September 10, 2007
Will Polygamists Use Sex Selection Technology?

Why aren't polygamists already using sex selection reproduction technology to avoid large scale expulsion of teenage boys from their sects?

Over the last six years, hundreds of teenage boys have been expelled or felt compelled to leave the polygamous settlement that straddles Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.

Disobedience is usually the reason given for expulsion, but former sect members and state legal officials say the exodus of males the expulsion of girls is rarer also remedies a huge imbalance in the marriage market. Members of the sect believe that to reach eternal salvation, men are supposed to have at least three wives.

Does God stand in the way of efforts to stop death from disease or from problems during birth? Of course not. God doesn't stand in the way of progress. Surely God would approve of efforts to enlist technology to surpass the Beach Boys "Two Girls For Every Boy" (and yes it was Jan and Dean but Brian Wilson co-wrote it). This would work especially well if the boys were genetically engineered to think in six part harmony.

Nowadays if men want three girls for every boy they need to find out how to get rid of two boys out of three.

Mr. Gilbert estimates that 100 boys from his school class, or 70 percent of them, have been expelled or left on their own accord; there is no way to verify the numbers.

Sex selection would avoid the need to expel boys and therefore eliminate one cause of hostility toward the polygamists. They could create communities that have less internal strife as well. Parents who expel their sons can't be happy about it. Some of them must feel terrible about it.

I predict some polygamists will eventually embrace sex selection reproductive technologies. Also, once the neurological mechanisms behind jealousy are elucidated expect polygamists to genetically engineer girl offspring to not feel jealousy in polygamist marriages.

The question we need to ask: Will polygamy still pose a problem for the larger society if a society contains three times as many women as men and if women don't feel jealous in polygamous marriages? For example, will polygamous marriages make married people more inward oriented toward family and will this reduce the social capital of societies by reducing volunteerism and civic spirit?

Update: Some people are under the misimpression that the only way to do sex selection is either to selectively abort or to use in vitro fertilization and embryo selection before implantation. Not so. Microsort can partially separate X and Y carrying sperm and shift the odds of births heavily toward boys (73% accuracy) or girls (88% accuracy). Therefore only artificial insemination is needed for sex selection. Over 8 girls for every boy if only the X selected sperm are used.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 September 10 09:47 PM  Bioethics Reproduction

Kurt9 said at September 10, 2007 10:32 PM:

Why don't polygamist use sex selection technology in order to eliminate the births of "excess" males?

Randall, That is a damn good question and one I would like to know the answer to as well. Is there any way you can find a polygamist and ask them that?

rsilvetz said at September 10, 2007 11:09 PM:

Well, as a FEMA guy once let slip in an interview, if you want to properly pacify a population, the easiest thing to do is blind the males with excess females... so polygamy + science + excess women =?= world peace...

James Bowery said at September 11, 2007 12:58 AM:

Sex selection for females has been proposed in some white nationalist circles as a way, not of supporting polygyny within those circles, but of combating race replacement by races more adapted to polygyny. The big problem for whites, as perceived by most white nationalists, is not just reduced overall fertility, but the harvesting of the prime breeding females due to high demand by males of other ethnies, thereby gutting the breed of its best lineages. The idea, then, is that sex selection produces white females destined for interracial mating and that this would be more acceptable for many potential white mothers who might, otherwise, be averse to bearing children sired by white men. If enough such potential mothers were convinced they were providing females for other races, enough prime females could be retained to maintain the best lineages of the race at or above replacement reproductive levels. Basically, this kind of sex selection uses the sexual aggression by foreign males against their races by reducing the damage to the white race to acceptable levels. I've produced a stock and flow model of some of the dynamics here in a post titled: First Model of Euroman's Ethnosexual Dynamics focusing primarily on the unintentional consequences of delayed motherhood hence artificial insemination -- which produces 2/3 female births.

mats-Erik Pistol said at September 11, 2007 1:14 AM:

In a future world with sex selection as well as other types of selection we will see a very interesting development when different religious groups select offspring according to their believes. Polygamy is only one example. Who has the power in polygamists societies ? It is commonly assumed to be the men but women also has considerable power in polygamy acccording to Janet Bennion, Dorothy Solomon-Allred, Joseph Ginat, Irwin Altman and others. The power of selecting offspring with likely be with the priests which mostly tend to be men though in most religious groups including FLDS (polygamous mormons). Thus what men want will be selected for, despite the "invisible" power of women in these groups.
Furthermore the most successful groups will take over the earth and the most successful ones are the ones with the most offspring whether we, the priests or George Bush like it or not. Evolution will make groups selecting for the maximum of offspring to take over, at least as long as the group can keep its identity. Evolution per se will not keep religious belief alive, unless there is selection for it, and I doubt that will be the case in the future. Evolution based on conscious choice is no different than normal evolution in its basic aspects (maximum number of surviving, healthy and so on, offspring) but will give amazing consequences and very very interesting competition among the genes. Unfortunately society has sped up so tremendously that it seems impossible to make predictions at all with respect to evolution. Evolution will not disappear though even in a transhuman society.

