There are a couple of small towns on the border between Utah and Arizona that are basically feudal theocracies, ruled by a particularly nasty splinter sect of polygamist Mormons. It’s got some truly ugly social consequences — daughters are prizes given away to church leaders, while sons are competitors who are driven away — but now it turns out that there also some biological consequences. The community is deeply inbred, and their prize is the possession of the highest rate of fumarase deficiency in the world, with at least 20 afflicted children in the last 15 years. Fumarase is an enzyme in the Krebs cycle; deleterious mutations in these genes cause a metabolic disorder called fumarase deficiency.
It’s not a nice innocuous disease. It’s variable in its severity, but bad cases lead to debilitating mental retardation, frequent seizures, characteristic appearance (a large head, coarse features), and death. With care, affected individuals can live for many years, but they’ll never be self-sufficient and they do require near-constant attention.
And because it is widespread in a small isolated community, that for various reasons (including religion) is neither a desirable destination for new residents nor will its population try to integrate with the outside world, it’s going to get worse. Half the children born to a pair of carriers will be carriers of the disease themselves, and those nice big Mormon families produce lots of children. Not only are the young girls in this community forced to marry and start spawning baby after baby, but compound the horror with the idea that some will be having children who will need to have their diapers changed for 20 years…
Two words: Hybrid vigor.
You would expect rural people to know at least a little something about inbreeding. But no, if something is wrong with a HUMAN baby then it must be God’s will. And then there are White supremacists. They want to inbreed too. Don’t they know that the best thing for the species is to stick a pole in the gene pool and stir, stir, stir.
Ezekiel Buchheit says
There was a movie about this. The Hills Have Eyes.
I have a Mormon coworker (whom I always refer to outside work as ‘The Mormon’) who denies that there are contemporary Mormons practicing polygamy with the usual, “Oh, but those aren’t real Mormons.”
So I guess these guys aren’t real Mormons. I just thought I’d let you all know that important distinction.
Well it’s plain obvious that Jesus hates Mormons.
Duh. Even Brownback could tell you that.
Jessica Guilford says
Ooo! Ooo! Maybe it’s not real fumarase deficiency either. I’ll bet somebody sinned. 10,000 people, surely one of them sinned at some point. This is just God punishing them for their sins. It’ll clear up.
Simple lesson: Inbreeding, wether ideological or biological, is always bad for the health of a population.
hey, if it helps get rid of fundamentalists let ’em keep it up.
So… They have a colony out in BC, where all the nuts and flakes hang out (several current and ex-religious communes out there that I know of), and they periodically swap underage girls back and forth between BC and Arizona/Utah for the purposes of forcing them into what would probably be considered sex work under the Canadian Criminal Code. Is the lack of action here on the Canadian government’s part (there is at least a Charter grievance here that I can see, and likely a Criminal Code violation or six) have to do with misplaced “respect” for religion, the loony-ass wingnuts currently running our government, or the fact that these days you can’t get the Canadian federal government interested in the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities unless you practically hold a gun to their collective heads?
Now I’m really ticked off.
This book is a good account.
Heh, off-topic, but you remind me, Jessica, that our cat Shaman lived with a chronic Pseudomonas infection the last few years of his life–managed, but never cured.
Mr. Raven and I used to talk about how, when we got ourselves some money, we’d get Shaman some real Monas. :)
Interestingly enough, that’s not necessarily the case.
Strictly speaking, Brownian, your co-worker is correct: they aren’t “real” Mormons, any more than Lutherans are “real” Catholics. They no longer follow the doctrine of the official church, which has excommunicated them.
What they ARE is a nasty little cult of personality… I know some folks who have been involved in helping the boys kicked out of these communities so the old men can have more little girls to rape. It’s a seriously fucked up way of life. Humans != elk.
That said, the primary reason these groups get like this is because of stupid theocratic crap like bigamy laws. The Mormon church had to denounce polygamy as a concession to joining the United States (and more to the point, to avoid having the US Army come in, wipe them out and take their land). If polygamy were legal, and could be practiced openly, the pressure to follow a cult leader would be enormously lessened.
Nothing like the threat of state oppression to foster paranoia, isolation and hostility.
Openly allowing polygamy would allow these people to practice their faith without fear of prison and CPS, while allowing the legal authorities to focus on the true lawbreakers, like the guys marrying 13 and 14-year-olds, forced marriages and the like.
