Saturday, March 26, 2005

Problems with Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is a marvel of science but there are problems with the use, (or misuse), to which some try to put it. Specifically I am referring to trying to determine ethnicity, or in the case of American Indian ancestry, trying to determine your ancestral heritage.

recently, I was arguing , or attempting to argue, (he closed comments on the post) the point with a thoroughly disagreeable person that had made some racist statements like the following.
Far from being folktales, it is genetic fact. In fact it is such genetic fact that if you take the DNA markers generally regarded as identifying a Jew, the average Palestinian is more Jewish that the average Jew.

there are two main types of testing in common use for this type of testing, mitochondrial DNA testing and Haplotype marker percentage testing of the Y chromosome.
Mitochondrial DNA, is only passed from mother to daughter and thus the fathers contribution is invisible to testing. In the same way Y marker testing can only contribute information from the male parent leaving the female parent invisible.

The genetic testing referenced used the Y marker which can only be passed by the Father and is actually 1 chromosome of the XY pair that determine whether a child will be male, (XX = female).

The Problematic Role of DNA Testing in Unraveling Human History
See here.

The problem with tying markers to ethnic identity is that Y marker testing shows only one line of ancestry. Therefore, ancestors, (females), on other lines are invisible. (The Y marker can ony be inherited from the father).

Using the Y marker a female child cannot be linked to any of her ancestors or even her mother or father. A male child can only be linked to his father, 1 in 4 of his grandparents, 1 in 8 of his great grandparents, 1 in...(geometric progression).

Using 3 generation per 100 years, in a period of 1,000 years. You have linked "1" male child to 1 of his, 536,870,912 direct ancestors using 1 of the 46 human chromosomes.

Markers mutate progressively over time, due to environmental differences, as compared to the gene used as a basis.

Logic tells us, If the supposed "base" genes are from contemporary stock grown in a different environment, the net effects are magnified. The 2 gene pools would mutate differently and at different rates. In 1,000 or 1,500 years a lot of cumulative change would occur.

essentially the study that was cited is worthless in the use to which it was put.

Haplotype percentages were used in an attempt to prove ethnicity. Haplotypes can be used for the mapping of disease genes but they do not indicate ethnicity.

To the person who said:
Far from being folktales, it is genetic fact. In fact it is such genetic fact that if you take the DNA markers generally regarded as identifying a Jew, the average Palestinian is more Jewish that the average Jew.

I don't care if some of you're best friends are Jews, you are a racist!
Where did you get that, from a skinhead manual?

While genetic Y markers "might" prove statistical relationship, they definitely do not disprove it.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bravery in search of Freedom

His name is Huang Sinh Nguyen. He came from a small fishing village in the delta region of Vietnam and he is my friend. He tells all of us Americans his name is Hanson Wind, because we can’t pronounce his name correctly.

He was only 14 in 1975 at the end of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign and the fall of the Republic of Vietnam. His father was a Sergeant in the ARVN and as such was placed in a “re-education camp” with most of the other non commissioned officers of the Army of South Vietnam. In reality, his father was held hostage until a large enough bribe could be gathered together by the family to pay for his release.

In a way, the family was lucky, if his father had been a commissioned officer, he most assuredly would have been executed along with the other 65,000 plus, democides committed by the Communists against government officials and military personnel.

After 2 years, the family finally managed to acquire enough money to pay a bribe and the father was release. He returned to his village and made a living for his family, as best he could, and encouraged his son, in whispers, in the night, to escape Vietnam and make his way to America.

The entire family was watched. Every village had its own apparatchik who wore a yellowish uniform. Behind his back he was called a “yellow water buffalo” because he was a big fat slob. He watched for every infraction and extorted money under the threat of re-education.

Huang’s father could not leave his wife and daughters to fend for themselves but he knew that if Huang escaped on his own that nothing was likely to be done to the rest of the family. Huang and another villager decided to build a boat.

500,000 Vietnamese died trying to escape from Vietnam by boat about half of that number were caught and executed by the Communists. It wasn’t an effort to take lightly.

So, when he was 16 years old he would sneak into the jungle with stolen materials and built a boat along a creek that ran into the river just a short way from the ocean. It took 3 months for him and his friend to build a boat.

When they were ready to stock it with some water and food to begin their journey, they were arrested. The Communists had know all along that they were building a boat so they let them finish it and then confiscated it when it was done. In effect what they had done through great effort was, build a boat for the Communists and get thrown into a re-education camp.

Haung was beaten and worked until he dropped then forced to listen to Communist propaganda which he had to recite back under fear of further beatings. He spent 9 months in “re-education” before his family could buy his way out. He never told me what happened to his friend.

Something happened to him in that camp, to this day, he can’t stand to be restrained, he gets restless if he lives anywhere too long and feels he must move on. But his resolve was strengthened and he swore to himself that he would escape or die trying.

Almost immediately after his release he started making plans to escape again.

He took his time and told no one. At night, when he could, he would sneak away to build another boat. This time he went back further into the jungle before he started to build. Being limited in tools and materials, he built the best boat he could. He said it was less than 12 feet long but built deep.

He knew many other people who wished to escape but owing to the size limitation only 14 people could fit on the boat.

Just a few nights before his escape he approached the 13 people he was sure of and told them of his plan. All of them agreed and on the moonless night they left, they quietly left behind all of their worldly possessions, taking with them any gold or jewelry they had hidden and the clothes on their backs.

Down the river, through the delta and into the ocean. Southward along the coast of Vietnam in the dark. Going ashore and hiding patrol boats during the day, to the Southern most tip of Vietnam, then Southeast across the Gulf of Thailand, toward Thailand and sanctuary.

Almost immediately their small boat had started leaking.

A journey of some 500 miles, 350 across open sea in an open boat. People sleeping in shifts because it was too crowded for very many to lay down at a time. Bailing water from the boat at an ever increasing rate.

The Boat never made it to Thailand. They were beginning to despair of ever reaching safety or living to see land.

Just about when all hope was lost, they spotted an oil drilling platform and they approached it. The boat had been leaking so badly that they had been bailing continuously to keep it afloat. As Huang stepped foot off his boat, it sunk.

After a few days the little group of refugees were transported to Thailand, to await sponsorship and a free life.

Huang, 18 months later was sponsored by a Vietnamese shrimper in Galveston Texas with the help of a Catholic refugee relief agency.