Encouraging “genetic literacy”

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Can genetic tests really provide us with firm insights into the kind of diet or fitness program that’s best for us? Or even into our own national ancestry? Professor Jonathan Marks urges us to be skeptical of the claims made by commercialized genetic testing. Commenting recently on the Genetic Literacy Project website, Marks has noted that the fine print in such commercial claims often backs away from the accuracy of the tests themselves and the advice based on them. “This probably the the wrong direction for the scientific community to be leading the public in, if we’re apprehensive about people not taking science seriously enough,” he says.

In an an online address for the National Academy of Sciences’ Distinctive Voices series last year, Marks urged people to “think culturally about the science of genetic ancestry tests” and to recognize that our experiences, our background, and our potential as humans are not defined by genes alone.