Thursday, February 25, 2010

Racial hygiene

Integral to the Theory of Evolution is the concept of Natural Selection. Survival of the fittest. We can see this taking place in nature all around us and no one disputes the phenomenon; "survival of the fittest" is fact, not theory.

While "survival of the fittest" implies species improvement in the hit and miss natural state, "selective breeding" arrives at the same end much faster and by design. Selective breeding produces purebred dogs, cattle, race horses. It has been going on for a very long time and is a well-accepted practice.

But what about "pedigree" in humans?

Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans. The aim is the same: improvement of the species. This usually really means "improving human genetic qualities." Advocates of eugenics seek to purify the human gene pool. Like thoroughbred horses, only humans.

Can this be a way to eradicate disease? Increase average IQ? Create a race of super humans?

Of course, just as in dog breeding, one would have to cull the litter. Not only would you have to choose the best male and females to mate, you would have to destroy the weak and sickly and defective, so they couldn't breed and contaminate the super race.

Germany following World War One was ripe for a Hitler, I have postulated, because of a need for both a savior and a scapegoat to achieve some sort of national redemption. Hitler was the savior; the Jews were the scapegoat. It goes deeper than that, though. If you read about the Thule Society, as suggested in an earlier post, then you know a little bit of background on the Aryan or Indo-Aryan race theories that seemed to be held by Hitler and his cronies.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a huge number of "dispossessed" run-of-the-mill Germans seemed to have bought into this "super race" theory as well. If you are a doormat, perhaps you dream of being something more worthy and special again; perhaps you become disposed to listen to people who promise to lead you back to self-respect, even greatness. People like Hitler and Goebbels. Perhaps you join the Nazi party. Perhaps you don't, but you believe anyway.

The Jews were only the beginning. There was a long list of "mongrels" and weaklings that would need to be purged if the Aryan race was to rise to its proper place in the scheme of human Natural Selection.

"Life unworthy of life"

Between 1939 and 1945, the German SS systematically killed between 11 and 14 million people.

The murder of 6 million Jews is well-known, but the list was much longer than Jews. Non-Jewish Poles, Communists, political opponents, members of resistance groups, homosexuals, Roma ("Gypsies"), the physically handicapped, the mentally deficient, Soviet prisoners of war (perhaps as many as 3 million), Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists, trade unionists, psychiatric patients. And this doesn't even count the people who died simply of slave labor, starvation and disease in concentrations camps, and as a result of medical experimentation.

The first to go were the children with physical or developmental disabilities.

Then there were the medical experiments.

I sincerely hope your mind and sensibilities are such that you cannot begin to imagine the extent of these ghoulish horrors. Descriptions and even photos are available on the web. Do yourself a favor and don't look them up. I almost puked.

Quite simply, the Nazi doctors tortured Jewish and Gypsy children, and many others. Operations without anesthetics, "patients" put in pressure chambers, drug testing, castrations, frozen to death and exposed to countless traumas. The "Angel of Death", Josef Mengele, had his own infamous experiments on twins. Afterwards they were usually murdered and dissected.

After the war, many of Hitler's henchmen were tested and found to be quite psychologically normal. They were men of fine standing in their communities. They were husbands who kissed their wives. They were fathers who tucked their children into bed.

Then they went out and tortured little children, brutalized women, gassed millions, performed hideous experiments.

The word "villain" falls short here, if we are looking for sources of literary character development.

No, here we get into the realm of unspeakable monsters; things you are afraid to look at in the dark; real-life Bogeymen.


  1. It's frightening. Frightening when I wonder if it could happen again, and even more so when I read the Milgram and Stanford experiments and started to wonder if I would be strong enough to be disobedient.

  2. No shit.

    I have seen *some* of it (via the web). I agree. I don't want to see more.

    Unspeakable. Monsters to put the worst fictional villains to shame. I can't improve upon your description.

    I don't disagree.

