A DNA Test Won’t Explain Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestry

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-05 18:10Z by Steven

A DNA Test Won’t Explain Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestry


Matt Miller

You’re not 28 percent Finnish, either.

Our genes dictate certain things about us, but ethnicity is not derived from a single gene.

Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator who lost to Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 election, has decided to dredge up old accusations that may have ultimately cost him that race.

“As you know, she’s not Native American,” Brown told reporters this week. “She’s not 1/32 Cherokee.” He then called on Harvard University, where Warren was a law professor, to release records that allegedly indicate Warren benefited from affirmative action (there’s no reason to believe this is true), before suggesting that “she can take a DNA test” if she wants to prove her roots.

But here’s the thing: DNA testing cannot definitively prove whether a person is Cherokee. Or a member of any community, at least not reliably. To assume it can is to assume that there’s something inherently different in the genetic makeup of tribal members and that this thing is universal within that community. That’s not true.

Our genes dictate certain things about us—there’s a gene that programs the color of your eyes, for example. But ethnicity is not a trait derived from a single gene, because ethnicity is mostly our perception of a collection of traits, rather than a trait itself. So a genetic test that looks at our genes and comes back with an assessment of our ethnic roots isn’t honing in on a specific gene and reading what it says because there’s no such gene to read. Instead, the test is comparing snippets of our DNA to snippets of DNA of people of known origin and looking for similarities…

Read the entire article here.

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