GENMSC-L ArchivesArchiver > GENMSC > 1996-09 > 0842320387
From: "R. Leutner" <>
Subject: Re: Same sex "marriage," etc etc
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 20:53:07 -0500
You have said some very harsh things about one of the most thoughtful and
helpful frequent posters in this group. I will not comment further. You
obviously feel very strongly about some issues.
You did, however, ask for some corroboration for what you consider to be a
wildly exaggerated statistic regarding rates of error in paternity
attributions. You might take a look at the much-cited _Albion's Seed_ by
David Hackett Fischer, which for the period ca 1700-1750 notes prenuptial
pregnancy rates as follows for the cultural regions he has studied:
Massachusetts/Greater New England, 10-20%; Virginia/Tidewater South,
20-40%; Delaware Valley/ NJ, PA,DE,Northern MD, 5-15%;
Backcountry/Southern Highland 40%.
Now there are those who consider Fischer something of a sort of
neo-conservative re-revisionist, but I haven't seen much fault taken with
his basic facts. Granted, the prenuptial pregnancy rate does not say
anything directly about the kinds of ambiguity in paternity that Tom's
cited study addresses, but these numbers certainly do suggest that there
was in the places cited rather of lot of premarital romping going on.
It doesn't seem at all unlikely to me that in the context of a prenuptial
pregnancy rate in double-digit range, sometimes as high as 40%, there
could easily be an "error" rate of 5% as to paternity of first-born
children, if not often as high as 30% (I think we will all grant that
Weimar-era Hamburg--I believe you are simply wrong to talk about Nazi
times in this context--might have been a little on the disorderly side).
And that 5% cumulated over even a few generations really does undermine
our claims about "biological descent" to an unknowable degree.
These facts & speculations have not much at all, of course, to do with
whatever it is that bugs some people about recording non-traditional
information in their family histories, but that's another set of issues.
Iowa City IA
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