Wednesday, April 12, 2006

DNA Can Get You Paid!

Amy Harmon has a fascinating piece in the New York Times today about how people are using DNA testing to determine if they have ancestry that can be used to take advantage of race-based preferences and other social "perks" that come from being able to claim certain racial identities. A selection from this article is below:

"Naturally when you're applying to college you're looking at how your genetic status might help you," said Mr. Moldawer, who knows that the twins' birth parents are white, but has little information about their extended family. "I have three kids going now, and you can bet that any advantage we can take we will."

Genetic tests, once obscure tools for scientists, have begun to influence everyday lives in many ways. The tests are reshaping people's sense of themselves — where they came from, why they behave as they do, what disease might be coming their way.

It may be only natural then that ethnic ancestry tests, one of the first commercial products to emerge from the genetic revolution, are spurring a thorough exploration of the question, What is in it for me? (Read the whole thing here)

There's about a million different things that I could say about this article, but what strikes me most is how unapologetic some of the people profiled are about the purely materialistic motives behind the DNA tests. It's not about seeking to discover hidden aspects of one's identity that could promote healing the racial divide in America, but to get a pay off. Amazing! It reminds me of the following quotes from the Baha'i Writings:

Consumer culture, today's inheritor by default of materialism's gospel of human betterment, is unembarrassed by the ephemeral nature of the goals that inspire it. For the small minority of people who can afford them, the benefits it offers are immediate, and the rationale unapologetic. Emboldened by the breakdown of traditional morality, the advance of the new creed is essentially no more than the triumph of animal impulse, as instinctive and blind as appetite, released at long last from the restraints of supernatural sanctions. Its most obvious casualty has been language. Tendencies once universally castigated as moral failings mutate into necessities of social progress. Selfishness becomes a prized commercial resource; falsehood reinvents itself as public information; perversions of various kinds unabashedly claim the status of civil rights. Under appropriate euphemisms, greed, lust, indolence, pride-even violence-acquire not merely broad acceptance but social and economic value. (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith)

A superficial culture, unsupported by a cultivated morality, is as "a confused medley of dreams,"[1] and external lustre without inner perfection is "like a vapor in the desert which the thirsty dreameth to be water."[2] For results which would win the good pleasure of God and secure the peace and well-being of man, could never be fully achieved in a merely external civilization. (Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 60)

It seems that once again people have discovered a way to manipulate race for the selfish advantage of a few rather than the well-being of humanity as a whole. God willing, more people will take advantage of this revolutionary technology for the purpose of challenging the intellectual fiction of biologically distinct "races" in favor of recognizing the oneness of humankind.