Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
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Cousin Marriage - 70% in Pakistan - Should it be Prohibited?

Hank Pellissier

Ethical Technology

May 26, 2012

Six Legs? A baby boy - Umar Farooq - was born with six legs in April, 2012, in southeastern Pakistan.  International press noted that the boy’s parents were cousins, a common occurrence in Pakistan, where 70% of the marriage are “consanguineous.” Was the deformity caused by genetically-similar commingling?


Complete entry


Posted by iPan  on  05/26  at  04:41 PM

Nature hates monoculture. It’s a regular Tower of Babylon story.

Anyway, as usual, I only have one criteria: consent.

Here’s an interesting twist on the subject: this article has been primarily focused on procreation, but fails to consider marriage without it.

What if the cousins were, or agreed to be, sterile, so that there was no possibility of offspring, but wanted to get married for romantic reasons?

Posted by Tom_B  on  05/27  at  09:39 PM

Gee, Pakistan just sentenced a national hero—the guy that helped us find Bin Laden—to 33 years for treason, which no doubt left millions of Pakistanis scratching their heads in confusion (is the Gov’t THAT embarrassed they couldn’t find him themselves?) and everybody else in the world completely confused.

Maybe wildly irrational behavior (like the above, or like Jihadism) is not about widespread undertreatment of “routine” mental illness in poorer countries, but more about serious genetic issues. It is worth considering.

At risk of offending some people, overlaying a consanguinity chart over a US map of red vs blue states might also be instructive. There are some libertarian ideals on the American Right worth considering, but it seems to me that poorer people in “red” states very frequently vote against their own economic interests. This is often ascribed to bigotry or Evangelicalism, but maybe the reasons are less ideological and more biological.

Which of the states permit it?

Posted by EverYoung  on  05/28  at  04:54 PM

I am strongly against such kind of negative eugenics. Moreover, I would rather legalize any kind of incestuous marriage as well. What’s at the stake here is not health of society but personal freedom of its members. We need to state it directly and unambiguously: marriage is a private affair of two adult persons. Conscious behavior should be encouraged (education, family planning, genetic counseling etc.) — as we see, the more society is developed, the less pakistanic marriages it has. But not by banning. No one should ever treat people as slaves of their genes, as in more and more countries people are no longer treated as slaves of their gender (in case of same-sex marriages). Instead, people should be treated by default as having enough wisdom to decide themselves whether to take any risks of having their own children or not, and not to be forced by decision of any kind of Nazi-style eugenic commission.

Posted by hankpellissier  on  05/29  at  01:14 PM

EverYoung - So, you believe “radical personal freedom” trumps every other issue? I don’t - especially, if the consequence is creating lives burdened with disabilities. I believe “personal freedoms” are fine as long as they don’t hurt other people…

your notion of “people should be treated by default as having enough wisdom to decide themselves whether to take any risks of having their own children or not”—is not and has not been successful. Generally, people marrying cousins are deprived of sufficient information, or they distrust the information they are given.

You are right about improving - “Conscious behavior… [via] education, family planning, genetic counseling etc.”

Your argumentation is also rather…. high-strung. Two examples:

1. your statement: “What’s at the stake here is not health of society but personal freedom of its members” - (uh… “health” of society is obviously at stake when the abnormality rate increases 2X -11X, your sentence is inaccurate)

2. Bringing in the “Nazi” reference - an obvious, scare-tactic.

Posted by iPan  on  05/30  at  02:50 PM

The problem is Hank, who defines “disability”?

From a post-human perspective, every human alive is disabled.

Life itself is nothing more than a contagion, a disease.

If we were to take the argument that consanguineous mating has a probability of genetic defect to it’s absolute, logical end, then we must also conclude that all reproduction has some of this probability as well.

Therefore, we should outright ban reproduction, don’t you think?

Where exactly does one draw the line? Can we put a precise number on it?

Should it be 50% or greater chance gets banned?

Do we need to screen everyone?

How does that work? Who’s going to pay for it?

Prohibition in this case, like most others (drugs, speech, violence) does not work, and is not affordable.

Life is inherently risky, and this includes reproduction and it’s consequences.

On the other hand, I am all for advancing genetic therapy, so that when (for example) two consanguineous individuals reproduce, we can repair any resulting genetic damage in their offspring.

Remember, the Singularity is near.

The kinds of proposals you offer, prohibiting this or that (or requiring parenting licenses) are unfeasible, and in a short time, will become irrelevant.

Our mastery of genetics will become so advanced by the end of this decade, that one will be able to mate with whomever, and the offspring will always be 100% free of all genetic defects.

Sometimes it’s difficult to fully realize all the ramifications of technological advancement.

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