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"Recreational genomics," 4+ years on

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanJanuary 22, 2012 11:45 PM


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In an exchange with Mark Shriver, I was pointed to this 2007 position paper in Science, The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry Testing. It's an interesting historical artifact. Much of the critique was aimed at AncestrybyDNA, but it can be generalized. Now that 23andMe has ~100,000 customers, have the things which they worried about come to be? Perhaps one of the more curious aspects of all this is that individuals no longer need to rely exclusively on the commercial gatekeepers if they have their raw genotype. I can accept some bioethical concerns about the implications of genetics. For example, if people use odds ratios too promiscuously in PGD. But the whole handwringing about the implications of a crisper genomic understanding of one's ancestry seems to me to be a clear case of intellectual stakeholders worried about democraticization. In other words, scholars whose bread & butter is "race matters" are not particularly excited by the prospect of their study subjects shifting from passive acceptance of the taxonomies which are imposed from the outside, to constructing their own identities from novel information.

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