January 30, 2006

DNA Testing: In Our Blood.

Newsweek has an article titled "DNA Testing: In Our Blood", which offers layman's introduction to the world of population genetics and geneaological testing.

From the article:
The research led Skorecki's team to Africa, where they tested members of the Lemba tribe, a group that believed they were descended from the Biblical land of Judea. Some of their DNA matched the Cohan signature. "We share a common paternal ancestry," says Skorecki. In 2001, Father Bill Sanchez, a Roman Catholic priest in Albuquerque, N.M., discovered he closely matched the Cohan signature, too. Sanchez's Jewish roots go back to Spain (his mother's heritage is Native American). Today he keeps pictures of his Christian and Jewish ancestors on his wall; in November he traveled to Israel. Now his niece Jessica Gonzales, 24, wants to go. Raised Catholic, she wants to learn more about her family roots. "I've been reading a lot about Judaism," she says.
I don't know the specifics of Father Sanchez family origins, but I have to wonder when Skorecki et al. will finally decide to come clean about the significance of their "Cohen signature" and the little-known fact that it is neither a Jewish nor a Cohen-specific signature. I have a feeling that there are quite a lot of people out there who've been "reading about Judaism" based on false beliefs created by dubious science.

Also, from the article:
Last fall, Wells packed up 500 blood-collection tubes, needles, alcohol wipes and cheek swabs and headed off to Chad, one of the project's first testing sites, where he took 300 DNA samples from towns and villages around the country. Thirty-five to 40 came from members of the isolated Laal community, whose population, at fewer than 750, is declining. Wells fears that this community will die out within the next 10 to 30 years, taking with it valuable DNA and cultural traditions and an ancient language—information that could provide critical insights into the first people to live in Central Africa more than 40,000 years ago. "We can use DNA to figure out some of these great mysteries, to make sense of the past," says Wells.
I guess I was right about Dr. Wells' activities in my New Year's predictions... and their name is Laal. Now, let's hope that Dr. Wells and his team will find some time to devote to the other 6,000,000,000-750 of us.

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