TAG | genetics
Should people be allowed to see details of their own genetic information?
The public discussion about DNA testing tends to focus on ethical dilemmas: What if doctors find that a person’s father isn’t really? Should they tell a patient about a DNA glitch if it’s only occasionally linked to disease? What if, while looking for mutations that could explain a known sickness, they stumble on others that might predict late-life dementia or indicate the presence of HIV? Would adding this data to someone’s medical record affect health insurance rates? What if—gasp—we end up with a real-life Gattaca?
These questions are worth talking about. But the genetics community and popular press spend too much time debating when and how the medical establishment should “protect” people from their children’s or their own DNA.
For example, many bioethicists argue that DNA glitches shouldn’t be disclosed if they’re ambiguous or linked to untreatable conditions. Doing so “may create unwanted psychosocial burdens on parents,” according to a commentary on newborn sequencing in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Ah yes, bioethicists.
They really are a useless, worthless bunch, philosopher-princelings and wannabe clergymen who hawk their insulting and condescending babble to a political class always looking for new reasons to tell people what not to do.
It is way past time for 25 or so states that have restricted the right of citizens to obtain their genetic information from direct-to-consumer companies to lift their bans.
Indeed it is.
From a WSJ review of a new book chronicling the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart:
The Minnesota study’s IQ results hit a nerve years before their publication in 1990, overshadowing other controversies that might have been. Many of its findings are bipartisan shockers. Take religion, which almost everyone attributes to “socialization.” Separated-twin data show that religiosity has a strong genetic component, especially in the long run: “Parents had less influence than they thought over their children’s religious activities and interests as they approached adolescence and adulthood.” The key caveat: While genes have a big effect on how religious you are, upbringing has a big effect on the brand of religion you accept. Identical separated sisters Debbie and Sharon “both liked the rituals and formality of religious services and holidays,” even though Debbie was a Jew and Sharon was a Christian.
Just another example of the ‘God Gene’ at work, I suppose, and, as such, just another reminder that there is little or no prospect of ever weaning mankind off religion (Professor Dawkins, please note).
I have been travelling, and so blogging has been light from my end for a while now. But I thought I would point readers to a long post I put up over at Discover Blogs on Jewish genetics. The post wasn’t long enough really to say everything that needs to be said, so I’ll follow up, but I didn’t have more time than an afternoon to devote to it. Of more relevance to Secular Right readers, I’ll be posting a moderately negative review of Larry Witham’s Marketplace of the Gods: How Economics Explains Religion over there too. Shorter: more a bibliography than a précis, and a bit ill-timed in regards to capitalizing on the boom of economics-explains-everything books (writing began before the 2008 Financial Crisis).
A year ago there was a paper on the effect of diet on enzyme production, Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation. That human evolution skeptic, P. Z. Myers, has just noticed the paper, and says:
This work by Perry and others went on to look for patterns in different human populations with different dietary historys, and discovered that there is a correlation: cultures with diets heavy in starch, agricultural populations such as Americans, Europeans, and Japanese, or hunter-gathers who live on many roots and tubers, have a higher average copy number than cultures that depend more on hunting and fishing.
Look at the distributions! Populations with little starch in their diets also have a relatively low copy number of 5.44 amylase genes per individual; we french fry eaters have a higher number of 6.72 amylase genes per individual. The difference is small, and the distributions also overlap significantly (note that some with high starch diets only have 2 copies, and some living on low starch diets have 13 copies), but the difference is measurable and significant. It implies that there may have been some selection for greater copy numbers in cultures with diets high in starchy plants.