Ahem, sorry to differ, there, but there are thousands and thousands of examples of the opposite. We call it “agriculture” and “animal husbandry”…
So long as you cull the recessives from the gene pool, inbreeding does nothing but fix certain traits into the population.
And a concomitant tendency to vote Republican.
The Bountiful, BC polygamous community has been the subject of a couple of TV shows which are online — the CBC’s Fifth Estate (here) and a discussion on This Hour dealing with the legal issues (here). The legal status of the investigation is still in limbo:
A special prosecutor will look into criminal charges for a polygamy case that has stymied lawyers and politicians because of its lack of witnesses and constitutional support.
“There is some concern that the religious rights of a particular sect or a particular person will trump any right to prosecute,” said Attorney General Wally Oppal.
But that’s not a constitutional opinion Oppal agrees with, so the government hired high-profile Vancouver criminal lawyer Richard Peck to conduct a review of the results of a police investigation into members of the southeast British Columbia community of Bountiful.
RCMP investigators have been looking into charges of polygamy and other alleged offences of a sexual nature and submitted a charge recommendation report to the Crown last fall.
Those charges were reviewed by the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch and an opinion was given to Oppal, however a branch spokesman refused to say what the legal recommendation was on charges.
Geoffrey Gaul said the branch made its opinion known on the issue more than decade ago, and that’s part of the reason why a special prosecutor was appointed.
“We have opinions from outside, from private lawyers, that question the constitutional validity of polygamy prosecutions.”
Brian X says
You can only take that argument so far before you run into the need to do the risk-benefit analysis on the issue that you should have done in the first place. FLDS-style polygamy is inherently asymmetrical, as even without the abuses you mention it doesn’t offer the women the same opportunity of self-determination as it does the men.
There is a solution — it’s called polyamory — but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Joseph Smith had in mind when he started accumulating wives, and I’m also pretty sure that’s not what Warren Jeffs and his people have in mind out there in Colorado City/Hilldale. Polyamory as it’s practiced most frequently is rather more egalitarian and generally completely open in terms of acceptance, and as much as it seeks out people to join what can be very, very complicated relationship geometries, it also discourages those who can’t handle it. But polyamory as it’s currently understood can’t be practiced in an environment such as the FLDS church anyway, because it presumes equality of the sexes; LDS polygamy traditionally has not.
BS, they are mormons who would likely claim the ‘real’ mormons you speak of have forsaken their church. Of course Lutherans aren’t real catholics, they don’t claim to be such. The FLDS do claim to be mormons.
I’ve driven through Colorado City, Arizona, one of the biggest of those communities. It’s creepy as hell.
They’re already a burden on the welfare system (2nd, 3rd, etc wives file for welfare as “single mothers”) and evade taxes (by leaving homes “unfinished”); now they’ll need more healthcare attention too? Great. Nice religion they’ve got there.
PZ Myers says
Yes! So all we have to do is go to the Utah/Arizona border, and closely monitor the population for a few dozen generations. Or more. Every parent who has a fumarase deficient child is immediately sterilized, as are any other children. If we have a test for heterozygotes, even easier–sterilize them all. We also take the children of deficiency-free families and inbreed them with each other.
It can work!
Of course, the problem with applying agricultural practices that work so well to human populations is that, unfortunately, people insist on being allowed to procreate sloppily, and get all complainy and weepy when necessary ruthlessness is applied. We’ll have to work hard to make them obey.
Bill Dauphin says
I second that recommendation, and add that if you like audiobooks at all, you should get it in that form. Krakauer is a good reader, and this book will scare the hair off you.
Bruce, long term you’ll likely accumulate bad recessives that cannot
be easily culled anymore. See the various genetic problems heavily bred dog races have.
And when new conditions arise it is best to have some fresh blood
to cross in. That is why it is so dangerous to e.g. wipe out all
the alternative cow races or why there are huge efforts at saving
A better analogy might be, are the Womenpriests “real Catholics”? They say yes, the Vatican says no.
I don’t understand why the fundies are so opposed to polygamy. I understand that there is nothing in the bible strictly forbidding it, and, after all, their favorite Old Testament heroes did it.
I’m guess it’s a tradition where all good Christian menfolk get to feel that they are being temperate and righteous by not giving free reign to their ‘evil’ carnal urges, at least publicly.
Arguably it’s the Mormon church that’s failed to follow its own doctrine.
I’m not American so, please enlighten me: is any of this legal? Don’t you people have laws against marrying underage girls against their will? I am not kidding: how can this be possibly tolerated?
