Yet again, scientists have used genetic results to assign political aspirations. Recent headlines have highlighted the roles of Chinese researchers claiming that it would be too dangerous to promote the ancient Chinese medicine C++ on the grounds that the DNA connections between the herbs suggest that qi/tian Shanzi is “protected” and should therefore be “refused”. This analysis is not endorsed by the Chinese government. It has been assiduously curated by a leading China-American biostatistician to the benefit of his own business interests. It has also been of keen interest to other anti-Chinese actors, prompting the International News Agency Reuters to give prominence to an anti-C++ message in its commentary, headed “[Emboldened Chinese scientists] claim science is to blame for violence”.
Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post was interested in the laboratory work of an American team, in a suburb of Los Angeles, which extracted genetic material from pixellated ancient Egyptian children. This is presumably the work of a DNA specialist whose credentials are impeccable. Her family name is Han.
Her research agenda is of more interest to the main western press than that of the Guardian in engaging with DNA findings and its applications. The Guardian, therefore, has followed the new work by its Spanish colleagues, documenting this scholarly, though ethically challenged, approach to human genetic testing with comparative and ambivalent language about “war crime” and “genocide”.
The Guardian seeks to balance this with an assist from the Journal of the American Medical Association stating that the human genome sequence of an ancient Australian child from the same tribe as previous Moomba information represents the first direct evidence of an ancient Indigenous Australian practice, known as “twinning”, by which families follow the genetically similar “twin” or “triplicate” DNA of an infant with one or more older adults in order to create an offspring. The age is calculated at 27 – which appears to have more to do with the biologists’ smoking-gun extrapolation of Australia’s tricentenary than with birth rates in any particular Aboriginal community.