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07-Oct-2018 12:35

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The group is people who are married to their cousins.

These people note that 20 percent of marriages around the world are between first cousins, that Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their first cousins, and that first-cousin marriage, while prohibited in half the United States, is legal in Canada and throughout Europe.

Now a study by the National Society of Genetic Counselors says that having a child with your first cousin raises the risk of a significant birth defect from about 3-to-4 percent to about 4-to-7 percent.

According to the authors, that difference isn't big enough to justify genetic testing of cousin couples, much less bans on cousin marriage.

From this, the media have concluded that marrying your first cousin is "OK." Is it?

As Frame Game has argued before, topics such as sex with animals, dog-eating, and sex with cousins are never as simple as they're made out to be.

You can't just say the practice in question is icky.

You have to state a principle and think through its implications. You can't appeal to Victorian morality; Queen Victoria married her first cousin.

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Instead, advocates of laws against cousin marriage appeal to science.

To let cousins marry, they argue, is "to play Russian roulette with genetics." Many genetic diseases are caused by recessive genes.

To get the disease, you have to get the bad gene from both parents.

The greater the genetic similarity between your parents, the greater your chance of getting two copies of the bad gene.

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But if that's your reason for banning cousin marriage, you've drilled into a mother lode of problems.

Many cousin couples can't pass on genetic diseases, since they're infertile. If not, maybe the 24 states that ban cousin marriage should follow the lead of the five states that allow it if either party is sterile. If your purpose is to prevent people with dangerous genes from marrying each other, why use a crude standard such as kinship?



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