JimC and Brownian:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with about 12 Million members do call themselves Mormons. Originally being called Mormon was a derogatory term–now it’s in common use. That said the members of the big church are aghast to think that the polygamist groups are called Mormon. They have their own derogatory term for them: “Poligs” LDS Mormons are not allowed to associate or do business with Poligs. Poligs tend to be very standoffish and will generally only speak when spoken to, etc. They often own remodeling businesses and have large farms. They do have some banks, etc.
Short-creek/Colorado City, is probably the strangest place to go to in the US, but they do have a cafe or two in town. Think the movie “Deliverance” if you go there. If you’ve seen HBO’s “Big Love” then think the leader and the compound and ignore the main characters, and you’ve got a decent representation.
Christian Burnham says
Nice article in today’s Guardian:
Atheists: stand up and be counted
Still, I can’t help feeling a little cynical about all of this. The Guardian (like Salon) likes to run constant opinion pieces for/against religion/atheism, which generate lots of discussion and advertising revenue. Sometimes I think we’re all playing into their little game.
Alright! Start the betting pool! How long do you think until PZ’s most recent comment gets mined?
Alright! Start the betting pool! How long do you think until PZ’s most recent comment gets mined?
If you’ve ever read the book “Under the Banner of Heaven”, the author talks about some of these towns. There is frequently a Mormon patriarch who controls the community, and they will sometimes “explain” these genetic defects as punishments from God, rather than the unhealthy practice of inbreeding. What a sick place.
Shrug. If people are profiting off of open debate which they are facilitating, I have no problems with that. Its a good thing when economic incentives align with social incentives.
Several comments rolled into one…
Brian X says:
I never said that FLDS-style polygamy was healthy , fair or not horribly sexist, merely that making it illegal compounds the problem*. Of course it doesn’t offer women “the same opportunity of self-determination as it does the men.” Neither does the Baptist dogma on marriage, that the wife submit to her husband.
Equality of the sexes is not the issue, it is that the fact that the entire relationship is illegal, which fosters the paranoid delusions of the leaders of this cult.
*This is similar to ‘The War On Drugs’. The vast amount of social and personal damage done by drugs is due to their illegality, not their deleterious effects. You don’t see too many people burglarizing houses, and committing armed robbery to satisfy their alcohol addiction, do you?
This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that drug addiction is good, merely that we need to separate the fundamental problems we’re dealing with: the legal sphere versus the health sphere. They can be separated, we saw that when we repealed Prohibition.
Back when Luther nailed his theses to the door, they damn well claimed to be Catholics. They don’t any more, but at the time they did claim to be The Church.
To the Official Mormon Church, they aren’t Mormons, regardless of what the apostates say, and for Official Mormons this is what counts.
I do think it’s a bunch of silliness, but to the believer’s it’s a big deal.
The welfare and tax evasion are deliberate dogma of the leaders, as a means of “destroying Babylon” by sapping it’s wealth.
Of course the fact that this allows them to accumulate their own wealth all the time has nooooothing to do with it. Oh no. All these dirt-poor folks, and Warren Jeffs was captured in a caravan of five or six $50K SUV’s….
The article in ‘The Guardian’ is a good one.
Gospel of Reason is another one worth reading.
No, it’s not legal, and these are exactly the crimes for which Warren Jeffs is standing trial right now.
First, this is going on in VERY rural, nearly inaccessible areas along the border of Utah and Arizona. You can see the Law coming a LONG time before they get there.
Second, because these towns sometimes straddle the border, they’ve taken advantage of jurisdictional issues, running to the Utah side when the Arizona authorities come to town, and vice versa.
Third, there’s almost no way that many of these issues can be brought to the courts without a Jonestown or Waco-style standoff.
Fourth, they’ve been protected by sympathetic members of law enforcement, the judiciary and the legislature in both Arizona and Utah.
Utah is essentially a Mormon theocracy (although that’s changing; the population dynamics of the state are shifting) and Arizona, especially northern Arizona is also heavily Mormon. The political power structures there are still sympathetic to them as ‘oppressed religious minorities’
Finally, any prosecution needs cooperating witnesses and complainants from within the community; and this just isn’t going to happen.
DragonScholar – Simple lesson: Inbreeding, wether ideological or biological, is always bad for the health of a population.
What really ruined the population in that little FLDS commune was that selection was just some fucktoad old men dividing up the 14 year olds. If ability to chose wives was granted via fights to the death, you would have a much healthier population (perhaps even than the general population).
