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Mr Rayon

Are cousin marriages ethical?

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Despite many great scientific minds having undertaken cousin marriages in the past, notably Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, there appears to be this skeptism within our modern western society that it is somehow 'icky' and wrong. Where do these ideas come from and are these feelings justified or are they just irrational?

 

I am also aware of that there have been studies on this and that it has been determined that cousin marriages result in an increase in the likelihood of birth defects in offspring compared to those of regular marriages involving more unrelated individuals. However, what are the exact statistics? Is it recommended that humans mate with those they are most genetically different from?

 

And I understand in many countries/cultures cousin marriages are seen to be morally acceptable. But what does everyone think? Would you marry one of your cousins? What about your sisters/brothers? What's stopping people from doing this?

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It is a perfectly valid scientific question. No one knows the reasons as to where the predetermined notions in humans come from. It is probably the way their brains have been conditioned from their childhood morally degrading these kind of marriages. But this is a topic which will lead to a lot of unnecessary discussions and sitings of political views which would be rather very unscientific.

Edited by DemonHead

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Shouldn't this be in the ethics section?

 

Anyway, are you talking about only first cousins or distant cousins as well. The only problem I see with marrying a close cousin, or any close relative, is that it increases the chances of any genetic defect within a families gene pool to have a chance to become phenotypic. The aversion towards marriage, or sexual relations, within a family do seem to come to us quite naturally. It has been hypothesized that we become averse to relations with who we tend to be brought up with (some people believe that Freud's ideas stemmed from an attraction to his mother, since she wasn't his primary care giver he developed some sexual feelings toward her). This is thought to be natures way of diversifying, because why have sexual reproduction if not for diversification?

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Anyway, are you talking about only first cousins or distant cousins as well.

 

Yes, first cousins only, I'm pretty sure most people have married distant cousins. Distant cousin marriages seem to be socially acceptable in most places.

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Wouldn't it be better if your grandchildren would marry each other so their kids would be more like you? Maybe I'm just being narcissistic though.

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The ethical question, at least for me, is subjective. I find it morally reprehensible for myself, though I realize not everyone would agree. I think the bigger breach of ethics is forcing that ethical boundary on someone else.

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I would guess that during the pre-agricultural period for humans when they were evolving in small hunter-gatherer groups, that inbreeding could be a problem. This is because small groups can concentrate bad traits while, in contrast, out breeding is a plus because of hybrid vigor. How the survivors of this evolutionary environment genetically internalized outbreeding as a positive needs to be studied, but one might suspect that it might somehow involve familiarity (e.g. sibs and relations in the small group) becoming sexually unattractive, and novelty (mates from unfamiliar groups) being more sexually attractive. Think about this in your own personal experience. SM

Edited by SMF

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The ethical question, at least for me, is subjective. I find it morally reprehensible for myself, though I realize not everyone would agree. I think the bigger breach of ethics is forcing that ethical boundary on someone else.

How dare you, then, force your ethical relativism on others? (sorry, I can't resist putting responses in the form of direct application sometimes). Maybe I should instead say, "How can you claim that forcing ethical boundaries on others is an ethical breach and yet force your ethics on others by saying so?"

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I think first cousin marriages are a bad idea and should be discouraged -- but it is not so bad as to be worth ruining someone's life over if they're really hopelessly in love.

 

Note: breeders purposely use some inbreeding, to eliminate bad recessive genes. Not sure that's applicable to modern humans though.

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I tend to "feel" that incest between individuals of significant relatedness is, as stated, "icky." But I don't put much stock in my feelings. I don't see a problem with the concept in a modern society so long as long as a birth doesn't occur. My support is more tentative concerning related individuals with wide age-gaps, particularly parent/offspring pairings, not because of the increased ick factor, but because of the potential risks of psychological abuses or pressures / manipulations that might be inflicted on children to produce potential partners out of them.

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