    I suspect the problem with selective breeding, especially when you move from "useful traits" in cows and pigs to "desirable" traits in dogs or cats, is that they become less practical and make less sense compared to nature.

    Breeding a great working dog, mutt or no, to gain more great shepherds is far and away from breeding a cat to get a flatter face. One makes sense and is in keeping with the same intents as nature. One makes a cat less capable of taking care of itself and prone to health problems.

    Inbreeding and selective breeding have, to a large extent, made many breeds prone to health problems and hybrid vitality is a real slap in the face to many selective breeding programs. (I only adopt "mutt" cats and I get them fixed. There are plenty more mutt cats where these came from.)

    When people try selective breeding as a regimented program, they never seem to go for merit. Or the merit they choose is so ephemeral. A brilliant mind can belong to a blind man. A person of surpassing kindness can be Jewish or Polish or black.

    As soon as one destroys others because of *what* they are instead of *who* they are, in my opinion, you lose sight of your own humanity. That hardly makes you meritorious yourself.

    Will stop there. I've given you plenty to argue with.

    This is an excellent if unsettling post. I agree with you.

  3. Not altogether sure I want to get into this one.

    Wouldn't it be good if we could eradicate some inherited diseases?

    I speak as someone who has had asthma and eczema all his life, and come close to death many times. My childhood contained extended periods where, if I'd been a dog, you'd have put me out of my misery, and I'd have welcomed it. In the victorian era, or earlier, I'd probably have died before I could toddle. As it was, penicillin both saved me, and then nearly killed me all over again.
    Now it's not absolutely clear to what extent genetics predispose toward asthma, but I would not choose, knowingly, to bring a child with asthma into this world.
    There are a great many other conditions whose likelihood can be far more readily predicted from incidence in the parental family. Whilst I will readily accept that some handicapped people have had great talents, would it not have been better for them to have been born able-bodied?
    We tend to use a backward reasoning, to say "so and so wrote great music, and he was disabled and died young, so if we continue to have crippled babies, we'll get more geniuses". I think that's faulty reasoning.
    Yet... We screen for some known foetal abnormalities. Is that eugenics?
    Is it so terrible to inhibit the reproductive abilities of some people?

    And no. This is not a hate-fest, I'm not pointing at anyone and saying they should die. Just that next time around, let's try give them a better body, one that fully functions, one that needs no toyota recalls.

  4. I can understand your reasoning, Soubriquet, and even agree to an extent. Would I willingly have a child with a debilitating disease? No. If I knew I was a carrier for hemophilia or osteo imperfecta, I would adopt if I wanted children. I have several friends with terrible genetic maladies that have chosen not to breed. I had both my youngest children tested in vitro (since I was over 35) to look for genetic anomalies and, if anything debilitating had shown up, I would have aborted.

    Some people don't see a difference between that and killing a living otherwise viable person. I do. Are there dangerous diseases it would be nice to eliminate? Yes. But who decides which ones are too hard to live with? Dementia? Bipolar? Down syndrome? Where do we draw the line? Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? Alzheimer's? What are you willing to do to do so? Kill a child? An adult? An elderly person? Even if they aren't debilitated now and don't want you to?

    Do I think it's alright to sterilize or kill a cognizant being against their will? No.

    Do I think it's OK to kill a living otherwise viable child to eliminate an unpleasant anomaly? No.

    My son's something like but not exactly autistic. I wouldn't sit idly by if someone decided he wasn't fit to live.

    I don't associate the handicap with the genius. I just note that many brilliant people happened to be handicapped or otherwise at risk (and most of the ones that spring to mind were accidents rather than congenital). Poe was arguably insane and brilliant. I'd rue the world with out him.

    The problem with these discussions is that (a) past examples demonstrate how easily something that seems logically sound can become horrific beyond belief (as RM pointed out) and (b) you can't do it to people against their will without playing God. And that takes you back to (a).

