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'It made me question my ancestry': does DNA home testing really understand race?

Ancestry testing

DNA-testing is done by millions of people all over the world to analyze their DNA and find out where they originate.

Targeted marketing for DNA home-testing kits shows models under the banner “find out your ethnicity” or urges people to book holidays based on their “DNA story”. It’s estimated the industry will be worth £7.7bn by 2022.

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'It made me question my ancestry': does DNA home testing really understand race?

'It made me question my ancestry': does DNA home testing really understand race?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/aug/11/question-ancestry-does-dna-testing-really-understand-race

theguardian.com

5

Key Ideas

Ancestry testing

DNA-testing is done by millions of people all over the world to analyze their DNA and find out where they originate.

Targeted marketing for DNA home-testing kits shows models under the banner “find out your ethnicity” or urges people to book holidays based on their “DNA story”. It’s estimated the industry will be worth £7.7bn by 2022.

DNA home tests

Some problems arise regarding DNA home tests about what happens after the results of land.

  • Storage of sensitive genetic information. An open-source DNA testing site was recently used by the police to identify a killer.
  • Emotional side effects after receiving confusing or life-changing results.

DNA home test variances

Many who have done a DNA home test begin to question their family heritage and wonder if they might have been misled. However, taking DNA tests from different companies reveal wildly varying results. There are a few reasons for this: 

  • The companies are only looking at very recent DNA samples, from a relatively small group, in one specific database.
  • The databases are skewed towards different parts of the world. Some have more American customers and other more British or Australian customers.
  • These companies don't ask about the genetics of the past, and which of those past inferred genetic clusters we get our ancestry from.
  • We probably inherit very few genes from our ancestors. DNA is inherited in “chunks” that break up the further back in time you go.
  • There are ancestors from whom you inherit no DNA.

Samples from Africa

DNA testing companies often have very few samples from Africa. Some companies are trying to rectify this and have launched a program to encourage researchers to study remote populations and submit their data.

However, questions have been raised about the ethics of European and American scientists collecting genetic information from Africans for economic gain.

Ethnicity and Ancestry

Genetics over the last 30 years has revealed that there are no clearcut biological racial categories. Everyone is racialized in some way.

Ancestry is a legacy, not a bloodline. Our genetic script is just one side of the story.

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Ancestry
  • We are more closely related than we think. A family tree isn't the most scientifically accurate metaphor: Trees branch out while family trees contain loops, for example, as a result of first cousins having children.
  • The commercial genetic tests remain scientifically unconvincing.
Racist beliefs

The core of many racist stereotypes is that race is a biological classification.

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  • The majority of geneticists think genetic differences between ethnic groups are meaningless regarding behavior or innate abilities. But scientific papers still show genes for complex traits, like intelligence, are along racial lines.
  • Race science is pseudoscience, but genetics and evolutionary research are tied up with race.
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