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Review: David Reich’s ‘Who We Are and How We Got Here’ fails to examine ethical issues around DNA research

| | April 26, 2018

In Who We Are and How We Got Here, David Reich gracefully describes how recent advances in genomics have enabled the study of ancient genomes and how this, in turn, has significantly affected the study of the evolutionary and demographic history of our species. With a pleasant narrative style that immediately engages both scientists and nonscientists, the book describes the technological and statistical advances that have allowed researchers to read the genomes of humans, past and present.

Combining personal views and “hard science,” Who We Are and How We Got Here takes the reader on a journey from the dawn of our species to more recent events that have shaped our current population structure, all in the context of the knowledge generated by comparing the DNA of ancient and modern human populations.

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Even though Reich devotes a substantial part of the book to discussing the implications of ancient DNA research, he overlooks some of the most profound issues inherent in this type of work, specifically with regard to the practices surrounding the collection and processing of human DNA samples.

There is no doubt that Reich has changed the game when it comes to our understanding of human history. His book, however, misses critical opportunities to highlight some of the major ethical issues surrounding ancient DNA research.

Read full, original post: Troubling traces of biocolonialism undermine an otherwise eloquent synthesis of ancient genome research

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