DNA and race
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 11 08:04:41 MDT 2003
NY Times, July 11, 2003
Is Race Real?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
I had my DNA examined by a prominent genetic specialist here, and what
do you know! It turns out I'm African-American.
The mitochondria in my cells show that I'm descended from a matriarch
who lived in Africa, possibly in present-day Ethiopia or Kenya.
O.K., this was 70,000 years ago, and she seems to be a common ancestor
of all Asians as well as all Caucasians. Still, these kinds of DNA
analyses illuminate the raging scientific debate about whether there is
anything real to the notion of race.
"There's no genetic basis for any kind of rigid ethnic or racial
classification at all," said Bryan Sykes, the Oxford geneticist and
author of "The Seven Daughters of Eve." "I'm always asked is there Greek
DNA or an Italian gene, but, of course, there isn't. . . . We're very
Likewise, The New England Journal of Medicine once editorialized bluntly
that "race is biologically meaningless."
Take me. Dr. Sykes looked at a sequence of my mitochondrial DNA to place
me on a kind of global family tree. It would have been nice to learn
that my ancestors hailed from a village on Loch Ness, but ancestry can
almost never be pegged that precisely, and I appear to be a mongrel. One
of my variants, for example, is scattered among people in Finland,
Poland, Armenia, the Netherlands, Scotland, Israel, Germany and Norway.
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