There was a time when DNA meant, Does Not Apply. Now it conjures a world of cutting edge science which can nail a suspect, free an innocent prisoner or serve as a marker to identify a dreaded disease.
However a most recent application has me concerned. It comes close to the dangerous and discredited pseudo-science of eugenics. While the mapping of the human genome has demonstrated that we are 99% identical that other 1% has recently received a good deal of attention.
Some geneticists are linking race and even behaviors with certain groups after centuries of inbreeding. Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews share a particular Haplogroup E1b1b1 Y chromosome which traces them back to the North African Mediterranean and Near East region. However this same gene is found among Berbers of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
When Genghis Khan died in 1227 he had fathered so many children that today he is said to have sixteen million descendents. I’m sure Irving Kahn, the Kosher butcher, isn’t one of them.
To all this I say, So what? Is this really what the world is asking of us?; to find more ways of separation …….and worse. The latest speculation has us assigning certain smart genes to European Jews and the lack thereof among Africans. I don’t buy it. It is racial stereotyping one more time. It calls into question the quantification of intelligence, a far more complex set of factors than an I.Q. test is designed to measure; in fact the totality of brain function is beyond metric.
Am I alone in thinking that the pro-Semitism smart gene carries the whiff of being the flip side of anti-Semitism? Peggy, who is half-Jewish, can’t quite figure out how to operate the remote control ......but which half is that.......and which half writes her amazing poetry?
I know that most of my friends take exception to this but I contend that our identity can be known by how we act in our lives; our capacity for forgiveness, generosity and enabling toward others and ourselves and our reverence for the natural world. You may now send in your saliva to determine your tribe and which tent to sleep under. That says very little to me of the measure of a man.
We need to pay more attention to our children’s children than our father’s fathers. As we move to confront global challenges which transcend national borders how does it serve us to fix our gaze backwards? The issues are planetary and we must come together,as the poet said love each other or die.