Alan Mayer said at September 11, 2007 8:33 AM:

Two girls for every boy: Surf City, Jan and Dean. Not that any cares, or even should care.

E.S said at September 11, 2007 9:21 AM:

That answer to that question is easy if you think of it from an evolution stance since the parents would prefer a boy since they would have 3 females to impregnate and so pass more kids along with their genes. So there is no reason to select females since you would only be doing others a favour and not your own genetic line.

Half Canadian said at September 11, 2007 10:50 AM:

I'd be willing to bet that religious organizations, like the FLDS (polygamist Mormons) are against abortion (even sex-selecting abortion) and that this would be a tough barrier to overcome.

As far as the evolution favoring the biggest breeders, this may be, but that doesn't mean they'll dominate economically, militarily, etc. Right now, the 1st world has TFRs (Total Fertility Rates) below 2 (including immigrants), but who dominates the world?

ad said at September 11, 2007 12:38 PM:

The question we need to ask: Will polygamy still pose a problem for the larger society if ... women don't feel jealous in polygamous marriages?

That's a pretty big if.

Randall Parker said at September 11, 2007 4:40 PM:

Alan Mayer,

But the Two Girls For Every Boy song was co-written by Brian Wilson and Jan Berry. So I saw a Beach Boys connection and wasn't trying for perfect correctness in the reference. I wanted to connect the 6 part harmony of Brian's brilliant musical mind to group marriage since group marriage is greatly helped by multi-part harmony.

Digressing: I think that was one of the songs that made Capitol mad at Brian for collaborating with Jan. Jan was signed to a different label whose name escapes me.

Randall Parker said at September 11, 2007 4:44 PM:


But families with many girls could trade girls with other families in order to get multiple girls for each of their sons.

Half Canadian,

Sex can be selected for pre-conception. I'm thinking of the Microsort technology for separating sperm with X and Y chromosomes.

Randall Parker said at September 11, 2007 4:50 PM:


I figure it is just a matter of time until we discover genetic variations that will eliminate sexual jealousy.

Once genetic engineers produce the genetic sequences that will avoid female jealousy then there's the question of whether some religious cult will make use of these sequences. I think this will be too tempting for all the polygamy sects to pass it up.

anon said at September 11, 2007 7:45 PM:

It's notable that sex selection for females would increase the population growth rate. Girls are the bottleneck for population growth.

E.S said at September 12, 2007 7:21 AM:

You are right Randall but you have to think that the preferment for males would be unconscious and trading females is to much a conscious effort and would go also against cultural paradigm even for polygamists.

A rude dude said at September 12, 2007 10:23 AM:

The problem with sex selection technology for selecting against males is that you can't tell what type of males you will end up with until they are a few years old, and presumably the patriarchs want a male heir or two ...

Randall Parker said at September 13, 2007 5:48 PM:


The unconscious (and even conscious) desire of the women is to have no competing wives. Yet there they are in polygamous marriages.

It would just take one leader of one sect to think this is a great idea for one sect to start doing it. He'd just have to proclaim that having 3 girls for every boy is a great idea and the sect would fall in line and start using the services of Microsort.

The Microsort services would be very cost effective for polygamists because they could use one vial of separated sperm and put a third of the vial in each of 3 wives at once. Given that women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles they'll all be fertile near the same time.

E.S said at September 16, 2007 1:40 AM:


You are probably right that you might find a sect leader that might do that, even though I think it's still not that likely since the leader himself will be assured multiple wives and his wish to have evryone have the same is doubtful. This way they can get rid of males who are not sucessful at finding the wives and not suited to the sect more easily and keep those who are. When I was talking of unconscious preferment for males so they can propogate their genes I meant the parents not the women's, although I guess both preferments can be twisted if they are placed in an environment with different values.

You have to think though that this sects tend to be religious and they tend to be inclined towards an au natural way of reproducing even Microsort services would be a push for them. You never know in the future once the technology is slightly more mainstream you might find the kind of scenarios you are thinking of.

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