Test Your Child For The ACTN3 Gene and Muscle Type!

Steven Pinker, in his essay "My Genome, My Self," explains that many of the "dystopian fears" raised by personal genome sequencing (think of the movie Gattaca) are absurd because of the complexity and "probabilistic nature" of genes-- especially in light of the various studies explaining how the influence of a particular gene is contingent on the environment, thousands of other genes in your genome-- both known and unknown-- and how we can never account for the myriad combination and influence of genes, random mutations, environment, and "other" that make an individual; Pinker ends the essay with this example: when parents and coaches learned about the ACTN3 gene and muscle type, they started swabbing kids' cheeks for saliva so they could genetically screen them for a proclivity for fast-twitch musculature, and then steer these kids towards football and sprinting . . . but Carl Foster, one of the scientists who uncovered the ACTN3 association, had a more elegant way to "discover" kids with more fast twitch muscles: "Just line them up with their classmates for a race and see which ones are the fastest" . . . the swab will find some of the kids who may have a predilection for fast twitch musculature, but the race will find all of them.

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