Should incest be illegal?

Hobbes, of, asked a fairly good question:

Reuters brings us news of a most revolting sort:

A Columbia University professor has been arrested on charges of having sexual relations with his daughter, officials said on Friday.
David Epstein, 46, a political science professor at the Ivy League school, faces one count of incest in the third degree, according to a complaint filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
He had relations with his daughter, now 24, from 2006 through 2009, the complaint said. Epstein was released on his own recognizance after appearing before a judge on Thursday.

People on both sides of the political aisle can unite in condemnation of Prof. Epstein’s behavior.  After all, is not “incest” cited as one of those situations, right up there with “rape,” which is used to justify the right to abortion?  Committing incest is one of those acts so far beneath contempt as to be unworthy of defense.
But wait!  Look again at the specifics given in the article: Prof. Epstein’s daughter and accused incestuous lover is now 24, and the alleged relationship began in 2006.
Simple subtraction reveals a starting fact: The incestuous lovers were consenting adults.
For the world’s liberal elites, and especially at Ivy League far-leftist bastions like Columbia, there is one and only one question permitted when judging the acceptability of any sexual practice no matter how perverse or reprobate: Were the participants consenting?  Some professors even defend the ability of children to consent to sex; nobody questions the ability of 21-year-olds to make their own sexual choices.
On what grounds, therefore, can Prof. Epstein even be criticized, much less imprisoned?  Should not government stay out of consenting adult’s bedrooms?

It is a good question because incest is, after all, illegal.  Furthermore, consenting adults really should be allowed to do as they please within their home.  It is not clear to me why Hobbes directs his question at “liberals” and not at libertarians.  After all, liberals have not been battling nearly as much to do away with intrusive laws as left libertarians.
As for me, it seems clear that some things are reprehensible and abominable – but this does not automatically mean they should be illegal.  It is not the responsibility of government to pass, or enforce, laws regarding sexual morality – except (and here I am defining “government” broadly) when there are actual victims.  In this case, it appears there were no victims.
There are many sexual acts that some would consider incompatible with civilized society, while others would consider them unworthy of any attention whatsoever.  In the final analysis, no absolute consensus can ever be gained – and we should revert to the default position that moral judgments are up the the individuals involved.
Should it be illegal for a 57 year old man to date a 17 year old girl (in a nation where 17 is above the age of consent)?  A father in Germany thinks so.  But before you object that 17 is, in fact, below the age of consent in much of the U.S., ask yourself it if would truly have been different had the girl been a few days older.  If you were the father, would you then have refrained from castrating the boyfriend?  Homosexual unions are illegal in many parts of the world, and were illegal in the U.S. until recently.  “The Law” should only be used to protect those who cannot defend themselves.  Otherwise, it is simply a tool for one group of people to impose its morality upon another.
I have already made clear my position regarding crimes against society (in my treatise “Reflections of a Racist Father“).  even so, I do not believe that miscegenation should be illegal; it should be condemned by society.  In the absence of pro-miscegenation propaganda and forced integration, the practice would be rare enough that it would not be a threat to our civilization.  Likewise, incest poses no threat to our civilization.
What about the product of such a perverse union?  Unless we wish to engage in enforcement of “pre-crime“, it is not the responsibility of any coercive agency to punish people such as the above professor and his daughter – until, and unless, such offspring are born.  If, hypothetically, there were a couple that insisted on producing mutated inbreds, then the responsibility of separating them would fall upon their extended family or village.  Not upon government agency.  This is because the burden of supporting such offspring would fall, morally, upon the immediate community.  Since morality dictates that they should not stand by and watch the mutant children suffer, that same morality would give them the right to prevent their birth in the first place.  Jared Taylor uses this line of reasoning, regarding welfare, in his book “Paved with Good Intentions“.
When it comes to behaviors such as incest, there can be no position that both passes rational muster and satisfies the sensibilities of all political persuasions; it is a distasteful practice and a distasteful subject.  Any meaningful stance, regarding it, will be met with impassioned objections.  But, for what it’s worth, this is my opinion.

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7 Responses to Should incest be illegal?

  1. I rarely side with the sexually repressive forces. But I need to state that incest had been condemned world wide for biological reasons.
    Genetically, inbreeding is not good. It leads to a fairly high rate of genetically damaged offspring.
    Of course, as nowadays nobody cares if a pregnant mom is an alcoholic, or genetically damaged people procreate and have children, and there are even “religious” people who want to prevent mothers from testing for genetically defective offspring. Then maybe that genetic reason should not be cause for draconian punishment.
    Human-Stupidity does not agree with the constant raising of age of consent laws. But there certainly should be serious precautions against incest involving non-adults. Also certainly incest should not be encouraged.
    Human-Stupidity has been suggesting to replace most age of consent laws, sexual prohibition because of power imbalance etc with mandatory counselling requirement.
    Incest certainly should require a major amount of counselling.
    Very rare for us to side with sexually conservative opinion …….