  5. The only real problem with all Eugenics Programs is who gets to be in charge of them.

    Do we want someone breeding for beauty without brains? Paris Hilton anyone?

    Or maybe all brains and not so beautiful-a world filled with the likes of Stephen Hawking?

    Robert Heinlein wrote a book called Time Enough for Love in which an immortal is a member of a Eugenics Club where everyone is chosen based on having two sets of living Grandparents.

    As with the breeding of dogs, etc, the desired end product would determine a lot about the subjects suitable for the project.

    Of course, I tend to think in the other direction myself. I think we should sterilize about half of the world's population and limit new births to one per couple. We don't need a Brave New World, we just need fewer people in the one we already have.

  6. Stephanie, I made no comments at all about killing anybody, other than me.

    My suggestion had nothing to do with breeding for aesthetics, nor for creating olympics-winners, nor rocket scientists, for that matter, merely to attempt not to pass on known genetic disorders, of which there are many.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Descartes, in that most of our world's woes stem from population growth.
    Yet the chinese state's attempts to restrict birthrates are seen as oppressive by many.
    In sub-saharan Africa, we see countries where life expectancy is lower than it was a hundred years ago, where significant numbers are born with HIV. We see countries that remain dependent on outside aid, simply because their own populations destroy the land that could feed them. People who see goats as wealth, yet fail to see that too many goats goat turn fertile land to desert.

    I see the pitfalls, the playing of god. But we play god when we treat disease. We play god when we facilitate in-vitro fertilisation. We play god all the time, when we rescue those whom nature would destroy. Where was the outcry when mankind played god to eradicate polio? smallpox?

  7. Here's the thing. The only problem with a eugenics program is that you're willing to kill people or sterilize them against their will.

    I don't have an issue with the notion of people choosing to die. If someone wants to, it's up to them.

    I don't disagree with needing to reduce population growth. The number one way to do it: move away from desperate poverty. The poorest places have the highest population growth, because too many children die otherwise and education stinks. The better the overall level of education and living (in general), the more the growth reduces.

    I'd love to see more people give up in vitro and adopt some of the many unwanted children out there. I would do so before I'd use it. But who am I to decide? That's the problem. Who decides?

    Because of the culture (Social Security in China is being cared for in your old age by your son), not having a son (or sufficient children) to bear the burden is a big deal. That's why it's so hard.

    I'm at a loss, though, Descartes. How do you compare the eradication of polio and smallpox via vaccine to soubriquet?

  8. Actually, this post was intended to be a continuation of the Hitler/Nazi series of posts. In the process, I wanted to make clear, and really tried, the point that eugenics is wrong and bad, hurtful and to be shunned in all cases. Selective breeding simply for the purpose of improving the physical quality of the human breed, in the same sense that it is practiced on other animals, is not an acceptable thing to practice on humans. Ever. Thank you for letting me clear that point up.

    Having said that, I will offer an opinion on this secondary debate that is going on here in the comments, sparked, in part, by this Hitler post.

    1. I don't believe the development of cures for human ailments and birth defects is the same thing as the systematic practice of eugenics.

    2. I believe, furthermore, that disease and defect prevention can happen before birth, either in-utero, or by choosing not to have a child because of the risk. Here I am talking about not having a child if you are a carrier of some genetic defect, and NOT talking about abortion, but this latter is simply my own personal beliefs.

    3. I am excited about the potential use of stem cell technology to cure both defects and disease, perhaps even in the womb itself, whether the malady be asthma or diabetes or anything else. I don't see how anyone could not be excited. (And yes, there are ways to obtain stem cells other than human embryos.) I don't consider this eugenics, at least not pure and systematic eugenics, either. I consider it another cure for diseases, just like the invention of vaccines.

    Should "selective breeding" be used to create a super race who seldom get sick or seldom have birth defects? No, but I believe it is permissible to exercise intelligence and reasoning in one's life - both in living a healthy life and in practicing responsible reproduction. Good health care for all is a big part of this.

