The last few years, many scientists criticize quietly among their peers some of the ‘questionable’ services DNA testing companies provide for lucrative prices. The tracing of an individual’s ancestry is one of them. For about £150-200 ($225-300), they can give you a profile of your genetic history connecting you to the Vikings, the Romans, or even better to Cleopatra or Socrates, but is that so?
Prof David Balding and Prof Mark Thomas, from University College of London, decided to clear things up. In a joint report, published today by Sense About Science, they warn about the ‘fraud’ that is linked to ‘genetic astrology.’ They boldly call these profiles meaningless and mere speculations, and that “they are little more than genetic astrology”.
Their report explains that it is impossible for genetic profiling to provide accurate information about an individual’s ancestry. This ancestry-providing business is using the same techniques as horoscopes, interpreting general information under a personal scope (known as ‘Forer effect’). Nobody has a clear or pure ancestry line, and the more we look back in time, the messier and more complicated our ancestry is.
According to genetic inheritance rules, (the number of ancestors doubles for each generation), and human population dynamics, (as a species we love traveling and mating around), if we look back through time we end up having way too many ancestors from every possible corner of the world. On top of that, it is estimated that around 3,500 years ago lived somebody who is the common ancestor of us all.
Also, according to simple mathematics, everybody who was alive 5,000 years ago was either the common ancestor of everybody alive today, or of nobody alive today. We all have the very same ancestors if we look that back in the past. So, if you like the idea of having a genetic link with Cleopatra you can very well believe it. It might be true.
You will find the very interesting report here.