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On Half Siblings

Jason Zinoman[1] suggests that before criticizing, the critic should divulge her bias: if you don’t like cherries don’t criticize your friend’s mom’s homemade cherry crumble. I, on the other hand, love cherries, but am still unsure about  half-siblings.  My bias exposed, understand my chuckles when I read that human reproduction based on anonymous sperm donors is on the brink of bringing Freud’s Totem und Tabu back to the best seller list.

A recent New York Times article brought to public attention that new Abrahams, and Isaacs live anonymously among us, some with 150 children each.[2] The new patriarchs are unknown to their offspring and, The Times fears, this ignorance might cause accidental incest among the half-siblings, and more problematically, spread disease.

There is a growing concern among parents, donors and medical experts about potential negative consequences of having so many children fathered by the same donors, including the possibility that genes for rare disease could be spread more widely through the population.

Using a loved, Times-inspired analytical tool, introspection into personal observations,[3] I would say that this article also[4] missed the point. Certainly, using sperm proved to have impregnated various women hundreds of times before is one way to have children. It is also a major way to separate biologically related people, amputate souls, and spread super-concentrated existential misery – all diseases in their own right.

I, for instance, am blessed with known half siblings. One, to continue the story, has refused to acknowledge my right to be. He thinks he knows his father best and within the limits of that knowledge the son persists that his father, now deceseased, never played with sperm in unfamiliar places.  Who’s to judge what unfamiliar meant in 1966.

While both products of Judaism, we find ourselves like Israel and Palestine tangled in the peace process. I am Palestine, though he calls me the West Bank. Of course, I considered having some of his receding hair line be mailed to me by certified mail and prove him wrong in a court of law. But what happens next? Tyler Perry’s  Medea’s family reunion? I did not see the movie.

I missed the moral of The Times story, so here is mine: children, don’t let your closest ones play with fire, but if you fail to stop them, read Seneca.


[1] The Positive that Comes from Negative Reviews. The New York Times, C5, September 6, 2011.

[2] Mroz, Jaqueline. From One Sperm Donor, 150 Children, The New York Times, D1, September 6, 2011

[3] See Hair. The Last (to Next) Generation.

[4] As the devoted potholeview.com reader knows.


  1. You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Excellent job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

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