5 Reasons Why We Need To Talk About Genetics

An image of DNA by Sangharsh Lohakare on Unsplash

Psychology Today posted interesting information about why we need to talk about genetics.

One: DNA is everywhere

Today, the number of customers of genetic testing services likely exceeds 60 million people. Genomic data features in all areas of life: They inform clinical diagnoses and disease treatment just as mochas they help ensure the compatibility of reality TV couples (yes, ‘Married at First Sight’ used ‘DNA matching techniques’). Before the rise of Ozempic, ‘personalized nutrition’ based on your DNA was the go-to miracle cure for dietary and weight problems.

Two: Genetics are probabilistic, not deterministic

People who are turning an at-home DNA kit over in their hands usually ponder one of two interferences to their mental felicitousness. The first os paralysis, from the fear that behaving one way or another will trigger their genetic ricks into a phenotypic reality (usually a nasty illness nobody wants.) Knowledge can empower us, but – as Adam and Eve, the original ancestors of some, famously demonstrated — it can also render ups stiff lumps of shame, guilt, and fear.

The other challenge is the self-fulfilling prophecy. Knowing our genetics may make ups behave in the ways that we have been told are the essence of our true self or who we are. Genetics are probabilistic, not deterministic: Carrying DNA variants that make me likely to enjoy cigarettes don’t force me to tar my lungs, even though they probably make it harder for me to quit smoking.

Three: There are no genetic tribes, clans, or races

The desire to know one’s own genetic ancestry makes many people buy genetic testing services. It is possible to trace the people and geographical locations that a person descended from through matching their genetic variants to those from different reference populations across the world. If a person shares more genetic variants than another reference population, it is likely that they descended from that rather than another reference population.

Knowing your ancestry responds to our deep-rooted curiosity about where we have come from and what our origins say about us. Such narratives of our unique genealogies can make us feel special, but they also serve the (false) thinking that people can be divided into genetically distinct groups: tribes, clans, races. The incorrect view that humans can be classified into discrete, innate categories has been and sadly continues to be misused to create divisions.

Four: The right to ignorance vs the responsibility toward others

Your genome can tell you about your personal genetic risks for health problems that run in families. Examples include cancer, glaucoma, or dementia. Some people want to know their risk of developing these disease, for themselves, to plan their lives, to inform their loved ones.

Others squirm at the notion about genetic forecasting.

Genetic variants are associated with the risk of breast cancer in women but the same variants do not manifest in distinct disease patterns inmate. The possibility of genetic forecasting forces us to discuss where the right to ignorance ends and the responsibility toward others ends.

Five: The fear of genetic discrimination persists

The leading cause for people to shy away from genetics is the fear of genetic discrimination, which refers to the unequal treatment of individuals based on their genome, for example, on the basis of a heightened genetic risk for developing a disorder. Although laws prohibit genetic discrimination in most countries, the fear that sharing that information about one’s genotype will incur disadvantages is widespread. Discrimination, genetic or not, is real, prevalent, and dangerous.

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