    In short, I see a difference between the practice of eugenics (improvement of the species through controlled breeding) and genetic influencing or even manipulation. Spitting hairs? Not for me. I'm clear.

  9. I'm for stem cells, too. A great deal of potential there.

    There is a certain natural selection out there, even with people. People choose (usually) who to be with and procreate with.

    As soon as we give someone, anyone, the right to decide when someone else deserves to live or die, have children, get married, whatever, it's a recipe for disaster. Because "objective" criteria are always about what, not who, one is.

  10. Stephanie-move away from desperate poverty? Interesting idea-where, exactly, would they be moving to, and how would be paying for this move?

    America's own little Eugenics Program is called Welfare and has been actively growing our own desperately poor population by amazing amounts over the last forty years or so.

    I also like the idea that systematic vaccinations are another form of reverse eugenics designed keep the physically weaker members of the species in the gene pool.

    The question of personal choice is an interesting one as well-what happens when any parent can choose to have their ideal perfect child-is it the child's choice to be genetically improved?

    Max-why do think improving the species resistance to disease is not the same as Eugenics? Wouldn't The Super Race be immune to such mundane things as the common cold and polio? Not much of a Super Race if the flu can kill them off, are they?

  11. I meant eradicating poverty, but I can see how my wording was ambiguous.

  12. I don't think anyone has the right to decide these things for other people.

    Improve the specie's resistance to disease? Did I say that? Don't make me go back and read what I wrote. :) I think I was talking about finding ways to cure disease. I am really against selective breeding in humans, even to make them super resistant to disease. But I guess vaccines is sort or like that, and I am for vaccines. I still think that is different than breeding characteristics in. Maybe I am just going in circles. The dictionary says eugenics is the science of improving the human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desireable heritable characteristics (per Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin.) To me, that's a superman race, and I don't want it. If it is the same thing, then I'm sorry. I DEFINITELY don't want to get into forced sterilization, or the destruction of living people who are "defective."

  13. And, as frightening as it might seem, I agree with Relax Max on each point of his last message.

  14. I'm not so much one for breeding characteristics in.
    However, I support NOT breeding bad characteristics in. And we do that already. We frown upon marriage between close relatives.
    In my local area, I used to work in peoples homes, I worked in homes across the spectrum of society. One thing I noted. When I worked in the homes of people who would describe themselves as Pakistani, or Bangla-Deshi, it was almost guaranteed that there would be one or more members of the family who would seem to be handicapped in some way.
    I never really thought about it until I read that, whilst Pakistani families are 3% of the british population (far higher in Bradford, the place of which I speak), they account for 33% of the babies born each year in britain with genetic defects.
    Because of a cultural preference for first-cousin marriages.
    (quote from a Bradford doctor, Dr Corry
    "In one extended family I work with, six children who have the same genetic condition which means they are unlikely to live beyond their teens." )

    What say you, Max, Stephanie? is it right, is it fair, to knowingly let babies be conceived into a crippled life?

    Eugenics? Is it all about creating the superman?

    In nature, the bird without feathers, the monkey who can't climb, the slow cheetah, the blind zebra, all of those are self-limiting genetic errors.
    Not so in humans, we are embarking on reverse darwinism.

  15. British Royalty was much the same way and, in some cultures, the norm used to be full siblings. Inbreeding could be done "successfully" (as seen with animal breeding) if one is ruthless with culling (and can detect the anomalies). Hawaiians would routinely kill deformed children born. Doesn't help with mental deficiencies, though.

    But that's history, not my opinion. Not the difference between what can be done and what's ethical. In this day and age, knowing what we know about in-breeding, marriages between close relatives is frowned upon and often illegal, including first cousins. I absolutely agree with such restrictions, for the good of the children.

    Why the distinction? Having a child with down syndrome or many other physical anomalies is often unpredictable. Having a child deformed because of consanguinity is entirely predictable. One's children should not pay for a parent's readily predictable mistake. One that lends itself, I might add, to objective legislation.

