The pride factor in DNA testing

John Terrell | 10/3/2018 | GeneticLiteracyProject.org

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Senator Elizabeth Warren recently got a DNA test to prove she is a Native American. The test showed she had .09 percent Native American heritage. Many news anchors proclaimed that this proved her right; that she deserved to be considered a minority. This silly case proves that many among us have become blind and irrational.

Beyond that it puts a spotlight on DNA testing in an effort to prove a special racial profile. But isn’t racial profiling a practice we as a nation are striving to eliminate? - Ed.


…many people today are sending off some of their spit or a used buccal swab to a for-profit genotyping service, such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe. People may have many different reasons—perhaps quite personal—but they may include discovering new relatives to connect with, perhaps even folks to invite for dinner next Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Whatever the motivations, the current popularity of commercial genetic profiling worries me for two reasons. One is that these companies may be promising results they can’t actually deliver. The notion, for example, that our genes can be used to trace our personal ancestry far back into the past—say, to Genghis Khan, the Emperor Charlemagne, or one of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt—makes little statistical sense. You may disagree, but to me this comes across as selling something more akin to snake oil than science.

What worries me most, however, is that companies offering personal genetic testing customarily seem to report back to those sending along a sample of their spit that they are a mix of different “ethnicities.” This is more than simply statistical nonsense. I fear doing this can also be dangerous. Claiming that it is possible to map ancestry in this fashion may be giving new visibility to discredited old ideas about ethnicity and race…Substituting words like “ancestry” or “heritage” for the disreputable old term “race” may sound like progress, but it isn’t. Read more.

Related: Monetizing your DNA

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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