I hate religions… they can’t even inbreed right.
Brucej: Nice post. Edifying for me too.
Ed Darrell says
Calling the odd sects in the Arizona Strip “Mormons” is a lot like calling Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, just another Catholic diocese.
Well, look on the bright side. Inbreeding and genetic diseases might just be their karma.
I’ve seen pictures of some of these polig cultists. They actually do sort of look weird, like maybe their parents were a little too closely related.
This is far from a victimless crime. I don’t know the situation now but in the past, the vast majority of these clowns were on welfare. How else do you have big families with one wage earner who isn’t very bright or educated in the absolute middle of nowhere?
Might be different now, in the past the state of Utah wasn’t too crazy about supporting fleets of kids. The way they sidestep the polygamy laws is by only registering one marriage, all the rest are officially off the records and the women claim single motherhood.
Besides the economics, there are the issues of forced underage marriages, child sex abuse and so on. In times past, the various subcults used to shoot it out over dominance issues.
Waco pretty much ended serious efforts to control these strange groups. No one is going to risk another standoff that ends in piles of dead.
My understanding was that the growth of the early christian church was partly supported by its focus on monogamy. This was an incentive for early (male!) followers, particulalry among common-folk to commit as christians and have some chance of regular sex and protecting their wifely property.
T. Bruce McNeely says
But isn’t outlawing gay marriage supposed to prevent this kind of thing from happening?
THanks, BruceJ, that explains it. It’s even worse than I thought when there is a whole socio-political structure that supports that. What a disgusting state of affairs… “oppressed religious minority”?? Gimme a break!
I thought I had discovered Inbredville in St. Cloud, MN. Apparently it gets worse.
Nick Hodge says
This just goes to show Evolution is working.
Canadian Ronin says
I first heard about this colony of creeps a few years ago, and it never fails to make my blood boil. All those poor girls…And the fact that the spineless cowards who govern these states are letting them get away with it only compounds the horror. My advice is to come down on these fuckers like the wrath of God, send in the bloody Marines (or CF in the case of my country) and free those girls by force. It’ll never happen with our current leadership, and it probably is really bloodthirsty on my part, but it’s no more than these cultists deserve. The United States has participated in much fouler deeds for much less worthy causes (Canada to some extent as well), so this little military intervention isn’t actually all that bad in contrast. Free the girls, get them into some loving families, then wipe the rest of the place off the face of the earth. I’ll not have these compounds defiling our nations an instant longer.
How ironic – just a few weeks after you decry ‘Idiocracy’, you end up complaining about inbred morons on welfare.
I don’t know if this made the national news or not, but the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention on June 14th, the State Legislature (both houses) voted not to put a marriage-amendment question on the ballot in November 2008. The super-majority required to defeat the motion was achieved.
The failure of Massachusetts to take a serious step towards undoing the work of those “activist judges” has surely brought about the end of civilization as we know it. I expect the divorce rate to hit 100% by September, and for men to begin marrying their dogs by Christmas.
That’s a good point, assuming one can correctly view Idiocracy as a film about the effects of inbreeding. Is it “inbreeding” if it involves 100% of the population?
Seriously, I just can’t understand why anyone would want to be in a religion that lets you have more than one wife but doesn’t let you drink.
If 100% of the population has children with close family members, then yes.
Just goes to show you can’t fool Mother Nature. In the end, she is gonna win every time.
Her house. Her rules.
Please tell me this is just a really tone-deaf metaphor…
Of course it’s illegal, frenchdoc but that area of Arizona might as well be on the moon. It’s rural, arid, miles away from anything even remotely resembling civilization, let alone a law enforcement agency and cut off from all of the above by rugged terrain the likes of which Conspiracy nuts claim NASA used as a backdrop to shoot the “Moon Landing.”
That’s why the settlers moved there in the first place; you’d have to be nuts to want to live there unless you had a hard-on for Biblical reenactment and underage girls.
Ben Abbott says
Natural selection at work.
If we encourage such behavior it will accelerate the process, and produce a most profound example of how the substitution of blind faith for reasoned vision is a moral contradiction.
If we point out the fallacy of such behavior it may produce a longer and more substantial misery for both the reasoned rationalists and the deluded sectarians …
What are we to do in order to produce the greatest benefit for future generations?
I’m not a scientist, in the formal sense of the word, but I assume a lot of you guys/gals are and I’ve got a question I’ve wondered about for a while.
