"23andMe tells me that my husband and I are cousins": how daily life changes in the era of cheap genetic testing
Last week, The Cut published a very curious piece. Liane Kupferberg Carter recounted how she and her husband had received the DNA tests that had been done with 23andme. What had started as a nice idea at the request of one of his children had ended in a surprising revelation: They were cousins!
Third parties, yes. Kupferberg Carter describes the two faces of DNA analysis very well and invites us to reflect on how new technologies (which do not matter if they are DNA tests or facial recognition systems) are changing things that until now we did not even know they could change. .
The unfathomable paths of DNA
Kupferberg Carter explains that the DNA analysis gave them two very different pieces of information. The first was that her son was indeed her son. Now she could say it with relief, but she remembered how, shortly after giving birth, a nurse had approached “her baby” to breastfeed her and, almost by accident, she had realized that the one in her arms was a girl.
The matter was resolved, but the doubt always remained there. What if they were wrong again and their son was not biologically your son? The 23andMe three resolved the matter and reassured her: the young man was her son and her husband. However, he also confirmed that the samples analyzed were his.
Something that made the other information, that she and her husband were third cousins, irrefutable. They shared great-great-grandparents. In the text, Kupferberg Carter tells his love story and how they jokingly processed the news. It is a beautiful story. Also by how it ends, by how the author explains the result based on things like the mythical genetic homogeneity of Ashkenazi Jews (something that is far from being demonstrated). We are not cousins, it is that the technology is not mature; seems to say.
The genetics of little things
As we go through Kupferberg Carter's love story we can't help but wonder (with her) if all those similarities between husband and wife have a genetic background, if they are for each other because genes are selfish and tend to look for matches to replicate .
The "democratization" of DNA analysis is illuminating dark areas of reality
Perhaps this is one of the most exciting things in the matter: we will be able to study in detail the genetics of infatuation and intimacy. And we will be able to do it in open and diverse societies like the current ones.
We have talked at length about how the "democratization" of genetic analysis is illuminating parts of reality that, until now, were hidden. Sometimes they are murderers; sometimes they are strange family ties. But they are always interesting things because they give us important information about who we are.