1. TheDarkWriter
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    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    Is this incest?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TheDarkWriter, Jul 8, 2016.

    Is it incest for my MC to be involved with a woman whose separated from him by a thousand years? She related through him by a distant cousin he had a thousand years earlier I was wondering if this is okay?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like, they're genetically linked only a thousand years ago? Dozens and dozens of generations in between?

    If that's incest, most of the world is in trouble.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Where I live parent/child, siblings, and first cousins are off limits. Anything further afield than that is pretty much fair game.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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  5. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Incest is a human construct and will vary depending on who is doing the defining.
    @Wreybies states what are probably the commonly accepted dividing lines.
    I dated a cousin of mine for quite awhile and certain members of the family were less than pleased despite the fact I was adopted and had no blood ties whatsoever to the person I was dating. The entire family was aware of this yet to some folks it was still taboo.
    If we are to believe scripture then we are all inter-related (Adam & Eve, Noah/Noah's kids).
    Separated by a thousand years? I don't think most people would be put off by that. It could add an interesting layer to your story as the characters debate it.
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Shit .. I have grandparents on one side of my family that were first cousins. As far as today's society goes, I doubt anyone would consider your premise as incest.
     
  7. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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  8. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    To summarise the genetic basis (apologies for spelling out common knowledge and simplifying things):

    Because we inherit matching pairs of chromosomes (other than XY in males), we have 2 versions of every gene (1 from each chromosome in a pair). We think of the space where a particular gene sits on a chromosome as a locus (plural: loci). All the different versions of the same gene are called alleles. At any one locus, you could have two of the same allele (homozygous) or two different alleles (heterozygous). How genes determine how a person looks/functions varies, but lots of traits are only seen when the relevant locus is homozygous (this is called recessive inheritance). E.g. you get blue eyes only if both of your eye colour alleles are for blue eyes (if you have one blue and one brown allele, you'll have brown eyes).

    Incest became taboo because inbreeding raises the incidence of recessively inherited genetic disorders. In the overall population, the alleles for many of these diseases are rare, so you are very unlikely to inherit the two alleles you need to get the disease. Nonetheless, we have so many genes that all of us carry a few nasty alleles even though they're rare (but we only have one copy of each, so there's no sign of disease).

    If you breed with someone you're closely related to, you drastically increase the chance that your offspring inherit two copies of an otherwise rare allele. This is because both copies ultimately come from the same source: a common ancestor. The more generations lying between you and that common ancestor the less the chance is, because in the meantime lots of 'outside genes' have entered the pedigree to dilute the odds. The more common ancestors you have, the greater the odds (e.g. full siblings have two common ancestors - mother and father - while half siblings only have one).

    So consanguinity (= relatedness) is actually a measure of the probability of inheriting the exact same genes from the exact same source. As others have alluded to, every human on the planet has a common ancestor somewhere on the timeline, but usually with so many intervening generations that consanguinity is negligible. It seems that your characters' common ancestor is so distant that there would be little problem (although it's the number of generations rather than years separating them that is important).

    @ddavidv makes a good point though - taboos are emotional constructs, not scientific. They grow to encompass things they logically shouldn't (e.g. step-sibling pairings are genetically sound), and people set arbitrary rules about what's acceptable - e.g. first cousins (theoretical relatedness 12.5%) are out-of-bounds; second cousins (theoretical relatedness 6.25%) are okay. It could be a case of 'ignorance is bliss' for your characters (as I'm sure it is for heaps of people IRL). I know I felt conflicted when I found out that I shared a (reasonably uncommon) surname with someone I'd been checking out ;)
     
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  9. tropicanahana
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    tropicanahana Member

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    Society would not view that as incest. Though people would probably react funnily if they were all "we have the same great grea great great great great grandma!" I'd wager plenty of people end up with someone they are related to by an ancestor 1000 years ago :p

    Also, another point I'd make is about what they grew up considering eachother as. Did they always know they were related this way? Did they consider themselves cousins? In that case, they might feel , or make family feel it is ethically questionable.

    I have a personal example about this point- I grew up referring to my cousin's cousins as cousins... We all would hang out for family gatherings- her paternal cousins, aunts/uncles like my own, and vice versa as well. Genetically and legally though, they aren't my relatives... But when her male cousin developed a crush on me when we were teens- I was absolutely sickened by it! It feels like incest! He said "you know we aren't actually cousins, and we aren't little kids so we don't have to pretend to be cousins anymore..." but I just couldn't get past thinking of him as a cousin and his parents like my aunt & uncle. Maybe it's just me, IDK, my parents did not see anything odd about that! But my actual cousin is on my side - that it's kinda weird!
     
  10. TheDarkWriter
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    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    Well he's been around for many years the family is not exactly normal but she's very human. At first she doesn't know him and thinks he's an estrange half brother she's just now meeting as the story proceeds she remembers him from when she was little (but she knew him as an uncle) it's then revealed he's been part of the family for centuries passing himself off as a cousin, half brother, estranged son, etc.
     
  11. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Oh, he's immortal or nearabouts? That's slightly different than if they just shared a common ancestor around the time of the New Testament being written down.

    I guess at that point it would depend on how recent and strong his social connection to the family was, and if he's been breeding himself back into their gene pool.
     

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