I had always heard that a sign of inbreeding in a population was an increased incidence of crossed eyes. I always thought this was a wives tale until about 20 years ago when I was forced to spend a couple years in a fairly isolated, close-knit rural North Florida town that shall remain unnamed. I quickly noticed two things about the townsfolk there. First, an inordinate percentage of the population had the surname “Starling”. Second, I have never seen so many cross-eyed people in my life!! It was seriously noticeable. Of course I couldn’t confirm that the Starling family was any more or less likely than the resident interlopers to have crossed eyes. Maybe it was something in the water. But I was kind of freaked out about it.
Is there any acutal scientific correlation between inbreeding and some genetically caused medical condition that manifests itself by crossed eyes, or was this just some Twilight Zone thing?
This sort of abuse makes my blood boil as well, not least because I have a daughter of my own. But unfortunately, this approach probably wouldn’t work, since it assumes that these girls aren’t so thoroughly brainwashed and emotionally crushed that they wouldn’t simply seek out a similar arrangement with another “Good
ChristianMormon man” out of the belief that it’s their duty as women and god’s will. Funny how religious devotion so often parallels Stockholm syndrome…
Ah… Right! I was viewing the entire population as the community, rather than as a collection of inbred communities.
It’s hard (if not quite impossible) to imagine, though, given the high degree of mobility and the robust taboos against inbreeding that already exist…
If you’ve seen the movie, I’m sure you remember Cletus.
Given his fecundity, his immediate community was almost certainly dominated by his descendents within four generations.
Ben Abbott says
sailorman, I’m out my field here, but I’ve also noticed some ocular malformations among communities I presumed to be inbred (not crossed-eyes per se).
Here’s an abstract of a paper which alludes to such.
Robster, FCD says
I agree with previous commenters, read Under the Banner of Heaven for a better understanding of the history of the Mormon church, when and how the split occurred, etc. Of course, if you have heart or circulatory problems, see your doctor before reading this book.
There was an attempt to take the children away from the FLDS, at one of their towns, several decades back. It fell apart as the media came in, saw screaming children being pulled away from their parents by the authorities, and you can guess the rest.
I don’t think we need another Waco.
We’ve got several more Wacos already. Maybe what you’re worried about is a “Waco siege?” Well, what would you propose, then?
On the contrary, we need a lot more Wacos.
What kind of Waco are we talking about, here? The government-defying community Waco, or the horrific massacre Waco?
Who knows, perhaps Warren Jeffs’ flock will ultimately benefit from founder effect, genetic drift, and reproductive isolation. That way they might shift off our present fitness peak and (by virtue of future fortunate mutations or perhaps divine intervention), pass through a genetic bottleneck and, Haldane willing, emerge on a different fitness peak whose ascent will turn them into a community of supermormon supermen. Or perhaps into a new species of knuckle-dragging, sister-raping, child-molesting ground foragers. Evolution is funny like that. :)
I first read that as “Haldol willing.” Heh.
Marcus Ranum says
Hitchens makes a great argument in “God is not great” that this kind of nonsense is child abuse. Indeed, raising children in an environment rich in bullsh*t is probably child abuse – but using them as sexual enticements for church elders… ICK!
Why is this allowed? Oh… Right… it’s religion.
Man this stuff makes me angry. I for one have no problem calling them Mormon. If Mormons can call themselves Christian because they claim to believe in Jebus, then these people are Mormons by virtue of claiming to believe in the doctrine of the BoM.
The freedom allowed to all Americans should not give a group the right to strip others of their rights through coersion. But there is no simple solution as the residents don’t seem to think their rights have been violated. Maybe I’m not giving these girls enough credit, (and I apologize if that’s the case) but if she is brought up to obey her parents in all things, why would she ever consider their asking her to marry her cousin to be wrong?
The freedom allowed to all Americans should not give a group the right to strip others of their rights through coersion. But there is no simple solution as the residents don’t seem to think their rights have been violated.
very common in cults.
She wouldn’t, unless enough of the outside world leaked in – and it seems the community is purposefully located and administered to minimize that.
What does a person born into slavery know about liberty?
Josh Huddleston says
Geez, and to think this isn’t far from Vegas here, and that my wife and I recently drove through that area on our way to Zion National Park…kind of freaks me out. I hope these cruel “prophets” get what they deserve.
