Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo: The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century

Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo: The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0804751412

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Is inbreeding harmful? Are human beings and other primates naturally inclined to mate with their closest relatives? Why is incest widely prohibited? Why does the scope of the prohibition vary from society to society? Why does incest occur despite the prohibition? What are the consequences? After one hundred years of intense argument, a broad consensus has emerged on the first two questions, but the debate over the others continues.

That there is a biological basis for the avoidance of inbreeding seems incontrovertible, but just how injurious inbreeding really is for successive generations remains an open question. Nor has there been any conclusion to the debate over Freud’s view that the incest taboo is necessary because humans are sexually attracted to their closest relatives—a claim countered by Westermarck's argument for the sexually inhibiting effects of early childhood association.

This book brings together contributions from the fields of genetics, behavioral biology, primatology, biological and social anthropology, philosophy, and psychiatry which reexamine these questions.

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Church, the effect of this ruling was to prohibit marriage with a biological relative, usually up to and including third cousins, although because of different methods of calculating the degrees of biological relationship there was some confusion as to exactly which degrees of consanguineous union were permitted or prohibited. This problem was solved in the canon issued by Pope Alexander II in ad 1076, which resulted in a shift in the formal method of consanguinity classification from the Roman

topic, see Chapter 9). Genetic Aspects of Inbreeding and Incest 49 The Biological Outcomes of Incest Given the strongly judgmental societal attitudes, direct assessment of the biological outcomes of incest may be subject to significant ascertainment bias, as a rigorous examination, including determination of paternity, may be initiated only if a child shows symptoms of physical or intellectual handicap, or both. The net result is a marked lack of data, which probably does not reflect the

general predictions derived from it; thus, Egyptian sibling marriage may have worked reasonably well when spousal age difference was considerable but less so if spouses were close in age. However, several prolific sibling couples with a modest age difference diverge from this inherently plausible pattern (cases 3, 5, 6, 32). The Chinese data as recalculated by Wolf show a strong correlation between age at adoption (our rough proxy for age difference) and marital fertility even if divorce is

theory, the aversion hypothesis and the expression hypothesis, are perfectly compatible and mutually consistent, there is an epistemological tension between them in that, at least at the present stage of theory testing, empirical evidence cannot support the aversion hypothesis without raising some doubts about the expression hypothesis. For the purpose of illustration, let me give another example that comes from an entirely different context but which, analogously, exhibits the same kind of

The relationship between daughter and father existed not in secure affection but in a milieu of distrust. The attachment hypothesis of incest avoidance would predict that seductive fathers did not develop an adequately secure attachment during their own childhood. They experience unconscious boundary confusion between sexual and familial affiliation but less so than overtly incestuous fathers. This prediction could be evaluated with instruments such as the extensively used Adult Attachment

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