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Health

The Genetics of Genealogy on Radio Open Source

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanFebruary 8, 2006 5:00 AM

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Radio Open Source is going to do a show on The Genetics of Genealogy. I've recently expressed some skepticism about many of the tests peddled by corporations and their scientist promoters, so I'm primed to jump into this discussion. I have already offered a few comments, and will probably post more as the show comes up. Until then, I also highly recommend John Hawks' comment on this topic. Update:On Point with Tom Ashbrook interviewed Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his new series African American Lives, which leverages genetic science in exploring the genealogy of many prominent black Americans. The genealogies of African Americans is one case where I do think that the new genetic science is relevant, unlike whites, blacks whose ancestors were enslaved don't have parish baptismal records that can serve as a spatial and temporal anchor in their self-conception of their lineage. Though the mtDNA and Y chromosomal tests leave much to be desired in precision (just because frequency of an allele is modal in a given area does not mean that one's ancestors derived from the modal area), they are certainly better than nothing (or fantasized conjecture). But, a second point is that I suspect Gates is making too much of many of these tests, and a bit confused as to the reach of the science. This of course is less a fault of Gates than of the scientists who he has collaborated with.

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