Bob O'H says
Not necessarily, PZ. The number of people with the allele in the population will increase if the mean fitness times the population growth rate is >1. But the mean fitness decreases with increasing frequency, so eventually there will be an equilibrium. I might do the maths later if I’m bored.
Oh, and another thing. Kin selection helps, because the people with the condition will be looked after by their relatives, who will therefore spend less time reproducing. Hamilton Rules!
I read an interview a while ago with two young women who had escaped from their FLDS community and their marriages to much older men. (I think the girls might’ve been 15 when they were forced to marry men in their 60s.)
Both women had horrific stories of abuse to tell… and both told the interviewer they were absolutely convinced they were going to hell. Because, molestation and inbreeding or no, the Prophet is the Prophet and his word is absolute law. In this world and the next. He had pronounced damnation upon them, and they both seemed to think that was what they had coming to them.
(Has anyone else read Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country, featuring an especially spooky sect of Mormon polygamists? Ew, ew, ew.)
This is a typical heavy mind control, isolated, inbred cult.
The women are probably barely educated and most of that is religious indoctrination. From what I’ve read, most of them have never spoken to or even seen an outsider close up. They’ve been taught that outsiders are evil and out to get them. Partly true, outside authorities including the LDS church have nothing but contempt for them. The women are married off very young, early teens, and of course, are soon pumping out babies. So now you have mothers who have families and children that they aren’t exactly eager to abandon.
So, OK, you have a barely literate young girl, who knows nothing of the outside world, who has been taught to fear outsiders, has no idea or concept of how to earn a living by herself, and is married and has a few kids and is 16. Plus all her family and friends and whole life are in that cult.
Under those conditions, it is a wonder that any of them manage to break away and those are few and far between. If you think of Waco, Heavens Gate, or Jonestown, you get an idea of what sort of hold cults can have on their victims. Sometimes they drink the poisoned kool aide, secure in the knowledge that the mothership is right behind the comet.
The FLDS are in the area they are in for a reason. This is very remote, inhospitable territory. It is true desert. I was in the area once on vacation in the summer. It was 116 degrees F. in the shade. Astronauts train there for simulated Martian missions.
The population density is low. In addition, they have penetrated the local power structures to one extent or another. The local cops used to be polygamists from the cult. For all I know they still are. The local politicians and judges seem to be co-opted. They are probably all Mormons of one sort or another anyway, this is Utah after all.
I read somewhere once that the state and federals had set up some observation posts. And that if anyone wanted out of the cult, they could ask for sanctuary and help and would get it. Whether that is the case or not, who knows. With a 1000 FEMA Michael Brown clones running important federal programs, lot of good it would do anyone.
truth machine says
“Oh, but those aren’t real Mormons.”
Yeah, like the ‘No true Scotsman” fallacy isn’t a real fallacy.
truth machine says
Strictly speaking, Brownian, your co-worker is correct: they aren’t “real” Mormons, any more than Lutherans are “real” Catholics. They no longer follow the doctrine of the official church, which has excommunicated them.
Are you the result of inbreeding? How else to explain such stupidity? Given two groups, each of which calls themselves Mormons, what exactly makes one group “official”?
Wikipedia says about inbreeding: “Inbreeding may result in a far higher expression of deleterious recessive genes within a population than would normally be expected”
However, it does not really explain why this happens. Could anyone explain or point me to some more info please as I’m struggling to understand.
Um, Cal? You can’t just leave us hanging like that, it’s not gentlemanly.
Several commenters have mentioned how remote this place is. I thought I’d give a description of the trip near there I took a year ago to give people unfamiliar with the area a better notion.
From Grand Canyon National Park (South Side), you have to drive about 150ish miles northeast of the park exit to get to the nearest Colorado River crossing. In that whole time you will never pass a town as big as the small tourism town immediately outside the park — in fact, most “towns” will be little more than two mobile homes relatively near the same crossroad (which will be dirt — pretty much only the US highways are paved in NW AZ)
Once you cross the Colorado river, you drive about 200 miles west through completely empty desert — beautiful scenery, but no sign of civilization other than that road. Then you reach a cross road. The North Side of Grand Canyon National Park is about 80 miles south of you, Colorado City, AZ, about 80 miles north. We turned south to the canyon, and reached the north side of the canyon in time for a late lunch, a quick gawk at OMGWTFBBQ! grand canyon north side (not much different from the South, other than being 4000 feet higher elevation) and then we had to turn around and leave, because it was already going to be almost 10 in the evening when we reached our hotel reservation for that evening.