    It should be noted, talking about reverse Darwinism, that there is something to what you say about selective breeding. Many are more attractive to the rich and beautiful, the slick or controllable. But I don't despair. Smart people, thinkers, tend to find each other. I'm not worried because we're not all looking for the same thing. Yes, nature has less effect on culling than it used to, but then, culling in the past wasn't always based on healthy characteristics anyway. The disease-ridden Europeans with their high resistance decimated local populations all over the world - that doesn't mean they were better.

  16. We live in the Best of All Worlds, both the fantasy of eugenics around the 1900s and the horror of what the Nazis did with it are history.

    We now know that such things as healthful food, clean water, and adequate sanitation go a lot further to produce a Super Race than selective breeding ever could have hoped to achieve.

    We also have the luxury of people being able to care for their less than perfect children, where they would have died in the past.

    The world is a large place, and there is room for several billion more people-but we will run out of food, water, and sanitation somewhere along the way.

    Or maybe not. Maybe all the Smart People will figure out how to fix the problems as they arise.

  17. @Soubriquet - What do I say? I say we should continue discouraging first cousin marriages. Look at the royals, though. The fact that the royals don't seem to be producing that many genetic defectives.... ummmm, physical disability-wise, I mean, shows that there is something else going on with the Pakistanis, I think. Somebody mentioned poverty, Stephanie, I think, as also being a contributing factor, due to resultant malnutrition. I think that may be a point with Pakistanis in their home country, but doesn't explain those in the UK. You know, I hadn't really given this that much thought before I did this post, since I was mainly concentrating on the Nazis and the holocaust. But this is a whole separate field for conversation, isn't it?

    1. We have the general question of eugenics, which I think we should narrowly define as an effort to improve the species through selective breeding.

    1a. Is that wrong? Wrong in all cases? Wrong because it offends our morality? Not wrong? Wrong only if the goal is to create a race of supermen?

    2. Is looking for cures to disease a form of eugenics? You seem to think so. I don't.

    3. Then there is the question of sterilization and of destroying defective or "inferior" humans. I suppose sterilization would be enough. Wouldn't have to destroy any existing humans. At the polar opposite of this would be the encouragement of strong healthy women to have many children and rewarding them for doing so (as the Nazis did.)

    3a. This brings up (in my mind, just now) the thought of the LDS church in the U.S. - many children encouraged; a lot of blue-eyed blondes; a lot of intermarriage (I would think.) And that is just the mainstream church. When you get into "renegade" Mormon churches, then you must add the factor of polygamy, and, one would assume, an even greater incidence of intermarriage.

    Well, nowadays, that mainstream religion has spread far and wide, so the incidence of intermarriage of close relatives would not be a factor like it might have been in the olden days. A lot of my Mormon friends, for example, went to college in Provo and met their spouses in college at bYU. (Mormons from all over the country like to come to BYU for their university education, so they are hardly related.) So much for that theory.

    4. Is "selective breeding" just for the sake of preventing known diseases in offspring and an ok thing to do, as long as your goal is not to create a "super race?" If so, how far do we go? Do we give more comprehensive testing for a marriage license instead of just a blood test? That seems to be a bit more intrusive that I would stand for. Or do you do this testing when the person is younger, and give him some sort of certificate that shows his restrictions for future marriage? You could no longer just meet a girl and fall in love with her and get married.

    We are approaching theater of the absurd here. None of this "enforced natural selection" is going to happen. We are simply going to continue to learn more and more about diseases and cures for them.

    Ok, never say never.

    How far do we carry this? I just now saw a news blurb on TV that said doctors think they have discovered a cure for cellulite. A vaccine of sorts. My mind is swirling.

  18. @Descartes - You make some good points. Especially valid is your point about clean water and healthy food being more effective than many other things.

