Integrated Wisdom

The Growth of Genetic Genealogy

DNA testing might give you more than just a genealogy analysis.

“60 Minutes” has touched nerves for more than fifty years in America. It did again one night in October. The issue was genetic genealogy or the use of DNA in traditional genealogical investigations to build family trees and identify people in a genetic family.

The burgeoning “science” was used in the past few years to potentially identify the Golden State Killer, a serial killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 80s. Shortly after, they announced the arrest of a man outside Sacramento who is in custody and says he’s not guilty.

Without going into that case, let’s consider the issue of using millions of DNA files sitting in databases all over the Internet to identify people elsewhere on society’s family tree. DNA is the hardest evidence justice uses to solve both current and cold cases like the Golden State Killer. DNA is also the one thing that’s common to all seven+ billion of us on the planet.

Here in the United States, though, there’s a law that was written in 1789 and revised in 1992 that’s supposed to protect at least the 330 million Americans. It’s called the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Every fan of television cop shows understands the law and the warrants needed to search for specific “evidence” in a person, place or thing under investigation. In the case of DNA, there are warrants issued to investigate suspects even “in their person.” “60 Minutes” described one suspect in a cold case who was arrested after his DNA was retrieved from a cup he’d discarded.

And this issue of genetic genealogy is something going on now in distant computers in Florida or Oregon or anywhere else to catch suspects as it was used in California. Many of us are falling all over each other to put our DNA into these databases to identify personality traits or find distant relatives. So the information pool is growing minute by minute. The “60 Minutes” story implied that court issued warrants were a part of the cold cases solved as a part of the broadcast.

But what if this is a step toward DNA research to isolate people who might be “worth watching” because their DNA looks like the genetic make up of suspects already in custody? That was the 2002 film “Minority Report”, wasn’t it?

Obviously we want to do whatever we can to put dangerous people in jail for crimes they committed. And most, if not all of us, would be willing to do what we could to help even if our “evidence” might indict a distant cousin.

But putting them in a jail for crimes they might commit obviously has danger written all over it. I guess it’s just like shutting the door on all ethnic or religious immigrants who don’t look like Americans because some of them were a danger once; isn’t it? And recently there were a number of immigrant children put in jail because of that kind of thinking, right?

Maybe genetic genealogy has already folded into political genealogy.

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