    • jewamongyou says:

      Would you support laws against anything that would have the effect of greatly increasing the odds of genetically defective offspring? For example, exposing oneself to high levels of radiation?
      The difference is that incest has been recognized as a bad choice for a very long time. Its dangers are well-known in most societies. But radiation does not have this distinction. This is why incest is considered disgusting, unnatural and immoral (yes, even by me) while exposure to radiation is not.
      I suspect that incest is illegal not because of the damage it can cause, but because it is considered gross.

    • Jane says:

      I don’t think it’s necessary for sex to end with a kid, in this case it certainly hasn’t taken that route. Besides we allow same-sex couples and people with recessive genetic diseases have sex all the time, which is pretty lax biology-wise.
      If you’re prepared to fight for the right of consensual sexual relations, then you better be ready to man the guns for incestual relations as well. Because if you don’t, sooner or later preachy laws like this will be used as an excuse for homophobic laws, and after that we’ll be putting women into veils…

  2. Patrick says:

    Incest shouldn’t be illegal in my opinion. It may increase the chance of genetic defectiveness but should any sexual union where there is the chance of passing on genetic defects be illegal? And what if the people having incest don’t intend on having children, should it be illegal then?
    I understand people wanting to make sure things are well within society but ultimately peoples adulthood should be respected and we shouldn’t infantilize the public through legislating what they can and can’t do i the bedroom.

  3. fred says:

    Incest doesn’t cause genetic defects because incest doesn’t change the genes being reproduced. Incest merely causes pre existing genetic defects to show up in the phenotype. I wrote the following comment on another blog a few months ago. It discusses inbreeding & outbreeding depression. I think it will be a real eye-opener for most folks.

