Monday, August 23, 2010

"A Veritable Human Crufts"

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In The Daily Telegraph, Ed West notes that inbreeding within the U.K.'s Pakistani immigrant community has made at least one insular neighborhood "a veritable human Crufts."


The ironic bit here, of coure, is that the British National Party will no doubt use this as a catspaw for anti-immigrant sentiment, even as the Kennel Club's most fervent supporters pledge allegiance to inbreeding within the world of dogs.

Right. Discuss among yourselves. In the meanwhile, here's a little clip from Ed West's column:

It’s a strange irony that mass immigration, which is supposed to bring us diversity, has led to a massive increase in inbreeding.

Multi-cultural Britain was meant to be a Benetton advert of ethno-diversity, a new population as beautiful and colourful as that of Brazil, but hopefully without the massive levels of violent crime, inequality and squalor.

Instead, where once inbreeding and its related genetic problems was exceptionally rare in England, it is now commonplace; where this country was once a nation of mongrels (albeit pasty-faced ones), now we have plenty of thoroughbreds.

Bradford is a veritable human Crufts, with over three-quarters of the city’s ethnic Pakistanis marrying their first cousins, and this figure is not hugely above the national average of 50 per cent. Compare this to the percentage of British-Pakistanis who marry whites, 0.7 per cent, or British Hindus, just 0.1 per cent.

Unsurprisingly this has led to serious health problems, as television presenter, Tazeen Ahmad, explores in tonight’s Dispatches, “When Cousins Marry”.

As she writes: “We know the children of first cousins are ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders which can include infant mortality, deafness and blindness.

“We know British Pakistanis constitute 1.5 per cent of the population, yet a third of all children born in this country with rare recessive genetic diseases come from this community.”


HTTrainer said...

In some states you can't marry anyone who isn't at least a 3rd cousin.
I read somewhere that the Koreans go back 40+ generations.

Carolyn Horowitz said...

Inbreeding in humans is a function of isolation. I doubt many of us can go back 10 generations (250-300 years) without finding a duplicated ancestor or 2. That had a lot to do with geography, lack of mobility, etc.

The Muslim Pakistani's are isolated in terms of culture, ethnicity, and religion from the English. They're isolated from other Muslims ethnically despite shared religion, and from hindu Pakistani's and Indians in terms of religion despite shared ethnicity.

Such distinctions are meaningless to me. I'm the WASPiest white girl in America -- an Episcopalian, even, married to a nice Jewish boy from Philadelphia for the last 15 years; however, changing my last name opened my eyes to how much such difference matter to others.

The more you narrow the potential gene pool based on arbitrary criteria, the more likely the incidence of genetic disease -- in dogs or people. There's a precarious balance in dogs between maintaining a recognizable 'breed' with specific characteristics, health and longevity. IMO, the the JRTCA has done a really good job of striking that balance by only registering dogs that have been health tested, by limiting inbreeding, and by promoting 'function' in it's activities while still looking at conformation.

Doug said...

Doesn't matter - the picture's creepy.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I saw some of the show last night - very unpleasant viewing. There were a family where three out of six kids were in a terrible state, it was heartbreaking to see. The parents weren't born stupid, just gullible, the 'community leaders' who believe that the belief systems that bind a rural community together will still work when a little slice of that community/gene pool is transplanted must bear some responsibility for this sordid state of affairs.

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Looking at the original article, it seems that several of the Muslim countries have extremely high levels of inbred marriages, which does make me wonder why they haven't collapsed due to lack of genetic diversity yet. The answer lies, I think, in a flaw in the thinking behind the assessment of inbreeding. Pretty much all human societies are societally monogamous, but not quite sexually monogamous; a figure of about 2% is the usual one given for what percentage of kids aren't by their "official" father.

Close cousin marriages are much less fertile than more outbred marriages, so even if the nonpaternity rate is only 2% of conceptions, that'll scale up to many more of the nonpaternity kids surviving infancy; it could be as high as 15% or more of the kids which make it out of infancy (I'm using this as a criterion, because if a kid makes it out of infancy it'll likely be at least minimally viable) aren't products of the marriage but instead products of other fathers.

This might well be how these societies are maintaining viability, or at least how they were doing it back in the original village societies where a quick surreptitious shag was quite a lot easier. In modern British society with ubiquitous contraception the opportunities for this sort of "shopping around for genes" may well be a lot lower, hence the system that worked so well back in the villages (because it could be circumvented just about enough) is probably falling flat on its face here.

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Great point Dr Dan - every day's a school day