Forensic Racial Genetics

Newsome, M. (2007). The incovenient science of racial DNA profiling. Wired. October 5, 2007. Available online: (from gnxp).

The article is extremely cool, first describing a new technology with obvious Sysadmin implications:

In early March, 2003, investigators turned to Tony Frudakis, a molecular biologist who said he could determine the killer’s race by analyzing his DNA. They were unsure about the science, so, before giving him the go-ahead, the task force sent Frudakis DNA swabs taken from 20 people whose race they knew and asked him to determine their races through blind testing. He nailed every single one…

“Your guy has substantial African ancestry,” said Frudakis. “He could be Afro-Caribbean or African American but there is no chance that this is a Caucasian. No chance at all.”

There was a prolonged, stunned silence, followed by a flurry of questions looking for doubt but Frudakis had none. Would he bet his life on this, they wanted to know? Absolutely. In fact, he was certain that the Baton Rouge serial killer was 85 percent Sub-Saharan African and 15 percent native American.

“This means we’re going to turn our investigation in an entirely different direction,” Frudakis recalls someone saying. “Are you comfortable with that?”

“Yes. I recommend you do that,” he said. And now, rather than later since, in the time it took Frudakis to analyze the sample, the killer had claimed his fifth victim. The task force followed Frudakis’ advice and, two months later, the killer was in custody.

As the technology gets more advanced, more and more details about criminals will be derivable from scant genetic clues. Imagine being able to derive not just where bombs are going off, for example, but the locations of a country where they are probably being assembled — all before starting your humint operations.

Of course, anti-science is part of the Standard Social Science Model, so it’s no surprise that modern crime-fighting has its enemies:

But even the people one might think should be his biggest allies aren’t supporting that, including Tony Clayton, the special prosecutor who tried one of the Baton Rouge murder cases. Clayton, who is black, admits that he initially dismissed Frudakis as some white guy trying to substantiate his racist views. He no longer believes that and says “had it not been for Frudakis, we would still be looking for the white guy in the white pick-up truck.” But then he adds, “We’ve been taught that we’re all the same, that we bleed the same blood. If you subscribe to the (Frudakis) theory, you’re saying we are inherently unequal.”

He continues: “If I could push a button and make this technology disappear, I would.”

Online: DNAPrint Genomics

One thought on “Forensic Racial Genetics”

  1. “If you subscribe to the (Frudakis) theory, you’re saying we are inherently unequal.”

    I remember an old mathematics lesson, in high school, in which our instructor taught us the difference between similarity and equality. Equality is sameness; in math, two things that are equal are identical. Whereas, similarity means that two things have some common features, which are being weighed, or the two things are being judged by those common features but are not identical.

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