A few little questions for Pat Dollard

Dollard is some kind of wingnut — one of the deranged types who wants to KILL ALL THE MUSLIMS. He recently posted something rather appallingly ignorant: SCIENCE: Centuries Of Inbreeding Have Caused Catastrophic And Irreparable Damage To Muslim Gene Pool.

I was kind of annoyed that he’s appropriating science (or rather, SCIENCE) for his bigoted nonsense, but the content was even worse.

Massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1.400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool. The consequences of intermarriage between first cousins often have serious impact on the offspring’s intelligence, sanity, health and on their surroundings.


Does he even realize that approximately a quarter of the world’s population are Muslim? How do you even think about calling 1.5 billion people “inbred”? There are only about 320 million Americans, all breeding with each other… does that make us even more inbred?

Which Muslims are inbred? Because it sounds like he’s talking about all of them–are Indonesian Muslims all first cousins to Pakistani Muslims to Somali Muslims to Albanian Muslims to Turkish Muslims? There’s a level at which it is simply nonsensical to simply lump together all members of a large and diverse population and just announce that they are all alike, all one big massive clone of inbred defectives.

But in another sense, there is a grain of truth to the claim. It’s not Islam at fault, though; it’s that rural societies with diminished opportunities to travel have higher levels of consanguinity. Here, for instance, is a map of the frequency of marriages between second cousins or closer.


Although the Islamic world definitely has higher rates of consanguinity, it’s not uniform: northern India looks like Canada or Brazil, while Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have more than half the marriages between cousins.

As it turns out, there are reasons only loosely related to religion that promote consanguineous marriages.

Although consanguinity is a highly complex and multifaceted topic, the claimed social and cultural advantages, such as ease of marriage arrangements, enhanced female autonomy, more stable marital relationships, greater compatibility with in-laws, lower domestic violence, lower divorce rates, and the economic benefits of reduced dowry and the maintenance of any landholdings have received much less attention than studies into adverse genetic outcomes. It therefore is not surprising that the prevailing Western public and medical opinion with regard to consanguinity is largely negative. There is the additional problem that in many societies that favor consanguineous unions marriages are usually arranged by and/or meet with prior parental approval, a practice frequently misrepresented and criticized as “forced marriage”.

For families living in impoverished rural areas with limited or no formal education or access to medical services, young age at marriage and first pregnancy, short birth intervals, and high infant and childhood mortality rates primarily caused by infectious and nutritional disorders, the social and economic advantages offered by consanguineous marriage and the strengthening of family relationships often outweigh the biological disadvantages of close-kin marriage for a majority of families. The current scenario in urban populations is quite different, especially in developed countries with better living and public health conditions, low levels of infectious disease, and ready access to modern health facilities. Newborns with a genetic disorder that in previous generations may have died in infancy of no known cause are now referred to specialist centers for diagnosis, and they and their families can anticipate a lifespan that will extend at least into adolescence and more probably into mid to late adulthood, usually requiring ongoing medical care.

Biologically, it’s bad, but sociologically, it makes sense. It’s not a Muslim problem, though, it’s a local problem in communities with limited opportunities: I don’t see Dollard demanding military action against the Amish, who are really inbred, or against the European royal families.

Dollard doesn’t distinguish between local communities and the entirety of the Muslim world, though.

There is no doubt that the wide spread tradition of first cousin marriages among Muslims has harmed the gene pool among Muslims. Because Muslims’ religious beliefs prohibit marrying non-Muslims and thus prevents them from adding fresh genetic material to their population, the genetic damage done to their gene pool since their prophet allowed first cousin marriages 1,400 years ago are most likely massive.

That’s ridiculous. A prohibition against marrying non-Muslims would only limit you to a quarter of the world’s population, so that can’t be the explanation. And characterizing that quarter of the world’s population as slack-jawed drooling inbred idiots is neither true nor helpful, while Dollard’s proposed solution (criminalizing marriages between cousins worldwide) is inhumane, unenforceable, and fails to recognize the complexity of these relationships.

I will say that as contemptible as he is, his commenters are worse: they’re proposing Mandatory sterilization of all new muslim inbreds and legal open season on these mohammed worshippers with no bag limit.

You can’t end consanguineous marriages by decree or at gunpoint. The only reasonable solutions are to give people in these regions economic and educational opportunities, and I can’t quite see these violent wingnuts endorsing the idea of treating Muslims as people, as deserving of dignity as we are.


  1. zenlike says

    His commenters are worse? This is the guy who previously stated we should all start slaughtering muslims in the streets. Can’t get much more contemptible than that.

  2. Al Dente says

    A gene pool of 1.5 billion largely spread over three continents is not in danger of inbreeding.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    Don’t the 1% breed exclusively amongst themselves?
    And what about Hollywood?

  4. dianne says

    Wait, what? I thought one of the scary things (TM) about Muslims was that they would seduce your children from the True Faith* and next thing you’d know they’d be wearing headscarfs and heading off to join ISIS. That belief is not compatible with the inbreeding one.

    *The True Faith sometimes being atheism. Sorry.

