Sunday, January 15, 2006

Genetic genealogy

Did you know that the media site MSNBC has a whole subsection devoted to Genetic Genealogy? It references stories on the historical aspects of human genetics research.

I'm not quite sure what I think of this stuff. I'm interested, sure, but what does any one individual story tell me? For instance, this story that shows that millions of Ashkenazi Jews seem to be descended from four mothers? Well, there are millions of Ashkenazi and billions of human beings alive today, and not so long ago there were only a few hundred thousand of us, so if you go back far enough, of course humanity or any subset must have shared a very small number of mothers.

I have no doubt that genetic research has some important stories to tell, once its findings are carefully considered, but we might be in danger of generating new forms of British Israelitism, in other words doctrines that seek to explain everything through inheritance from some special group of ancestors.

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