The New Master Race

November 30, 2008

This scares the shit out of me. From the NY Times:

“Atlas Sports Genetics is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths. The process is simple. Swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.
The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.
In this era of genetic testing, DNA is being analyzed to determine predispositions to disease, but experts raise serious questions about marketing it as a first step in finding a child’s sports niche, which some parents consider the road to a college scholarship or a career as a professional athlete.”

Holy fuck. Let me get this straight – we’re going to take a test that (allegedly) shows what sports kids will be best suited for and give those results to the same parents that get into fist fights with each other at Little League games? Are you shitting me? I’m going out on a limb here to say that this is NOT a good idea.

Besides, the test doesn’t show what people will think it shows:

“Still, some athletes prove science, and seemingly their genetics, wrong. Research on an Olympic long jumper from Spain showed that he had no copies of the R variant, indicating that athletic success is probably affected by a combination of genes as well as factors like environment, training, nutrition and luck.”

We’re going way overboard with this genetics stuff. Which is amazing, btw, given that we live in an untra-religious society that rejects the tenets upon which our understanding of genetics is based. People have a far more deterministic view of genetics than they should. Just because some gene has been indentified to be linked to a given trait does not mean that that trait will arise. First, there are often a large number of genes that are involved with any given physical or mental trait. Second, the environment one grows up in usually has at least as much influence on the development of these traits as the genes.

And, at any rate, KIDS’ SPORTS SHOULD BE ABOUT FUN. It shouldn’t be about breeding the next master race. Kids should play the sports they enjoy, not the ones they are best suited for genetically. That’s fucking absurd.


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