23andme wants to toss a live grenade into your family holiday
This Thanksgiving, why not skip the stuffing and bring a heaping pile of genetic testing to the table? Gene-sequencing company 23andme is offering a festive seasonal discount on test kits so you can “discover, share and celebrate what connects you and your family.”
Is 23andme deliberately trying to sabotage families everywhere? Would you have Thanksgiving dinner on the Maury Show? Listen, a holiday for which there is an annual glut of thinkpieces agonizing over whether to talk politics during your meal probably isn’t the best time to go over the nuances of what it really means to be in the 96th percentile of Neandertal-ness. Oh, also, you have a secret half-brother; pass the cranberry sauce.
Gather ‘round the table, dear family, let us discuss this veritable cornucopia of chromosomes laid bare on this sheet of paper. Look at these science facts! Your proverbial racist uncle turns out to be 40 percent Irish; and by the way did you know the Irish were also slaves? Hmm, according to these calculations, you are not related to your father. But first, allow me to examine the skull of the turkey we have selected for our dinner, just to make sure it has the markings of deliciousness.
At any rate, it’s unlikely that you’ll get much out of the test results: companies like 23andme determine genealogy by comparing your genome to other genomes and finding similarities. Unless their comparative sample is representative of the world (which it is certainly not, your results will be skewed based upon the shortcomings of the data they’ve collected. Using a service like 23andme can also give the government access to your DNA, which is bad if you’ve murdered or just value privacy. What I’m saying is, be careful.