Why wouldn't you want DNA testing?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by nbs2, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. nbs2 macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #1
    I was skimming Wired's site, and came across this article about a DNA test that can determine the racial background of the source.

    What I found disturbing is that so many officials find it disturbing. I don't understand their line of thought that finding race in DNA could lead to "why they committed the crime" in DNA. This seems no different to me than using DNA to determine if the suspect has a penis or a vagina. I mean, is there any rational argument for not using this test (other than cost - which I imagine would come down over time)? What's with all of this letting emotion and historic belief get in the way of science. No different than trying to stop evolution.
     
  2. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #2
    Well, you can find all kinds of stuff you might not want to know. For example, you could find out that your father isn't actually your father, or that somewhere along the line, that sort of thing happened. In one New England town, the number of fathers who walked out of the hospital with a child who wasn't theirs (despite thinking that it was) numbered about 40%, I believe (according to a story in The Atlantic last year). The overall number is something like 15-20%.

    You can also find out that you have a genetic disposition to something you really don't want.
     
  3. themadchemist macrumors 68030

    themadchemist

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    #3
    Yeah, but I agree with the OP within the context of criminal justice.
     
  4. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #4
    From the article:

    I don't understand this POV at all. We do bleed the same blood, but we have different DNA. If we didn't, well...we'd be clones.

    The use of a DNA to determine information in a criminal case is a smart way to fight crime. In other uses, such as insurance investigations, I can see the problem. But, knowing the genetic background of your suspect doesn't do anything besides help solve the case.
     
  5. mpw Guest

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    #5
    As long as the tests are accurate there can't really be any argument with the findings. They're simple fact. Sure if they show your not the biological father to your partner's child that's going to be an emotional problem, but what's the alternative, willful ignorance?
     
  6. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #6
    Some people would prefer ignorance, and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, either.
     
  7. mpw Guest

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    #7
    Preferring ignorance is one thing, but disputing facts is another.
     
  8. MikeTheC Guest

    MikeTheC

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    #8
    I would think the problem here is far more likely to be one of abuse of the knowledge gained than anything else. I don't want details about my person or my personal life out there for all to see.
     
  9. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #9
    Could be worse. You could find out the person you were out to marry is actually your long lost twin. It happens.
     
  10. luminosity macrumors 65816

    luminosity

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    #10
    What? People steal or abuse people's identities? Surely you jest.
     
  11. nbs2 thread starter macrumors 68030

    nbs2

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    #11
    Because if you don't know, you can't get it?

    Anyway, this is irrelevant as far as the story goes. Refusing to use a DNA test because you are afraid that the test will reveal the race of the source isn't going to do much other than help you plan for diseases that may affect your race more than others.

    Well, if you don't want your racial information released, don't leave your DNA at the scene of the crime.
     
  12. biturbomunkie macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    before you can get a driver's license issued, you are required to declare your race. in some states, you are also required to declare your race and political affiliation when you register to vote. so why are they making this such a big deal especially when you can save lives?
     
  13. furcalchick macrumors 68020

    furcalchick

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    #13
    i think the reason why people are afraid of dna testing is probably due to medical discrimination that the health insurance companies and etc would do if they found out your dna was more likely to get cancer for instance. it could usher in the era of the 'perfect genome' where any deviance from that genome would make you a lesser person. although it can save lives, it can easily damage them. some groups are afraid that this is a precursor of eugenic abortions and the 'brave new world' concept. i don't trust dna testing yet.
     
  14. themadchemist macrumors 68030

    themadchemist

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    #14
    It's largely a question of codifying strong bioethical principles into law. The philosophers have already hashed these questions out and there is general consensus in the field (with, of course, some waves on some issues) as to what safeguards are necessary. If we want to use genetic testing more widely, than we'll have to establish those matters legally and then develop strong information security and privacy measures to protect individual rights.

    Somehow, though, I can see insurance industry lobbyists being effective at undermining individual rights in an attempt to better calibrate their own profit mechanisms.
     
