25 October 2018

DNA test or fancy horoscope?

The Atlantic’s Sarah Zhang draws an intriguing picture of the state of genetic identity and the fundamental problems there are behind DNA analysis”:

First, the accuracy of these tests is unproven (…). But putting that aside, consider simply what it means to get a surprise result of, say, 15 percent German. If you speak no German, celebrate no German traditions, have never cooked German food, and know no Germans, what connection is there, really? Cultural identity is the sum total of all of these experiences. DNA alone does not supersede it.

Listening to 99 Luftballons or rooting for Germany in the World Cup is fairly trivial as these things go. But this wave of marketing campaigns encourages a way of thinking—that you can pick and choose which fractional parts of genetic identity to highlight when it makes for good cocktail-party conversation.

Basically those tests are DNA-branded horoscopes; if it makes people feel good and makes them happier, better people, then I’m a strong supporter. If it gives them excuses for being jerks or ignorant fools, then those companies have a responsibility of pedagogy.


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