When those of us who have been to this part of the country say it is remote, (to paraphrase Douglas Adams) we are not saying it is like a long walk down the block to the Pharmacy. Northern AZ is huge and empty, and it is very easy for me to understand why, as much as they may want to, law enforcement has been able to do little.
When they caught Warren Jeffs, he was in Las Vegas, IRCC — in other words, even though there was a longstanding warrent for his arrest, they did not even bother to get him in his stronghold, they waited for him to leave it.
Science Goddess says
Hi there, AstroMcNaught: Here’s a snip from the National Biological Information Infrastructure website: http://www.nbii.gov/
It just means that when you have a small population, individuals breed with close relatives. So that after a few generations, the bad genes (which are present in all of us) that we carry on only one chromosome, become “fixed” and are carried on both chromosomes. This happens by chance, and without an influx of new chromosomes, the genes don’t have a chance to vary, or reassort among the gametes.
“Small effective population size can result in a high occurrence of inbreeding, or mating between close relatives. One of the effects of inbreeding is a decrease in the heterozygosity (increase in homozygosity) of the population as a whole, which means a decrease in the number of heterozygous genes in the individuals. This effect places individuals and the population at a greater risk from homozygous recessive diseases that result from inheriting a copy of the same recessive allele from both parents. The impact of accumulating deleterious homozygous traits is called inbreeding depression – the loss in population vigor due to loss in genetic variability or genetic options. ”
Hope this helps
Ummmm….closer to a 1000 foot difference between the elevations of the south rim and the north rim.
For More on this subject, check out http://www.exmormon.org
FLDS Polygamists are following the doctrine established by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, and NEVER REMOVED from their scripture, Doctrines and Covenants. While the mainstream Mormon Church outwardly renounced polygamy in 1890 in order to gain statehood, it was secretly practiced by members and leaders into the 20th century, and is still believed to be practiced in the Celestial Kingdom, the highest level of Mormon heaven, where every man is a god and has unlimited wives and “spirit children” borne by them to populate his planet.
Yes, FLDS and others caught practicing polygamy today are excommuncated by the regular LDS church, but the practice comes straight out of the foundations of orthodox LDS belief, and a blind eyes is often turned by the law to polygamists in the Mormon corridor of Western states.
Polygamy is a malignant system that harms women and children who are chattel of the priesthood-holding males. Genetic defects are just one piece of its nasty legacy, others being child brides forced to marry old men, the “lost boys”, young men thrown out to fend for themselves so they will not compete with the old men for young women, and all varieties of child abuse. American polygamy is the direct legacy of the LDS church, no matter how they try to distance themselves from it.
Inoculated Mind says
I find that Mormons seem to casually flirt with genetics in the most bizarre of ways. They’re into the One Great Family, but not really into how that family extends through all life. They’re into the human genome project and genome sequencing, yet we have these pockets of inbreeding. Weird.
Were it not such a terrible fate for the poor innocent children afflicted with the disease, I’d be pleased to see this. You can deny science all you want. But that doesn’t make you right, and it doesn’t make you exempt from the the laws of nature. No matter how much you pretend to be living under Divine Law.
And on “Idiocracy”, the point was that it wasn’t 100% of the population. The smarter folks in the population with their low fertility rates effectively removed themselves from the breeding pool causing the “inbreeding” to occur.
By five hundred years into the future, yes it was.
Thanks Science Goddess, that helps quite a lot.
I’ll continue reading about Punnet squares, laws of segregation, independent assortment and dominance.
So, a small population will eventually contain the expression of a few number of fixed ‘bad’ genes that would normally be recessive and rarely expressed within a wide ranging population.
So, we all contain the good, the bad and the ugly, but it’s the spice of life that keeps us healthy :)
John C. Randolph says
I’d have to say that if god exists, it’s sending a very clear message: inbreeding is a stupid idea, with tragic consequences.
As for polygamy, just like gay marriage, I would permit it for *consenting adults*. Clearly, the girls that Warren Jeffs was handing out to his cronies were neither consenting, nor adults. I hope that vicious theocrat cools his heels in jail for many decades.
Hopefully they won’t try to import new blood.
Robster, FCD says
For a visual concept of how remote this special little village of hell actually is, here is a google map of the place. The X in lower part of the map is their airport, which IIRC, was also paid for by federal largess.
richard schauer says
My read is this: we are witnessing genetics/evolution and survival of the fittest in action…unfortunately the resultant offspring may not fit and this branch of homo sapiens will diminish and/or perish unless they adapt/evolve their behaviors.
