The Ethics of Incest

What do you have to say about incest? Well, for many people, the topic of incest raises serious implications and argument ranging from medical, moral, social, religious, psychological among other aspects. Many cultures around the world classify incest among the forbidden things; such relationships are described as taboos if not an abomination. No matter how scandalous incest is, some people still can’t stay away from the pants of their relatives. There are those who argue that consenting adults should be allowed to marry or engage in a romantic relationship with their relatives, even if they are sister and brother. Some people find it hard to resist the urge for their sisters, brothers, cousins, mother, father, antis, and uncles. However, the outcome of incest presents some disastrous consequences. This article focuses on the top 10 outstanding facts about incest that will help your curiosity around the history and science behind incest.

Genetic Sexual Attraction

Genetic Sexual Attraction - Incest
Mother and daughter in the state of Oklahoma facing incest charges after authorities learned they were legally married earlier this year.

In a standard family, it is not possible for a person to fall hopelessly in love with a close relative, but in cases where the siblings were separated at birth, when they reunite, 50% of them fall in love with each other. This condition is known as Genetic Sexual Attraction where family members develop obsessive feelings for each other. It is a common phenomenon to the extent that post-adoption agencies advise their clients of the condition. Little is known about GSA because no one is proud and courageous enough to admit that they are sexually attracted to their relatives. Many argue that sexual attraction to relatives does not usually result in sex, but when it occurs, it is generally between reuniting sisters and brothers. It is considered different from traditional incest acts, and many are repulsed for having thoughts of having sex with relatives they grew up with.

According to Freud human beings are always repressing incestuous urges, a sentiment that recent studies seem to conquer with. The research indicates the people are sexually attracted to partners who resemble their opposed sex parents. Females are romantically attracted to men whose central features of their upper face look like their biological fathers while men chase after sexual partners whose characteristics are similar to their mothers’ lower part of the face. Other studies revealed that men and women are romantically obsessed with partners whose eyes, hair color resembles that of their opposed sex parents. The reason suggested by scientists is that people tend to believe that if the partners have a familiar face, they are more trustworthy and cooperative, and they are attracted to them naturally.[1][2]

The Effects of Inbreeding

The Effects of Inbreeding

In many cultures around the world, consenting adults have the right to breed with whomever they want. When people with different genetic composition mate, they have a 50% chance of passing on recessive genes to the offspring. In many cases, these recessive genes usually are dormant. However, when humans with the same genetic composition breed, they pass on the autosomal recessive disorder. A condition that is transferred through genetic inheritance of recessive genes and it increases the significant rate of health disorders such as albinism, cystic fibrosis, single cell anemia among others. More effects of inbreeding encompass increased infertility, low birth weights, facial asymmetry, neonatal mortality, slow growth rate, heart conditions, congenital disabilities. First-degree siblings inbreeding result in autosomal recessive disorder, severe intellectual deficit, and congenital physical malfunction, premature deaths, mental disability increases by 50% in the offspring. Is it worth the risk?[3][4]

Even Plants Avoid Incest

Even Plants Avoid Incest

Cultural taboos and abomination help humans avoid inbreeding, but plants rely on a complex internal warning system to help prevent incest. Plants, being part of the living things benefit from genetic diversity during breeding. Naturally, plants are hermaphroditic; they have both female and male reproductive organs making self-pollination easy. However, plants have developed a mechanism to help curb self-pollination; for instance, tobacco, petunias among other plants have developed self-incompatibility mechanism to reduce incestuous pollination. To ensure self-incompatibility mechanism work plants produce S-RNase substance which destroys genetically nonviable pollen, including pollen from its male organs, once it lands on the pistol. The plant withholds the release of S-RNase when it identifies a genetically viable pollen grain on its pistil to allow it to fertilize the ovary.[5]

The Ethics of Incest

The Ethics of Incest

Some people think incest is okay for the adults consenting to have sex with no intention to reproduce through family planning, homosexuality, and sterilization. However, many countries across the world have different laws and regulations that govern human behavior and conduct. For instance, in Britain, a 21-year-old man was caught having sex with his 18 years old sister, and the law outlines that they should be convicted for incest. The issues raised by defending lawyer criticizes moral and ethical views that incest results in deformed offspring, repugnant and unnatural as outdated beliefs.

Further, the Colombia University professor David Epstein was charged for third-degree incest for having sex consensual with his 24-year-old daughter in 2010. The daughter is considered a “protected class” by the law, so she was not charged with anything. It is evident that in controversial incest cases, the older sibling culprit is assigned more accountability as compared to the younger, even if they are in adult ages. Epstein’s lawyer questioned the moral ethics of homosexuality about incest, eliciting a heated debate across the world. Which one is more disgraceful, incest or homosexuality? Some postulates that homosexuality is orientational while incest is not. Abolishing gay relationship means denying the gay community from forming families, but banning incest, the relatives can find alternative partners to start a family with.[6][7]

Inbreeding Destroyed the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty

Inbreeding Destroyed the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty

The Spanish Habsburg Dynasty collapsed in 1700 when the last member, King Charles II died without an heir to the throne, ending the Habsburg family line. The Habsburg dynasty practiced incest with the desire to retain power within the family. Many royal dynasties around the world encouraged incest with the purpose of upholding the purity of royal bloodlines, only to result in their downfall in the long run such as ancient pharaoh dynasty and the Habsburg. The Habsburg Dynasty prioritized in keeping leadership illustrating that from the 1550s approximately 10 out of 11 marriages was between blood relatives, until the Charles II era. Charles II of Spain was a descendant of many inbreeding generations that resulted in his mental and physical disability, infertility, slow growth, and he could not speak until the age of four. Charles II was a product between uncle-niece marriage, and he was 95.3% traceable to 5 ancestors. Charles II was the most inbred offspring ever in the world and had an enormous misshapen head, huge tongue, and his jaws were so low that his two rows of the tooth could not meet. The dynasty diminished a long time ago, but the name remains among the dentist by naming the prognathism. The name “Habsburg jaw” is the named after the impotent, drooling, big-headed king.[8][9]

