Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hand over your DNA!

Are you my ancestory?? is the website. The smiling face on the home page is said to belong to a satisfied customer who is 38% West European, 24% Scandinavian, 16% Irish, and 11% Greek. (Hmmm. This only adds up to 89%, wonder what part of this poor guy is missing!) You could get your racial/ethnic mix tested for only $129 Canadian. There are many other websites as well that offer to trace your genetic origins based on a swab you send in. 

I’m not a geneticist; not even close. But I have to admit that I’m skeptical about how one can be genetically Greek, for instance. Japanese, Scandinavian, British are neither ethnic nor racial designations, surely these appellations link to citizenship, which has no genetic component. If I think of my ancestry, I’m sure a genetic test would not indicate “Canadianess,” I’m likely nearly 100% West European, a piece of information that’s totally useless. (It might be useful if the genes that most West Europeans carry also figure in a physical condition that could kill me, something like gereonteritical europeanensis—don’t look this up; it’s fake news.)

Obviously, the retailers of genetic ancestry services have grouped and named genomic categories in such a way that the appearance of meaningful information is present. But we all know about retailing that it’s not about public service, it’s about profit. And if we’re the kind of people who can be enticed into buying a basket of sheep manure in Christmas wrapping for a mere $129 Canadian, well, you get the drift.

My brother ordered an EPP heraldic crest; what he got for his $10.00 was as phony as the Donald Trump Fact Society (DTFS). What somebody out there got was $10.00 minus the cost of a piece of xeroxed paper, a cheap envelope and a postage stamp. Sell this as a remedy for low self esteem to 10,000 people and you’ve made . . . well, you do the math.

We still put a lot of stock in the relative worth of racial, ethnic, religious, language and national origins. Yet none of these are predictors of our quality as creative, honourable, faithful, peace-loving human beings in a sea of other, almost-identical humans. Truth is, one can brag over coffee about being 20% Caucasian, 20% Native American, 20% Oriental and 40% genetically sprung from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Thomas Edison, Florence Nightingale and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow . . . and still be a total jackass. 

It’s happened.

Or one can count Genghis Khan, marauding Huns and Joseph Stalin in ones genetic ancestry and still be the one who develops a cure for cancer while fighting AIDS in the jungles of England and writing romantic poems with lots of trees and birds in them, and constructed in perfect sonnet form.

Genetic DNA may well determine body build, appearance, propensity to be vulnerable to certain health issues, etc. I guess I'm more interested in spiritual DNA, cultural DNA, educational DNA, nutritional DNA, etc.; those precursors that actually make us what we are to our families, friends, community.  

(If you wish, I can advise you on better ways to flush away $129. Or if you can’t decide among the millions of “better ways,” send it to me and I’ll invest it for you. I could make you very, very rich and if not, $129 is no great loss . . .

. . . eh?)

Just hope you're never faced with something like, "I suspect your 17.5% Kurdish; your nose gives it away. Let me swab the inside of your cheek! It'll probably also tell me whether or not you are likely to become a terrorist!"

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