It’s hard (if not quite impossible) to imagine [close kin inbreeding], though, given the high degree of mobility and the robust taboos against inbreeding that already exist…
The “taboo” against inbreeding is in fact based on imprinting, so it’s more biological than cultural: see Westermark effect. Many species avoid close inbreeding thus.
Having said this, it’s impressive just how inbred most of humanity is: see the global maps at consang.net. Most of humanity outside the first world chooses mates from those within a mile or so of their birthplace. (Darwin’s own marriage to his cousin Emma was a common experience.) But once you get beyond first cousins, the threat of deleterious recessives diminishes dramatically.
From the Google Earth Wikipedia note:
Hence the difficulty for all tolerant people – when do “religious or cultural nutters” exercising their freedoms overstep the mark? I suggest that allowing consenting (if inadequate) adults to do their own thing is acceptable – but if illegal acts are carried out against children or bystanders then it is the duty of the state to intervene.
Raven [#38], the probable reason these cretins look so peculiar is through their being (hopefully distant!) relatives of yours truly. The surnames match up and so do the physiognomies. I’ve run across them before, while fiddling about with genealogy.
The lineages from which they emerged were possibly already fairly constrained and etiolated by the time they got Stateside, having spent the time between the Conquest and emigration buggering about in a handful of contiguous parishes (where they would even today pass as ‘normal’!)
Usually this sort of thing would have been kept in check, not least by by their families’ more prominent members, who, being AngloNorman gentry and having a consequent horror of social embarrassment, would hopefully not have hesitated in dangling the lot from a tree at the bottom of the castle garden, if the Bishop hadn’t already cremated them for violating the Prohibited Degrees.
Anybody want to open a book on the next test of faith likely to be visited on them?
Even us Welfare State minions over here are at an absolute loss understanding how you regular taxpayers tolerate their outrageous parasitism. Cut off their dole! Send in the Social Worker Divisions! Certainly lends support to the idea that religion is a meme central the propagation of the butt-ugly and stupid.
The really nasty bit is the ‘lost boys’, and the childrapists. I don’t suppose the Federal authorities would take a lead from these degenerates’ “uncivilised” mediaeval forbears? To wit, round up, deprogram, and train in Fire&Sword 1.01 the parties of the first part, and loose them on t’others?
It’d save us out here, off the right-hand-side of the map, a lot of crippling embarrassment.
Anton Mates says
Even a large population will, if there’s inbreeding–and it’s not just eventually, it’s within a single generation. Here’s a quantitative example–feel free to ignore if you’ve already come across a better one in your reading.
Say 1% of the breeding population has one copy of a recessive lethal gene. If you’re born into this population, what’s the chance that both of your parents have a copy? Well, if mating is random, it’s simply 1% * 1%, or 1/10000.
Now suppose there’s tons of inbreeding–in fact, everyone marries their sibling. Your mom, again, has a 1% chance of carrying a copy. But if she does, that means (barring mutation) that one of her parents must be carrying a copy, and there’s a 50% chance that her brother–your dad–inherited it. So now the chance that both of your parents have a copy is about 1% * 50%, or 1/200.
In either population, if your parents each have a copy, there’s a 25% chance that you’ll inherit both of them. So the recessive disease will be 50 times more common in the inbred population than in the randomly-mated population; 1/800 vs. 1/40000.
Notice that inbreeding has much more impact on the occurrence of a disease if it was rare to begin with. If lots of people carry the allele, then they’re reasonably likely to marry another carrier even if they avoid close relatives.
Did you ever see Deliverance? Kick ass movie!
I read a few comments about the (Mormons) LDS church, Polygamy is no longer practiced and tolerated. I do know that molesting children was NEVER tolerated and actually like any respectable religion, child molestors are turned over to the law. You cannot say that the FLDS and the LDS church are the same, the FLDS may use the Book of Mormon, but apparently they do not follow all of its teachings.
As a member of the LDS church I belong to a church that cherishes families, encourages education in Women, Men, and Children alike, and teaches love and patience. Maybe all members aren’t saints, but we are taught that we should try to be. As for all those books against the LDS church that have been suggested, they are one sided and they have many false and twisted statements. If you want to know what your talking about when you make a comment about the LDS church don’t read an anti book, go to mormon.org and you can learn for yourself.
There is too much violence and hatred in this world I am proud to belong to a church that tries to make the world a better place.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:20