Monday, August 06, 2007

Steven Pinker and Genealogy

Steven Pinker's new book, The Stuff of Thought, will be out next month (I just pre-ordered it on Amazon) but he doesn't discuss it in his recent interview on Point of Inquiry.

He also published an interesting piece on genealogy in the August 6, 2007 issue of The New Republic [free subcription required]. Why are we so interested in our roots, he asks. We're all descended from famous people, so looking for famous ancestors is like "shooting ducks in a barrel". It's provable biologically that we tend to favor our relatives; in fact, some cultures, like Iraq, encourage first-cousin marriages, resulting in a society that favors kinship over nationalism.

I having my grandmother's DNA analyzed right now. The results should be back in a week or two. I've been looking into this whole DNA analysis stuff a fair bit for the past few years and, once Grandma's results are in, I'll probably take the plunge myself. If you've ever tried it, I'd be interested in hearing your experiences too.

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