick. It actually took C-130 pilots years before they could fly in the dark safely and then would be reluctant to leave the lights of a city. Ask any Marine, airman or Army guy who's been trying to train Iraqis and especially Afghans. Islam is not only a religion, it's a way of life all the way around. Yet another set of revealing facts about Muslim beliefs and traditions and ways of life.
1400 years of inbreeding.
I found this to be interesting--didn't know whether to believe it or not--To research I went to Wikipedia, "Cousin Marriage", and far down in the article "Genetics"--It seems there is a lot of truth here.
A huge Muslim problem: Inbreeding.
Nikolai Sennels is a Danish psychologist who has done extensive research into a little-known problem in the Muslim world: the disastrous results of Muslim inbreeding brought about by the marriage of first-cousins.
This practice, which has been prohibited in the Judeo-Christian tradition since the days of Moses, was sanctioned by Muhammad and has been going on now for 50 generations (1,400 years) in the Muslim world.
This practice of inbreeding will never go away in the Muslim world, since Muhammad is the ultimate example and authority on all matters, including marriage.
The massive inbreeding in Muslim culture may well have done virtually irreversible damage to the Muslim gene pool, including extensive damage to its intelligence, sanity, and health.
According to Sennels, close to half of all Muslims in the world are inbred. In Pakistan, the numbers approach 70%. Even in England, more than half of Pakistani immigrants are married to their first cousins, and in Denmark the number of inbred Pakistani immigrants is around 40%.
The numbers are equally devastating in other important Muslim countries: 67% in Saudi Arabia, 64% in Jordan and Kuwait, 63% in Sudan, 60% in Iraq, and 54% in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
According to the BBC, this Pakistani, Muslim-inspired inbreeding is thought to explain the probability that a British Pakistani family is more than 13 times as likely to have children with recessive genetic disorders. While Pakistanis are responsible for three percent of the births in the UK , they account for 33% of children with genetic birth defects.
The risks of what are called autosomal recessive disorders such as cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy is 18 times higher and the risk of death due to malformations is 10 times higher.
Other negative consequences of inbreeding include a 100 percent increase in the risk of still births and a 50% increase in the possibility that a child will die during labour.
Lowered intellectual capacity is another devastating consequence of Muslim marriage patterns. According to Sennels, research shows that children of consanguineous marriages lose 10-16 points off their IQ and that social abilities develop much slower in inbred babies. The risk of having an IQ lower than 70, the official demarcation for being classified as "retarded," increases by an astonishing 400 percent among children of cousin marriages. (Similar effects were seen in the Pharaonic dynasties in ancient Egypt and in the British royal family, where inbreeding was the norm for a significant period of time.)
In Denmark, non-Western immigrants are more than 300 percent more likely to fail the intelligence test required for entrance into the Danish army.
Sennels says that "the ability to enjoy and produce knowledge and abstract thinking is simply lower in the Islamic world." He points out that the Arab world translates just 330 books every year, about 20% of what Greece alone does.
In the last 1,200 years of Islam, just 100,000 books have been translated into Arabic, about what Spain does in a single year. Seven out of 10 Turks have never even read a book.
Sennels points out the difficulties this creates for Muslims seeking to succeed in the West. "A lower IQ, together with a religion that denounces critical thinking, surely makes it harder for many Muslims to have success in our high-tech knowledge societies."
Only nine Muslims have ever won the Nobel Prize, and five of those were for the "Peace Prize." According to Nature magazine, Muslim countries produce just 10 percent of the world average when it comes to scientific research measured by articles per million inhabitants.
In Denmark, Sennels' native country, Muslim children are grossly over represented among children with special needs. One-third of the budget for Danish schools is consumed by special education, and anywhere from 51% to 70% of retarded children with physical handicaps in Copenhagen have an immigrant background. Learning ability is severely affected as well. Studies indicated that 64% of school children with Arabic parents are still illiterate after 10 years in the Danish school system. The immigrant drop-out rate in Danish high schools is twice that of the native-born.
Mental illness is also a product. The closer the blood relative, the higher the risk of schizophrenic illness. The increased risk of insanity may explain why more than 40% of patients in Denmark 's biggest ward for clinically insane criminals have an immigrant background.
The U.S. is not immune. According to Sennels, "One study based on 300,000 Americans shows that the majority of Muslims in the USA have a lower income, are less educated, and have worse jobs than the population as a whole."
There is no doubt that the wide spread tradition of first cousin marriages among Muslims has harmed the gene pool among Muslims. Because Muslims' religious beliefs prohibit marrying non-Muslims and thus prevents them from adding fresh genetic material to their population, the genetic damage done to their gene pool since their prophet allowed first cousin marriages 1,400 years ago are most likely massive. This has produced overwhelming direct and indirect human and societal consequences.
Bottom line: Islam is not simply a benign and morally equivalent alternative to the Judeo-Christian tradition. As Sennels points out, the first and biggest victims of Islam are Muslims. Simple Judeo-Christian compassion for Muslims and a common-sense desire to protect Western civilization from the ravages of Islam, dictate a vigorous opposition to the spread of this dark and dangerous religion. These stark realities must be taken into account when we establish public polices dealing with immigration from Muslim countries and the building of mosques in the U.S.
Let's hope the civilized West and the North Americans wake up before a blind naivete about the reality of Islam destroys what remains of our Judeo-Christian culture and our domestic tranquility.