    Since we have been at least moderately successful in combating disease and feeding people, we now have a much larger population that we would have had, had we spent no money or done no research.

    Thomas Malthus, anyone? The more we "play god" the worse off we seem to be in the big picture.

  19. @Stephanie - Perhaps our "ethics" or "morality" is getting in our way? Humans have a problem that lions and bears don't; humans ask whether the act is right or wrong. So, we really can never pretend that doesn't exist. Obviously the Hawaiians didn't think culling was wrong. They probably thought it was an obviously good thing. Like government free lunches or like that.

    I don't think breeding for superior bodies is the same as breeding for superior intellect, though both are possible. (I don't think the Nazis were going for a super smart race; only super big and strong. :)

    Stop with your disease-ridden Europeans inflicting themselves on the poor pure Indians and others. It isn't making me the least bit guilty. The indians and others had their own diseases they inflicted on the Europeans. And they damn sure don't feel guilty.

  20. Who said anything about guilt?

    (a) Why should you feel guilty? You didn't do it.

    (b) The disease-ridden Europeans didn't know any better, either. It's not like it was a deliberate thing.

    (c) However, to argue that the disease burden was comparable in any way, well that you'd have to back with data. Everything I've read have credited the waves of European diseases as a big factor in sweeping the indigenous out of the way.

    It doesn't have to be deliberate to happen.

  21. Then why did you bring it up? Your point was to slam Europeans and glorify the poor victims of their oppression. An oppression, I might add, that got you where you are today. Stop trying to be all liberal. It isn't cool to put down the white man or talk about how the West was lost unless you are deliberately trying to rile me. :) This isn't PBS. What WAS your point, anyway?

  22. My point was disease resistance was not necessarily a sign of superiority. That's all. Sheesh.

    And I am part native American so I'm just as entitled to an opinion on this as anything else. Ironically, the native American blood is why most in my family are resistant to several forms of cancer, but suckers for things like chicken pox. I and my daughter have both had shingles even though we're "too young." My husband's had chicken pox three times. The only one in my father's family going back three generations with cancer was my father, who waded through toxic sludge for twenty years (for this good of this country I might add, though you probably sneer at EPA, too. You can support this country through means other than guns.)

    He's the oldest of twelve children. Statistically speaking, that's fairly remarkable. I have nearly 100 cousins and no cancer.

    I just don't think that tendency (lower immunity) means we are inferior. Isn't that in keeping with your own thinking? Or did I misunderstand you?

    Sometimes, RM, you're even hard to agree with.

  23. This has all gone so far off track it's well nigh impossible to join in, but I'd like to make a couple of points.

    I don't know why the British Royal family was singled out as much the same as far as inbreeding goes. Inbreeding is far from limited to the British nor royalty. There was a 2006 BMJ article about the high rates still occurring in Arab families.

    Neither shingles while young nor recurrent chicken pox are necessarily the result of native American susceptibilities. A friend's son developed shingles aged eight and he's English/Greek. I know an adult (Scot) who has had repeated chicken pox attacks and according to the doctor, it's not as unusual as people often think.

  24. I presumed it was related to the Native American blood since my husband's family and mine are both filled to the brim with atypical medical reactions.

    When they recognized my daughter's shingles (age five), the doctors were completely shocked. I have had shingles twice (teens and twenties) and no one recognized it at all at the time. I only know now because it was the same rash as hers. I had the second bout when I was pregnant with her and, though I went to multiple doctors about it, no one recognized it. She hasn't had chicken pox. My husband's third bout of chicken pox happened in his lungs. They did not expect he'd survive, but we're stubborn beasties.

    You are perfectly right that it isn't just British. I don't even know why I specified British when it was rampant all through Europe (and I'm sure it's happened elsewhere). I know the most about British royalty (and didn't know about Arab inbreeding, though I can believe it). Brain anomaly on my part.

  25. @Stephanie B -

    "...though you probably sneer at EPA, too. You can support this country through means other than guns.

