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From: "Roberta J. Estes" <>
Subject: RE: [DNA] 60 minutes on genetic problems of the Amish NOW
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2005 23:51:20 -0400
In-Reply-To: <42A7AF91.5010609@comcast.net>


As I've visited different locations researching my paper genealogy, in
two places I've found groups of Amish kids in the library glued to PCs
on the internet. One group in Halifax Virginia, which is wonderful but
a bit backward, and one in the heartland of Amish Indiana. It seemed so
odd to see the white bonnets of the gals peeking over the tops of
monitors, and then they went out and got into buggys to go home. Even
if the elders are a bit unworldly, by choice or otherwise, the kids
aren't.

Roberta Estes

-----Original Message-----
From: Bonnie Schrack [mailto:]
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 10:55 PM
To:
Subject: Re: [DNA] 60 minutes on genetic problems of the Amish NOW

I know this is a tiny bit off topic, but I hope I'll be forgiven, as I'd

like to comment on this. I saw the show, which focused on the growing
problem of genetic illnesses among the Amish, and it was interesting,
but I thought rather sensationalistic. Of course, I rarely watch TV for

just that sort of reason.

The show totally neglected what many others have pointed out, that the
Amish have been very effective at integrating people with a variety
mental and physical handicaps into their society, more than ours, which
tends to keep them apart. They also manage to care for them well
without health insurance.

It was impressive that a few Amish men agreed to a brief interview on
the genetic illnesses that plague their community, since they normally
will not appear on TV. Maybe after that stupid "reality" show featuring

Amish teens, the barriers are crumbling a tiny bit. Usually, though,
when Amish agree to cooperate with outsiders on a program like this,
it's for a reason -- they hope to get something for their community.
It's not clear to me what these fellows hoped to gain.

But from my experience, the ignorance displayed by these men about the
genetic causes of these disorders and how they might cope with them is
far from universal among the Amish. There is a lot of diversity among
them in knowledge of health, and some are well aware that these high
levels of rare genetic problems are caused by the extremely high levels
of consanguinuity in Amish communities.

There are plenty of Amish out there who know they have a problem, and
are actively encouraging young people to not choose marriage partners
who are closely related. The men interviewed were asked whether genetic

testing before marriage would ever be considered by the Amish as a way
of preventing these problems, and they said it would not be, at least
not anytime soon. This would have been a logical time for them to
mention that young people are already being discouraged from marrying
their close cousins, but nothing was said. I don't know whether that's
the result of editing or what.

The 60 Minutes people seemed bent on portraying the Amish as perverse in

their insistence on inbreeding despite the increasing prevalence of
genetic defects. The Amish culture has plenty of flaws, but they are
not really that stupid. With the endless footage of severely retarded
kids, it gave the impression that feeblemindedness is somehow typical of

Amish people, and that is far from the case.

Bonnie Schrack





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