Monday, December 20, 2010

Darwin Dynasty Cursed By Inbreeding

Ideas not fit to survive---SH

Science.com: Charles Darwin's family suffered from the deleterious effects of inbreeding, suggests a new study that serves as ironic punctuation to the evolutionary theorist's life work.

Pioneer of the theory that genetic traits affect survival of both individual organisms and species, Darwin wondered in his own lifetime if his marriage to first cousin Emma Wedgwood was having "the evil effects of close interbreeding" that he had observed in plants and animals.

Three of their children died before age 10, two from infectious diseases. The survivors were often ill, and out of the six long-term marriages that resulted, only half produced any children. According to researchers at Ohio State University and Spain's Universidad de Santiago de Compestela, that alone is a "suspicious" sign that the Darwins suffered from reproductive problems.

Inbreeding can cause serious health problems, because it increases the chances of successful gene expression for diseases otherwise rare or muted in an individual's pedigree.

The new study, detailed in the journal Bioscience, fed genealogical data on the Darwin-Wedgwood link into a specialized computer program, which spit out a "coefficient of inbreeding," or the probability that an individual received two identical copies of a gene resulting from marriages among relatives. (Some genetic disorders are caused by recessive genes, which means they require two copies of a gene in order for the trait to manifest.)

Results revealed that inbreeding was a possible factor in the offspring's poor health. Darwin's children suffered from a "moderate degree" of inbreeding, the researchers concluded. When expanded to other branches of the family tree and four consecutive generations, the analysis found an even stronger association between child mortality and incestuousness.

Darwin's mother and grandfather were also Wedgwoods, and his mother's parents were third cousins. ---Thanks to Phillip D. Collins for the above [Source: Live Science.com]

Mr. Darwin says: "In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The results of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then I had at last got a theory by which to work"----Charles Darwin, from his autobiography. (1876)

Ian Taylor's In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order:

"Darwin's idea of inbreeding to produce superior stock can be seen to be a complete disaster in the case of his own ten children. Of the ten, one girl, Mary, died shortly after birth; another girl, Anne, died at the age of ten years; his eldest daughter, Henrietta, had a serious and prolonged breakdown at fifteen in 1859. Three of his six sons suffered such frequent illness that Darwin regarded them as semi-invalids while his last son, Charles Jr., was born mentally retarded and died in 1858, nineteen months after birth." (P. 127)

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