The Incest Cult in Australia

The Incest Cult in Australia

How would it look like to discover a village composed of a family that practiced incest as a cult? It happened in Australia. Perhaps one of the worst cases of incest and child abuse in the world. The court documents revealed a family describes as the ‘Colt Clan’ was discovered living in a rural New South Wales composed of 40 relatives of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, practiced incest and produced children. An anonymous tip notified the authorities that the children of that village were not attending school. The village was shambolic as there was no water system, sewage system, toilets, baths. The population of the village encompassed 40 adults and children who were filthy and timid.

The DNA test revealed that all the children except one were the product of incest among siblings. Further scrutiny revealed that all the 40 people came from the just one set of grandparents composing of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and children. The incest was between brother sister, father-daughter, aunt-nephew, uncle and nice, grandparents and grandchildren, mother and son among others. The children also had sex with each other at a young age. The children demonstrated several defects and disorders caused by inbreeding among siblings. The children showed a low level of intelligence, underweight cases, severe psoriasis, difficulty in speech. For example, kids at 14 and 15 years of age were unable to use even a toilet paper.[10]

We Are All Related Anyway

The geneticists studied the DNA of different people around the world, and the DNA mitochondria study reveals that all living human beings belong to one of the two human lineages. The first lineage is that of people are born in Africa, and the other descent encompasses people from the rest of the world. Among the primates, humans share more mitochondria DNA. The geneticist’s highlight that the mitochondria DNA of two humans illuminated about half as many differences than the DNA of two other primates of same species. This indicates that human being’s species have the latest common ancestor as compared to other primates. While tracing the genetic DNA of humans, all humans originated from a single woman named Mitochondria Eve who lived about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

Further, all blue-eyed people can trace their ancestry to a single common ancestor who lived between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, before that all human beings were brown eyed. Blued eyed people are dominant in Europe as compared to other parts of the world, and scientists believe it’s just a feature for attracting mating partners. European heritage population can be traced to a set of ancestors who lived about a thousand years ago according to the findings from 2000 people’s DNA study. In Europe people who tend to live close to each other tend to share a common ancestor. UK people are more related to people from Ireland while attains a unique grouped of Europeans.[11][12]

Tut Was Weak, Frail, and Inbred

Tut Was Weak, Frail, and Inbred

King Tut was perhaps one of the most famous pharaohs of the Egyptians, and his golden tomb was discovered in 1922, complete with over 2000 treasures. The Egyptian royal families encouraged incest to maintain the purity of the royal bloodline and to retain power within the family. The treasures encompass royal throne decorated with silver and stones, weapons, jewelry chest among others, giving the impression of a young, strong, handsome Egyptian king. However, studies have revealed that King Tut was weak, frail, disabled walking with the help of a cane, and affected with multiple malaria infections. The significant discovery, however, was in the genetic DNA which revealed that his parents were brother and sister explaining the congenital disabilities degenerative disorders called the Kohler disease. He married his half-sister Ankhesenamun explaining the reason he did not leave an heir to the throne. The research also discovered in his golden tomb two mummified corpses of fetuses, due to inbreeding effects. Inbreeding is the possible reason that destroyed this ancient Egypt’s royal family.[13]

Inbreeding Among Animals

Inbreeding Among Animals

Animals such as dogs breed within the same litter. But if the inbreeding is done for generations, the species start experiencing the same adverse effects as humans like reduced fertility, high mortality rate, slow growth rate, and increased cases of diseases. Just like plants, animals have mechanisms that they use to avoid incest. A female lemur can identify the male with similar genes to hers by smelling pheromones from his genitals. Mice also use smell to select a favorite mating partner with different genetic makeup from hers; she abandons her relatives’ brothers to mate with a different partner hence controlling incestuous breeding.

Further, hyenas have no smelling ability, but they do not inbreed. Female hyenas only mate or breed with males that have just joined their group or the males that do not belong to the same group, forcing the sexually active male hyenas to leave their group and enter a different group for breeding and mating. However, there are few exceptions where incest is beneficial to the breeds. For instance, bedbugs inbreed to increase both in population and strength to resist pesticides. Such cases are limited.[14][15]

Evolutionary Strategies Against Incest

Evolutionary Strategies Against Incest

Evolutionary scientist and psychologist, Debra Lieberman research findings indicate that observing mother care for a baby is an indication that sexual attraction to siblings is a taboo. Youngest siblings are cared for and raised by the same set of parents, reduces or somewhat discourages sexual attraction to siblings. Based on this, it is clear why it is still a taboo to have a romantic relationship between adopted siblings. Further, genetic studies reveal that couples with closely related genetic makeup registered the lowest sexual satisfaction. Women who are genetically similar to their mates were more likely to cheat on their partners.

Females are more concerned about their offspring’s genetic fitness than male, explaining why women are more opposed to incest than men. According to a genetic study on mate selection, it was discovered that women could sniff out the best genetic mate to father their offspring. Women are attracted to men who are genetically different from them according to the smelly t-shirt study involving smelling the scent of T-shirts worn by different men for three days and rate them for intensity, pleasantness, and sexiness. It is incredible to reveal that genes are instrumental in not only mate/partner selection but also influence the level of sexual satisfaction among partners.[16][17]

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