"WEIRD" theory~Catholic prohibitions on marriage
#1
This book's getting a lot of attention among those who, like me, like "big ideas" types of long reads....I add that in the Irish language, our word for "cousin" means roughly "fourth degree of prohibition" (as in to mate with or to marry....)

THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous
By Joseph Henrich


>According to Joseph Henrich, some unknown early church fathers about a thousand years later promulgated the edict: Don’t marry your cousin! Why they did this is also unclear, but if Henrich is right — and he develops a fascinating case brimming with evidence — this prohibition changed the face of the world, by eventually creating societies and people that were WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic.

In the argument put forward in this engagingly written, excellently organized and meticulously argued book, this simple rule triggered a cascade of changes, creating states to replace tribes, science to replace lore and law to replace custom. If you are reading this you are very probably WEIRD, and so are almost all of your friends and associates, but we are outliers on many psychological measures.<
 
This taken from a NYT review which I excerpt from above and below. 

>The centerpiece of Henrich’s theory is the role played by what he calls the Roman Catholic Church’s Marriage and Family Program, featuring prohibitions of polygamy, divorce, marriage to first cousins, and even to such distant blood relatives as sixth cousins, while discouraging adoption and arranged marriages and the strict norms of inheritance that prevailed in extended families, clans and tribes. “The accidental genius of Western Christianity was in ‘figuring out’ how to dismantle kin-based institutions while at the same time catalyzing its own spread.”

The genius was accidental, according to Henrich, because the church authorities who laid down the laws had little or no insight into what they were setting in motion, aside from noticing that by weakening the traditional bonds of kinship, the church got rich fast. One of Henrich’s goals is to devalue the residual traces of “Great Man” history, so he would be reluctant to rely on any ancient documents that came to light recounting the “real” reasons for the church’s embattled stand on these issues. As a good evolutionist, he can say, “The church was just the ‘lucky one’ that bumbled across an effective recombination of supernatural beliefs and practices.” But as for why the church fathers enforced these prohibitions so tenaciously against resistance over the centuries, this is still a bit of a mystery.<
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#2
Three articles to read together:
Excerpt from the second article:

Quote:The BBC’s research, for example, found that that while British Pakistanis accounted for roughly 3.4% of all births, “they had 30% of all British children with recessive disorders and a higher rate of infant mortality.”
T h e   D u d e t t e   A b i d e s
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#3
A fascinating thesis, but there's a small problem. The Church did not come up with the degrees of prohibited kinship. She simply adopted the existing degrees in Roman Civil Law which had existed for centuries. She took over the degrees and the method of calculating them lock, stock, and barrel. It is true that for about four centuries (early 9th to the early 13th), She added a few degrees, but they were rescinded at the Fourth Council of the Lateran, and at the same time the method of calculation was changed.

From Wikipedia:

Quote:Initially, canon law followed Roman civil law until the early 9th century, when the Western Church increased the number of prohibited degrees from four to seven. The method of calculation was also changed to simply count the number of generations back to the common ancestor. This meant that marriage to anyone up to and including a sixth cousin was prohibited. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 decreed a change from seven prohibited degrees back to four (but retaining the same method of calculating; counting back to the common ancestor)


And, it's pretty obvious that, except for the explicitly Biblically prohibited relationships (parent-child, sibling marriage, etc.) it was very easy to get a dispensation. The reason Henry VIII was so upset  with the Pope was that it was normally just a matter of asking and it was granted. 

However, Queen Catherine happened to be the Emperor's aunt and the Pope couldn't afford to have the entire House Habsburg POed at him. The number of cousin marriages and uncle-niece marriages that took place in the nobility during the middle ages and renaissance is mind boggling.

And, I'm sure it moved down the social ladder as well. Somehow, I doubt that if Uncle Wilhelm had a thriving blacksmithy and no sons, and Cousin Griselda was willing, that the smithy would pass out of the family.

In other words, I'm not at all convinced that the 'program' was nearly as rigid as he indicates, tho I'm sure it was probably a contributing factor to our 'weirdness'.
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