    I’m not a geneticist. But I do read and have a basic understanding of genetics. The problem is that most people don’t have a good enough grasp of the fundamentals for me to explain concepts via a comment on a blog. So you’re giving me two tasks. First, to explain genetics. Second, to explain how inbreeding and outbreeding depression works. Get ready to read a book.
    Chapter 1: Basics
    Genetics is based on a “code” in which 4 nucleotide subunits are arranged on a strand of DNA. Those nucleotide subunits are repeated over and over countless times in various combinations. Each combination is a message giving instruction on how to produce a protein.
    As cells divide they reproduce a copy of that code. But it’s not an exact copy. I’m sure you couldn’t crank out a book without a few typos and neither can those cells. Occasionally, a “typo” is an improvement but the vast majority of typos are misspelled. The result is that every time a cell divides mistakes are made and those mistakes are cumulative. They get passed on the next time, too.
    So the vast majority of typos aren’t beneficial. But neither are they particularly deadly. Because one inherits two copies of each – one from the mother and one from the father. In some cases, one copy will be dominant and the other recessive. And in some cases, one correct copy is enough to get one by without any serious problems.
    EVERYONE has typos (ie mistakes) in their DNA. But what might not be so obvious is why some people have diseases and others don’t. The reason for this can be found in the difference between genotype and phenotype. Genotype is one’s actual DNA. Phenotype is how that genotype is expressed.
    For example, one could have a serious typo on how to produce some essential chemical for the blood. But if it’s recessive then it might not actually show up in the phenotype. The person still carries the typo but they don’t have the disease.
    Chapter 2: Inbreeding Depression
    There are lots of different typos and different people carry different ones. Obviously, more closely related individuals are more likely to carry the same typos because they inherited more of their DNA from common ancestors. For example, if a black man carries the sickle cell gene then his children have a much higher chance of carrying that gene than two random blacks. Therefore, if he has a son and daughter who both inherit a copy of his sickle cell gene and they have 4 children together then the odds are that one of them will have no copies of the sickle cell gene, one of them will have two copies of the sickle cell gene, and two of them will have one copy and one normal copy. Statistically, that’s how it would work out.
    Based on what one sees expressed in the phenotype of the offspring people will look at that and say, “OH MY GOD! Incest is bad!” After all, one of the 4 kids got sickle cell anemia and died. Clearly, inbreeding was “bad” for the kid who died. But was it “bad” for the gene pool? Let’s take a closer look.
    The brother and sister each carried a copy of the sickle cell gene. And they had two children who each carried a copy of the sickle cell gene. So far it’s a wash. They also had a kid who carried no copies of the sickle cell gene and a kid who carried both copies of the gene. So it still looks like a wash doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Because one of the kids got sickle cell anemia and died before reproducing. From a statistical standpoint, the parents had 50% healthy genes and 50% sickle cell genes. Whereas the next generation to reproduce will have 66% healthy genes and 33% sickle cell genes. This is a net IMPROVEMENT to the gene pool.
    At this point, one might be tempted to say that if the brother and sister hadn’t inbred then no child would have inherited two copies of the gene and died. And I suppose that’s true. On the other hand, how do you think positive traits got passed along? If the negative traits aren’t showing up in the phenotype because no one is inbreeding then the positive traits aren’t showing up either. There’s no way around it – without inbreeding natural selection and evolution grind to a screeching halt temporarily.
    Why do I say it’s “temporary”? Because typos (ie mistakes) are still being introduced into the gene pool. And they’re still cumulative. Sooner or later there will be so many that the sh*t will hit the fan. There’s just no way around it.
    Historically, people didn’t move around as much as they do now. Most people all over the world married within their own tribe or village. They may not have been marrying siblings but they were marrying cousins. And there was a much higher infant and child mortality rate. A lot of it was environmental but some of it was genetic. As awful as that sounds, it helped to keep the gene pool healthy.
    But that’s not the case any more. Most people move around a lot. And they’re not marrying cousins. In the short term, the phenotypes tend to be a bit healthier. But it’s not because the gene pool is healthier. It’s not healthier. In fact, it’s less healthy. But it looks healthier because there is less inbreeding depression. But as explained above, inbreeding depression is how the gene pool keeps itself healthy.
    Chapter 3: Outbreeding Depression
    Now back to the drawing board for “outbreeding depression”. When most people think of miscegenation they usually think of “hybrid vigor”. Once again, that’s one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot but most people don’t understand. Hybrid vigor is actually pretty rare. In fact, when two different strains are bred one is likely to get offspring that resemble one parent or the other, something in between, or something weird that doesn’t look like anything.
    Just like its rare for a new mutation to be beneficial it’s similarly rare for “hybrid vigor” to occur. You can’t just throw any two strains together and expect an improvement. Scientists at monsanto work very hard to develop strains with hybrid vigor. What’s more, it usually only lasts for a generation. If you’ve ever planted the seeds from a hybrid plant then you know the seeds don’t produce plants like their parents. That’s why these seed companies keep the pure forms of the plants around to produce new seeds. I’ll explain why later on.
    To the extent that outbreeding lessens “inbreeding depression” it has short term benefits. But one need not go to another country to lessen “inbreeding depression”. One could do that by marrying someone from 50 miles away. Besides, I’ve already explained why inbreeding depression is actually necessary to keep the gene pool healthy. Short term benefits create long term disasters.
    But is it bad? Most mutations are considered “harmless” and don’t have much effect one way or the other. And what is miscegenation but the introduction of “mutations” from another race or species?
    Whether or not one mixed plant or animal has problems isn’t really the issue. Statistically, mixed race persons do have higher rates of many diseases. If you google a whole bunch of diseases with “biracial” you’ll find that in many cases mixed persons do have higher rates of the disease. In fact, there was a recent study that showed 34% of hapas experienced some form of mental illness compared to 17% of non mixed. A tendency towards mental illness is usually inherited. The brain is pretty complicated so one would expect problems to show up there. But asians and caucasians are only 30,000 years apart compared to 100,000 for other racial combinations. So I’m actually surprised there were that many problems. I’m sure the rate of race specific diseases such as sickle cell is less for mixed than non mixed. But as previously discussed, that isn’t necessarily a good thing for the gene pool.
    Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, what’s the real objection to “outbreeding”? Outbreeding depression. Genes don’t exist in isolation. It takes a lot of genes working together to create an eye or a brain or a kidney or anything else. Those genes form what is known as coadaptive gene complexes. You can’t just go swapping genes out with new ones and expect good things to happen. It might not be deadly and it might not be noticeable in one generation but it’s not a good thing. It’s like putting Ford parts on a Caddilac. You might get it to run but it’s probably not going to help it.
    But outbreeding depression is actually worse. From the wikipedia article on outbreeding depression:
    As a general rule of thumb, hybrid vigor (another way of saying a reduction of inbreeding depression) is strongest in first generation hybrids and gets weaker over time. In contrast, outbreeding depression can be relatively weak in the first generation. But outside the context of ruthless selective pressure, outbreeding depression will increase in power through the further generations as co-adapted gene complexes are broken apart without the forging of new co-adapted gene complexes to take their place.
    In other words, every generation those genes that didn’t evolve to work together get shuffled. So every generation there is a new way for them to screw up. And that’s assuming that no new genes are introduced (ie miscegenation). Genes that actually served a purpose and were beneficial in the coadaptive gene complex of one strain become pollution in the coadaptive gene complex of another.
    The only way to correct the situation is through what I said in Chaper 2 — ruthless natural selection. And that’s an awful high price to pay for a quickie.
    Now, I realize people may disagree with what I’ve written will likely be very personally difficult for some to read. And it flies in the face of all the myths and rumours to which they’ve been exposed. Plus, incest is just “nasty” isn’t it? But I don’t really care if what I’m saying is “nasty” or “racist” or violates “taboos”. My points are scientifically correct. Ultimately, it requires death to keep entropy at bay. If one doesn’t like it they should blame Mother Nature because she’s a cold-hearted bitch and doesn’t care if we like it or not.

  4. jewamongyou says:

    It seems that Slate Magazine has a good article on this – and the author comes to the same conclusion as I:

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