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Incest and folk-dancing: why sex survives

15 October 2010

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Professor Steve Jones (UCL Biology)

Sir Thomas Beecham once said: "Try anything once but incest and folk-dancing" (he pointed out that brass bands, too, are all very well in their place, "in the open air and several miles away"). Sex with a relative is often frowned upon, but is in fact universal, for we all share ancestors in the recent past. On average, two randomly chosen Britons of European descent are sixth cousins, with their common ancestor alive in Darwin's day. Darwin himself was worried about the effects of close intermarriage, for he married his own first cousin. This lecture will talk about sex, about how inbreeding is an escape from true sexual reproduction, about how some creatures abandon sex altogether - and about how mating within the family is still surprisingly common in some populations (including some within Britain) although it may, at last, be on the way out.

Page last modified on 15 oct 10 12:52


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