  15. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #15
    I agree that this story is disturbing but i'm thoroughly unconvincing with the information we have. Have we really got any reason to believe that the test isn't being used due to the fear of racial profiling besides the author's (Melba Newsome's) assertion? She never quotes anyone from the police or courts or legislation as to why it can't or isn't being used. Instead she uses negative quotes from a number of sources on racial profiling that could be completely out of context, and then quotes Frudakis who came up with the technology and has a vested interest.

    The other thing I find strange is that Wired has run in essence the same article, by the same freelance author, twice within a few months. Both articles cover exactly the same ground and are written in exactly the same way.

    1. The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling. 10.05.07
    2. A New DNA Test Can ID a Suspect's Race, But Police Won't Touch It. 12.20.07

    They are the only two articles that she has ever got published in wired. As a freelance I'd bet she's happy to have the same work published twice, and that Frudakis is ecstatic to have his business pushed in such a positive light and being painted as a downtrodden pioneer. Perhaps wired are struggling to get articles to reach their publishing quota. It's possible it's all legit but both articles present zero evidence to back that assertion that the test isn't being used on racial profiling grounds. Instead it's misused or unverifiable quotes and testimony from Frudakis.

    The only quote from the article I can verify is the one she pulled from the New England Journal of Medicine. It is so completely out of context that she either completely misunderstood the article, never read it at all, or is purposefully misquoting;
    This is completely and utterly fraudulent. NEJM never asserts that there are no DNA polymorphisms between races as she claims. In fact it actually makes that exact claim, but asserts that due to breeding between races medical research should not arbitrarily split and research groups based on skin colour, but instead research should equate the underlying genetics with pathoclinical outcome. That is a huge difference that the author either does not understand or willingly corrupts to make her point.
    Emphasis mine;
    Subscription required

    I'd really like to see in what context the other quotes were taken from and if there is really a rejection of this technique on racial profiling grounds.

    As a molecular biologist I'm quite unconvinced with the level of evidence that I can find presented by DNAPrint that their test is valid. They make a lot of claims that the they've got high accuracy, but from what I can find they have not proven this is a scientific sense. It's not verified in double-blind studies, nor have the results been verified independently, or put under scrutiny of peer review. It might work but as it stands it seems half-baked and premature to be using it. As far as science goes it appears still very much at the conceptual stage, not mature science. There is no way research of this standard could be applied in the clinical setting to treat patients, so why should it be used in the field for policework, especially if lives are at stake as the article infers?

    The other device that Newsome uses is quoting examples of police using the technology to validate it. She even uses the example of a murder solved using the technology which is just an irrational appeal to our sensibilities. The police have claimed that the use of psychics is a valid and constructive use of police resources, money, and time. They've even claimed that psychics have solved murders. The fact that police use a technique and laud it's effectiveness is zero evidence of reality.
     
  16. themadchemist macrumors 68030

    themadchemist

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    #16
    Thanks for a really good analysis of this and for making me feel guilty for being a lazy and uncritical scientist. :eek:
     
  17. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #17
    No problem madchemist. You're probably a busy scientist that has better things to do than critique pop-culture articles. I however am on holidays hence my large number of low quality posts in PRSI lately :D!

    I've been researching the articles for the last few days and had got more and more unconvinced with them. They've certainly got a lot of play in conservative blog sites but there doesn't appear to be a critique of it anywhere I could find. I'd like to clarify that whilst I think that the articles are incredibly sloppily written and unconvincing, I'm personally not adverse to the idea of using racial polymorphisms to track criminals. I think it's a very interesting idea that has a lot of potential, but needs to be restricted in use to certain applications, and only if the science is hard and fast and verified to the highest standards. If DNAprint can (or have and I've missed it :eek:) do this then I wish them the very best. As you guys pointed out above if this technique works as claimed (unless an individual wants to discover their ancestry themselves) I would hate to see it used routinely to segregate people based on race for example for insurance, educational, sporting, or vocational purposes etc. This is the context in which I suspect the negative racial profiling article quotes were taken.
     

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