Personal DNA tests challenged for perpetuating ‘false notions’ of ethnic cultures and race

| | October 9, 2018
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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Genetic-ancestry tests are having a moment. Look no further than Spotify: [Last month], the music-streaming service—as in, the service used to fill tedious workdays and DJ parties—launched a collaboration with AncestryDNA. The partnership creates custom playlists for users based on DNA results they input: Oumou Sangaré for Mali, for example, and Ed Sheeran for England.

First, the accuracy of these tests is unproven (as detailed here and here). But putting that aside, consider simply what it means to get a surprise result of, say, 15 percent German. If you speak no German, celebrate no German traditions, have never cooked German food, and know no Germans, what connection is there, really? Cultural identity is the sum total of all of these experiences. DNA alone does not supersede it.

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Listening to 99 Luftballons or rooting for Germany in the World Cup is fairly trivial as these things go. But this wave of marketing campaigns encourages a way of thinking—that you can pick and choose which fractional parts of genetic identity to highlight when it makes for good cocktail-party conversation.

The most charged criticism against genetic-ancestry tests is that they emphasize people’s genetic differences, ultimately reifying race as a meaningful category when it is in fact a social construct. A 2014 study found that when people read a newspaper article about genetic-ancestry tests, their beliefs in racial differences increased.

Read full, original post: Your DNA Is Not Your Culture

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