Darwin's Y

less than 1 minute read

The Telegraph has done a puff piece about the Genographic testing of Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson.

Last week I got to attend an incredible panel discussion that focused on the issue of genetic testing and identity. How and why do people connect the results of a genotyping test to their deep conception of themselves?

The Genographic results are only Y chromosome and mtDNA, a tiny fraction of an individual’s ancestry. Charles Darwin only accounts for around 6 percent of this descendant’s ancestry (possibly a shade more genetically, considering the inbreeding). The Y chromosome is not the seat of the soul. And yet:

Mr Darwin, whose great-grandfather was Darwin's astronomer son George, said the test showed that the desire for knowledge and thirst for discovery was in his genetic makeup.
"I was always a bit concerned that I hadn't inherited Charles Darwin's scientific abilities, but I hoped I had inherited his adventurous abilities, his desire to go over the hill and see what was on the other side," he said.

Interesting how people construct a story about the connection between genes and identity, isn’t it?