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Today's Big Idea: The Genetics Revolution

The Big Idea for Saturday, May 12, 2012

What makes you who you are? Is it the decisions you make in life according to your own free will, or is your identity actually bound up in the DNA passed onto you from an ancient warlord?

According to Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, it is too deterministic to say "your genes determine everything you do." But they are "the deck of cards you are dealt at birth." It is your choice as to what to do with those cards. And yet, the DNA that you are made up of does come from somewhere.

For instance, if you are an African American you probably have European DNA. Some people don't like to hear this, as it changes their identity. And yet, according to Sykes, "I’m very proud of all of my ancestors that have got their DNA through to me, and I think everybody should be, particularly in America. Because all of you have ancestors that took a lot of trouble to get here, whether it was across the frozen wastes of Siberia or more recently on ships from Europe or, unfortunately, ships from Africa against your ancestors’ will."

Of course, genetics doesn't just tell us about the past. It can also help us predict the future. There are major benefits in health care that derive from knowing your genetics.

 

 

Perspectives

  1. 1 What Everyone Needs to Know About Genetics
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 Nature or Nurture? The Surprising Way Genetics Could Reshape the Debate.
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  3. 3 The Ethics of Designer Brains
    Paul Root Wolpe
  4. 4 How Geneticists Link Genes to Diseases
    Francis Collins
 

Today's Big Idea: The Genet...

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