    I believe one can serve or support one's country without serving in the military. There are many, many ways. In fact, I would venture to say there are a GREAT many more Americans who serve their country through non-military routes than military. I don't sneer at the EPA or any of the other depression work programs. At least they were geared towards putting common people back to work instead of bailing out big banks. But I am puzzled why you would say that to me - we were talking about improving our breeding stock and eliminating diseases. At least I thought we were. I admit I believe in a strong military, but that is only one way a person can support one's country.

  26. @Stephanie B - Your point is well taken that just because a person or group has higher immunity or resistance to certain diseases, for a variety of reasons, doesn't mean they are some sort of super group. I didn't understand what you were getting at the first time around.

  27. @Sheila - I singled out the British royal family as an example of frequent intermarriage with first cousins, and because the results are easy to track, and very public. It would be relatively difficult to hide a royal child who was born with Downs Syndrome, for example. But, aside from the expected cases of hemophilia here and there, we don't see that incidence of genetic defects in the royal family. Then we talked about the same thing in immigrant Pakistani families, and found the incidence of birth defects much greater for those who intermarried close relatives. I am at a loss to give a theory for this discrepancy. If YOU have a theory why the incidence of birth defects is higher in Arab families who closely intermarry, I am interested. I just don't have any idea.

    I think I am the one who originally brought up the British royal family. Maybe not.

  28. @Stephanie - Obviously we are getting far afield from my mention of Nazi superman experiments. But I find this new path interesting, nonetheless. We seem to be zeroing in on the value of "selective breeding" with regards to preventing birth defects and increasing an offspring's resistance to disease. Then we threw in stem cells and medical research for new medicines. Maybe we are hopelessly entangled on too many sub-subjects. Maybe one of us should make another post about just one of these interesting things.

  29. My awful temper. You are right to call me on it. I'm not qualified to tell you what you'd sneer at.

    And my original comment that started this sub sub discussion (immunity) was not as clear as it could have been.

    The question has been bouncing around about why deformities would be more common in one inbred group rather than another - it's a matter of what recessive genes are hidden. Recessive genes can be present for generations, rarely manifesting. When one ventures into the wide world of a breeding pool, one might have little chance of seeing it brought to the fore.

    However, if one breeds within a very limited gene pool, the chances of some unpleasant recessive gene (or in fact a beneficial recessive gene) go up appreciably. I remember reading an article in Science once about a family started by a couple who happened to share a very rare recessive gene that made their skin blue (I'm not making this up). Their children largely had this gene, either manifesting as blue-skinned children or carrying the gene. The couple had moved to a very isolated part of the world and over several generations, the town had largely become inhabited with blue-skinned people as more and more blue skinned people intermarried.

    It was some sort of nutrient deficiency caused by the gene. Feed them the nutrient and the blue would wash out of their systems in their urine. (I love genetics; it's fascinating).

    My point is that inbreeding brings out whatever recessive genes are in that population, not necessarily the same anomalies that another inbred group might have.

    I find it ironic, moving back to your Nazis, that blonde hair and blues eyes are both recessive.

  30. Prince John, born 1905, hidden away until the age of 13 because he was "not quite right". Did you know about him? I didn't, until relatively recently. How much easier then to hide away any children in earlier times who were "not quite right".

    Royal families could hide anything they wanted to hide.

  31. I wonder if inbreeding, common in European royalty in general (and, to a lesser extent, in "nobility"), is one reason so many royal lines died out and the countries had to scramble to find a replacement, often looking high and low for someone with a smidgen of royal connection. Either too few children were born or those that were born were too sickly to last long enough to be meaningful.

    I could give examples, but I doubt it would be more than the tip of the iceberg.

  32. @Stephanie Barr - Yes, I am hard to even agree with. I just like to debate too much.

    @Sheila - Didn't know about John. I was thinking Charles, but they don't try to hide him away. :)



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