“Unfortunately, the genome itself is anything but user-friendly. After a decade of research, our data is a jumble of conflicting facts, and no one seems ready to make sense of it. The best metaphor comes from Duke geneticist Misha Angrist, author of Here Is A Human Being and Participant #4 of the Personal Genome Project. “It turns out to be just a total fucking mess. So instead of having this linear icon representing human biology, the most potent symbol now is the hairball.”
Everything I didn’t learn from taking a personal genome test [The Awl]
It’s true BUT not entirely true. Misha Angrist responds to the piece above on his personal blog in a post titled, Of Hairballs and Long Hauls,
If we are talking only about type 2 diabetes or human height or Crohn’s disease or certain forms of cancer, then yes, I wholeheartedly stand behind the expletive and the hairball.
Personal genomics, in my view, should not be judged solely on its inability to deliver meaningful risk information about common diseases or how tall someone is likely to be. Our genomes harbor other stuff; we can choose to ignore it if we want to, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t there.
You’ll have to read the post at his blog, genomeboy, to learn about that other stuff and other very useful information that the dude for The Awl forgets to write about or simply ignores. I also love Misha’s conclusion,
So yeah, it’s a mess and a hairball and a bushel and a peck. And so not destiny. But that doesn’t mean that some of it isn’t useful and fascinating. Of course it’s fascinating: it’s about us.
This is something that I’ve discussed extensively with friends, classmates and family. A higher probability for something doesn’t mean that you’ll express it, this has been common knowledge for some time. Maybe it has been oversold, but what isn’t? Everything is and has always been hyped; from your Facebook to your resume, we’re all being sold something that’s you but not entirely you. As Freeman Dyson eloquently states in a recent NYRP piece, “All of science is uncertain and subject to revision. The glory of science is to imagine more than we can prove.” Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of science knows this to be both true and perhaps subject to revision.
Also read Razib’s brief response at Gene Expression. [Discovery blogs]