  5. Anton Mates says

    Inbreeding doesn’t “harm the gene pool” anyway. It produces less healthy individuals, because they’re more likely to be carrying two copies of a harmful recessive allele, but it doesn’t directly affect allele frequencies at all–it just changes how they’re distributed throughout the population. If everyone starts mating randomly again, the incidence of those recessive disorders drops back down to normal in a single generation.

    In fact, 1500 years of inbreeding would actually improve the gene pool; because harmful recessives are more likely to be phenotypically expressed in that case, natural selection filters them out more quickly.

  6. khms says

    Another thing that routinely irritates me in these discussions is that there are serious genetic problems in the first generation. I remember the first time I tried making mathematical sense of this, and it just wouldn’t work. If you take two parents randomly from a population, you get on average x% of bad gene combinations in the children; if you instead take those people from the same family, but otherwise just as randomly (so the family is randomly selected as well), you get – surprise – the exact same x%.

    The only way this works is multi-generational. If you get children from close relatives for many generations, the result is a smaller gene pool (and, of course, one that’s rather different from other families doing the same), because you randomly lost gene variants over time faster than you can replace them, and then there is obviously a higher probability of problems from a too-small gene pool.

    If your goal is to prevent genetic problems, you’d be better off disallowing marriages between carriers of problematic genes, or with too-similar sets of genes (to be determined by a DNA analysis). Of course, any such rule runs into both practical problems of enforceability, and a whole host of ethical problems. As do the rules against close-family marriage, it’s just that we’ve been living with those long enough that we’re selectively blind against their problems.

    (Just so we not forget, there’s also the fact that some such cases have problems with consent; but I’d argue that, since those problems are not restricted to those cases, they are better handled by general consent rules. We need those anyway. Plus, many of the worst close-family consent problems aren’t marriage-related anyway, so why single those out? The problem (in all those cases) is the lack of consent (or in the original situations, that offspring and bad genes don’t make for happy results), not that marriage (or even family) is involved.)

  7. laurentweppe says

    That belief is not compatible with the inbreeding one.

    Frankly, the “These dirty Muslims are filthy inbreds” line spewed by Dollard and his ilk sounds suspiciously like a white supremacist projecting his own unavowable fetiches onto people he doesn’t like.

  8. coragyps says

    Uhhhh…… Aren’t traditional Catholics and Jews pretty big on no “outside” marriages?

  9. komarov says

    Re Dianne, #5:

    It is, after all, a well known fact that conflicting beliefs are of Serious Concern to the faithful, second only to beliefs conflicting with reality. Needless to say, everything is perfectly true as long as it serves Us and can be justified with the Bible. People suggesting that incoherent scripture is a problem for a religion have it backwards. A well-written, logical argument works well for just one thing and lasts about as long. Mad babble can be applied to any situation and lasts for millennia.

    I will say that as contemptible as he is, his commenters are worse: they’re proposing “Mandatory sterilization of all new muslim inbreds” and “legal open season on these mohammed worshippers with no bag limit”.

    The people from the Department of Mad Overkill would once again like to point out that turnabout is fair play. Thus they suggest that the blanket genetic testing that is undoubtedly required as part of this thoughtful proposal be applied to everyone everywhere, along with the legislation that defuses the issue of potential murder charges.
    The resulting shoot-out – literally global as it would have to be – would almost certainly appeal to the original proponent and his supporters. The only minor issue at this stage is that heads of state / commanders in chief would have an unfair advantage over the common man. Nuclear arsenals should therefore be made accessible (and purchasable) to the public prior to this revolutionary next step in the evolution of human ex-society. Tally ho!

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    PZ, once again, fails spectacularly to look at the real world evidence:

    The consequences of intermarriage between first cousins often have serious impact on the offspring’s intelligence, sanity, health and on their surroundings.

    And who can argue that this emphasis of muslims on marriage with other muslims,
    …which for most muslims mean only the a majority of the population in which you live, + a majority of the populations of several nearby/contiguous nations. In Indonesia, you might in practice be limited only to people who live your island!…

    …does NOT have “serious impact on … their surroundings”?

    Country after country where muslims are the majority have higher mean surface temperatures (averaged across the entire country) than, say, Massachusetts, where you have large Catholic proportion AND quite a few large protestant denominations (some of whom even started there).

    Muslims: the cause of desertification and tropical rain forests across broad swaths of Africa and Asia.

    Can anyone doubt that they are also the cause of AGW?

    “Serious impact on surroundings” is an understatement!

  11. Georgia Sam says

    Substitute “negro” for “muslim” & that paragraph reads like white supremicist literature of the 19th & early 20th centuries.

  12. Erp says

    “the genetic damage done to their gene pool since their prophet allowed first cousin marriages 1,400 years ago are most likely massive.”

    Seems to ignore that first cousin marriages existed well before that time (even in the Tanakh where Jacob’s two wives [Rachel and Leah] are his first cousins and Abraham insists that his son Isaac’s wife be a relative [Rebecca is his first cousin once removed]).

