Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Hey, check it out! I'm getting roughed up over on Jeremy's blog for taking a somewhat unsympathetic position in regards to cousin marriage.

Of course, it doesn't help that Jeremy does have a point, as does, to a lesser extent, Shakha. I'm not entirely swayed, given that I do honestly think that cousin marriage may lead to a sort of social inbreeding that can, potentially, have some pretty detrimental effects, but I have been convinced that it's far from a deterministic result. It may even be that cousin marriage can represent a socially healthy pattern, given the right pre-conditions.

I just reckon I'll have to consider revising my position somewhat- which will be sort of funny since I decided years ago that I really couldn't give less of a shit about polygamy, same-sex marriage, or most of the other variants. I'm rapidly approaching Jeremy's "marry-whatever-the-fuck-you-want" point.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing to think about: the potentially detrimental effects of first cousin marriage probably wouldn't be that much of an issue, given that it's rather unlikely that large numbers of people in Western society would marry their cousins if such marriages were legal. The states that already allow it don't seem to have suffered from it. It's a bit like gay marriage in certain regards. One of the arguments against gay marriage is that these couples can't procreate, a function some say is the primary purpose of marriage. It's true that (fertility treatments aside) the population would suffer if everyone married people of the same sex, but the fact is that most marriages are still going to be heterosexual. And just as there are gay couples living together without a marriage certificate, there are probably cousins shacking up together as well. Marriage isn't a prerequisite for procreation.

- A.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 1:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI: Jeremy's troll, the lonely donut man, is weighing in on you too. You better get over there and defend yourself!

Thursday, March 24, 2005 7:57:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Anonymous,

I don't know why people keep making this "marriage isn't necessary for procreation" point. Since I've already agreed that the genetic argument against cousin-marriage is weak, and never mentioned children in my post, I'd say this is a bit of a strawman argument.

To be honest, though, I don't think I'm very impressed by the "people in western countries probably wouldn't marry their cousins" argument. People in western countries largely don't marry their cousins because there's a strong taboo against it, not because of the legality. This may seem like an argument against anti-cousin-lovin laws, but in reality the issue is that we don't know what people would do if we stopped being concerned with cousin-incest. Given the strength and robustness of the homophily finding, I suspect we'd see a lot more cousin marriages over time. That is, however, wild speculation on my part.

Further, I only said that prohibitions on cousin marriage were valuable, and that I was an opponent personally. I didn't specify that the appropriate way to deal with those prohibitions was legislative.

As for defending myself- if the lonely donut man wants to weigh in with one of his largely-incoherent masterpieces, who am I to object?

Thursday, March 24, 2005 8:59:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Thou would'st give'th naught to thy cousin but to her cheek a peck?

Actually, one of my cousins IS pretty hot. And I have to admit, getting involved with her certainly would keep the guest list for the wedding under control.

what the heck, Drek
go for it, thy gene pool already be'th a wreck

Largely correct, actually, as I do possess a number of genetic abnormalities. I like to think of them in more of a "Childhood's End" sort of way, though.

hence thy dependence on high tech

That has more to do with my society, although my vision is fairly bad without corrective measures. I suppose in that case my poor genes do lead directly to my reliance on technology- even if it is more of the 19th century variety.

verily do'th I deal from a stacked DNA deck

I... don't even know what that means, exactly.

Grandpa and Mom did more than just neck
and I really don't give a feck

Bully for you! You tell 'em... uh... me, Lonely Donut Man!

Thursday, March 24, 2005 9:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I should clarify that in some sense I'm playing devil's advocate here: I've internalized the taboo myself, so the "ick factor" kicks in when I start to consider cousin marriage. I also tend to agree that inter-family marriages are more desirable than intra-family marriages and that the genetic argument is weak. At the same time, I'm also partial to the "marry whoever the fuck you want" argument. I'm not at all trying to convince you to change your mind; rather, I think this is an interesting subject to discuss and debate.

So if I'm understanding you correctly, Drek, your objection to cousin-marriage isn't based on the potential for genetic abnormalities but rather the potential fracturing of society that can occur when families begin folding in on themselves. Fair enough. Levi-Strauss was of similar mind. I'll concede that you're right in that the prevalence of cousin-marriage would probably rise if the taboo were discarded (which wouldn't necessarily happen with legalization alone - first cousins have been able to marry in the UK since the days of Henry VIII, but the taboo still seems to exist). The question is whether or not this would have the detrimental effect on society that you're concerned about.

Cousin-marriage is quite common in other parts of the world. In some countries, 60% of all marriages are between cousins., maintained by Edith Cowan University in Australia, has more information on these numbers. It's been observed that the highest rates of consanguinity are "associated with low socioeconomic status, illiteracy, and rural residence" (though this is not always the case), and it is speculated that consanguineous marriages will decline in urbanized areas between couples with higher education and smaller family sizes.

How would you address this information in your argument? Would you say that the countries with high consanguinity rates are "a jumble of isolated, easily-pentrated bits"? Also, given the data on consanguinity in developed countries with large numbers of people living in urban areas, do you think that to relax the prohibitions on cousin-marriage in the US would be to "to start down a road leading to social dysfunction"?

- A.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hey Anonymous,

Well, I'd be reluctant to address that information in a definitive way, since I don't really specialize in marriage/family research. This may raise the question of why I commented on cousin-marriage in the first place, but I very clearly note that my blog mostly consists of poorly-informed prattle to begin with.

In the case of Australia and, I suppose, stereotypes in the U.S. I would guess that the correlation of consanguinuity and poverty/illiteracy/rural residence is more one of availability than a causal relation. Many families live in the same geographic area and, if that area happens to be rural/isolated, the available pool of romantic partners may simply be smaller. I don't know that I'd take the findings you refer to as evidence either for or against my half-assed hypothesis.

I couldn't say for certain whether countries with high consanguinuity rates are, indeed, fragmented since I have no dataset on which to make a judgement. My suspicion is that they're very strongly connected within sub-sections, but poorly connected between subsections. Essentially the tradeoff Blau discussed in his 1977 book between integration and solidarity. This is, however, more of a corollary to my original premise than an argument from data, which you seem to request.

As for your last question, with urban areas factored in, I can honestly say that I don't know. On the other hand, given that assortative mating is such a popular option, we might see some fairly substantial inbreeding within particular segments of society- like high social classes. The situation is bad enough now, so the permissibility of cousin marriage might simply magnify the extent to which the very wealthy are completely socially disconnected from the rest of the polity. This does reflect the situation in Great Britain during the 19th century with a fair amount of accuracy, so I think it's a reasonable supposition. Hell, if I recall correctly Charles Darwin was married to his cousin.

As a side note, purely out of curiosity, can someone please tell me why my commenters almost always prefer to remain anonymous? Am I a trend setter? Are you embarrassed to admit you read this blog?

I mean, I don't mind, I'm just curious is all.

Thursday, March 24, 2005 7:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Darwin was married to his cousin, Albert Einstein was married to his cousin, Edgar Allen Poe was married to his cousin... you'd think these folks would have gotten out more. Marriage/family research isn't my specialty either, so I am out of my depth. I appreciate the thoughtful discussion, though.

As for anonymity, that's a field of research in itself. I'm not the person to ask about trend-setting, nor can I speak for the other anonymous commenters. It might just be a matter of ease for some. In my case, it was a simple matter of forgetting about the fact that Blogger now allows people without Blogger accounts to sign themselves as something other than "Anonymous". I just signed my initial instead.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Hell, and here I thought all this time that "A" meant "Anonymous."

Or "Adultery."

It's been a fun chat, Aster. Glad to have you around.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005 8:52:00 AM  

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