Multilocus Genetic Analysis and the Assessment of Human Ancestry

By Beach, Daniel A. | Mankind Quarterly, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Multilocus Genetic Analysis and the Assessment of Human Ancestry


Beach, Daniel A., Mankind Quarterly


Social scientists almost universally subscribe to the notion that race is a social construct without a biological basis. In the second half of the twentieth century biological definitions of race were dismissed by professional groups as well as by a sizable portion of the general public. The shortage of convincing research evidence and a reaction to previous racist claims, with the accompanying history of inhumanity, resulted in the near absolute refusal to consider the possibility of a genetic provenance for race. Molecular genetic studies using analysis of multiple loci are reviewed, which identify clusters of genetic markers that consistently show an association with racial group membership. Applications of this research in the medical and forensic sciences are discussed, as well as implications for future investigations.

Key Words: DNA; Polymorphisms; Race; Human populations; Genotyping; Multilocus analysis

The subject of race can be a minefield of sensitivities, subtleties and miscommunication. Opinions and hypotheses about the nature and features of race quickly can be misinterpreted as an attack that must be defended. Yet, as Thomas Jefferson (1801) observed, "Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle." Belief in the inherent dignity of all human life need not be set in opposition to the scientific examination of the variations of that life. Our human family, intrinsically bound together by history and biology, is a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. The nature of that inquiry changes as new tools for scientific research emerge from advancements in research technology. The Human Genome Project, which mapped human DNA, offers new methodologies to answer old questions regarding the contributions of genetics to the understanding of human ancestry.

Human society has had a pathological relationship with the issue of race. Race pervades a great deal of the social and interpersonal issues with which we must contend, yet we have no effective way of talking about it. To raise the subject in discussion is to raise the emotional tenor of a conversation, which leads to stereotypic assumptions and loss of communication. Although it is a topic that we desperately need to address, we do not seem to have even a common language to talk about it.

Some deny the existence of race. At other times, these same people may laud the achievements of their race. Some schools admit students without regard to race. Some schools have admission policies to guarantee racial representation, and other schools were founded on the principle of lifting up their race. Laws are passed to prevent discrimination based upon race, and there are laws that discriminate against immigrant groups because of their race. It seems that no matter how we might try to circumvent the idea of race, people will continue to use it when it suits their interests. Having a comprehensive definition of race from both genetic and cultural perspectives may help to begin a less passionate discourse based upon scientifically derived definitions and generally accepted terms.

Recent research demonstrates that the human characteristic that we historically have referred to as race can be identified using sophisticated genetic analysis. Various researchers express the nature of this ancestry with such terms as: continental populations, points of geographic origin, gene pools, haplogroups and haploclusters. Undoubtedly, such investigations will cause concern among individuals and groups. One might ask why science studies the issue of race from a genetic perspective. A short answer is that medical conditions that have a genetic basis have stimulated much research in this area (e.g. Metcalfe, 2008; Fine, Ibrahim & Thomas, 2005). Clinical observations have demonstrated connections between ancestry and frequency of various diseases and responses to medical interventions. To develop a better understanding of the distribution of these apparent inherited predispositions researchers have turned to the study of genetic variations in human groups. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Multilocus Genetic Analysis and the Assessment of Human Ancestry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.