    The Catholic church did for a time (9th century [though possible a bit later] until early 13th century) prohibited marriages out to and including sixth cousins which probably meant most marriages were illegal unless one spouse had moved a long way before marrying (how many people know all their 6th cousins and nearer, how many even know any of their 6th cousins). It did provide a way out of a marriage, since divorce was not allowed, for someone with clout (e.g., a king) since a close examination of both spouse’s family trees would probably show it was illegal and so should be annulled. One French king had to go to Kiev to find a wife who was both sufficiently royal yet not too closely related.

    The Catholic church still forbids first cousin and near marriages though dispensations may be granted for nearer relationships (up to and including uncle/niece), dispensations which were often granted to royals, generation after generation.

  13. ethicsgradient says

    The actual author (why Dollard won’t ‘credit’ him, I don’t know) was Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist, back in 2010 (the original was on ‘europenews.dk’, a website devoted to scaremongering about Muslims, it seems; if PZ doesn’t want to link to the Dollard version, I won’t give a direct link to the original either). He seems a prolific anti-Muslim writer, and is now trying to start the Danish version of Pegida: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/28800-first-anti-islam-march-by-pegida-movement-fizzles-in-denmark (there’s a link to his original in that article).

  14. says

    Of course we can’t go to war against those inbred European royal families. Last time the royal cousins had a spat nearly 20 million of their loyal subjects died. Now lets do the math. It took 4 years (1914-1918) to kill 20 million. with a Muslim population of 1.5 billion to kill, the armaments business looks good for another 300 or so years. Actually since the 20 milion was casualties on both sides that means about 3 billion have to die so make that 600 years.

  15. laurentweppe says

    Aren’t traditional Catholics and Jews pretty big on no “outside” marriages?

    In theory, traditional Catholicism frowns upon consanguinity: you’re not supposed to marry even your fifth degree cousin; in practice, the european nobility’s endogamy led to a lot of papal dispensations.

  16. says

    How vile do someone’s comments have to become before it is no longer dickish to start making fun of his name?

  17. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    There seems to be a typo in the title of this post…

  18. Saad says

    This fool must think Muslim is an ethnicity.

    The number of ethnic groups that comprise the global Muslim population is probably going to be in the several dozens.

  19. says

    1. Converts. they are a thing. As the racists are always quick to remind us, Islam is a religion. Your spouse can just easily become a muslim.
    2. Last time I looked my cousin was still an atheist, despite having been married to a muslim man for 20 years. With a job and no headscarf and only two children.

  20. David Marjanović says

    the European royal families.

    The European noble family, singular. :-)

    dispensations which were often granted to royals

    Sometimes also to other people; there’s one in Hitler’s recent ancestry.

    The number of ethnic groups that comprise the global Muslim population is probably going to be in the several dozens.

    Hundreds. Several very diverse places – the Caucasus, the Pamir, central Sudan – are majority-Muslim.

  21. Okidemia says

    Two cents. (well, two comments –for one, good spring deal).

    1. I remember spead reading (i.e. title/abstract at most, I did not dig into the study details and do not know if said study is good enough) that second degree cousine mariage in humans is what produces the fitest offspring (i.e. not only better than higher levels of consanguinity, but also better than average panmictic offspring).
    So the map doesn’t tell us much but might also be mapping average human fitness. (I don’t know what was hiding behind “fitness” in the specific study, I think it was something like early years offspring health –but don’t rely on my mere memories).

    2. If North African & Middle East population is indeed that inbred and you can clearly see they are doing that well in their lives, I’d be more tempted to conclude that the gene pool is rather good instead. In short, you’d rather run there to interbreed.

    Both 1 & 2 lead to different conclusions about the issue anyway.

    It’h’s always striked me as to how supremacysts never realise that F1 from inbred parents is way superior a genetic solution to “gene pool (dis)closure”. They could also use amazing words like heterosis and overdominance at length if they ever discover genetics… :-)

  22. Dunc says

    I’m not getting out of the boat to find out, but does anyone know if this chap is one of those varieties of Christian who believes that the entire human race is descended from two individuals, and then went through a bottleneck of around half-a-dozen some time later?

  23. says

    Dollard is a dullard.

    The immediately noticeable thing about that map is geographic mobility. The places where the rates of cousin marriages are highest are countries where people can least afford to relocate, either for financial reasons (e.g. Pakistan) or geographical (e.g. Brazil). Most of the people there will likely spend their entire lives within a few kilometres of where they were born. The countries with wealth and transportation have much lower rates. If such a map were done of, say, England in the 12th century, it would likely be pitch black.

    There is a muslim country where this has become a serious problem, but not by choice. The population has been isolated by an occupying military force and constructed walls, limiting the gene pool and causing an abnormally high rate of hermaphrodism.

  24. says

    Let’s not forget Deliverance as inbreeding improves banjo playing in Georgia. Let’s see, retrievers and poodles, definitely inbred, so labrodoodles are less likely to be terrorists.

    A religious war with Islam, for these guys, serves the same purpose as it did for kings and the Crusades. Political power.

    Let’s see if Bibi manages to sell hungry and out of work and homeless Israelis that hatred of Iran is all they need.

    Sheesh, only thing more stupid than religion is politics.

  25. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Right-wing American Christian insulting the inbred.

    Talk about biting the hand that feeds…