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Elizabeth Warren’s folly

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Opinion columnist Caleb Stekl discusses the problems he sees with using genetic testing for political purposes.

Opinion columnist Caleb Stekl discusses the problems he sees with using genetic testing for political purposes.

TNS

TNS

Opinion columnist Caleb Stekl discusses the problems he sees with using genetic testing for political purposes.

CALEB STEKL, Opinion Columnist

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Never before has science posed a greater threat to the existence of humanity. Science can, and likely will, solve global warming. It is just a matter of when and how much damage will occur. Science is also capable of preventing a massive asteroid from impaling Earth into a billion pieces. However, the dark underbelly of science rests precisely in what it cannot answer and our attempts to force it to do so.

I claim that the obscene possibilities of biogenetics are already being realized in the present. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent attempt to prove her indigenous ancestry is a prime example of the primitive logic of eugenics.

The rise of genetic testing sites such as 23 and Me and Ancestry may at first seem like harmless exhibitions. All one is required to do is send a sample of saliva or hair and in a week or two, one discovers their ancestral origins.  Knowing one’s ethnic origins is not a problem as such. It is only when we give meaning to these results that fascism enters the equation.

Take, for instance, the recent caricature of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Due to President Trump’s constant agitation, Senator Warren decided to get an ancestry test. The results: Warren possibly had an indigenous ancestor six to ten generations ago. So, she’s indigenous right?

No: identity and race escape the grasp of scientific measurability. Ethnicity and race are much more than DNA. They are determined by one’s economic, social and cultural upbringing. But, even at this stage, genetic testing can still be seen as a political puppet show. Genetics still lacks material meaning.

Perhaps the most instructive case for biogenetics’ horrific possibilities already exists: the nation-state. The state as such is not the problem. Rather, it is the predicate to the connective (nation-state) that creates the disastrous possibility of fascism: the imagined homogenous nation. The state apparatus has always been used by nationalists desiring to create an ethno-state. The question one must ask is: how far are nationalists willing to go to achieve purity?

We are already beginning to see the disintegration of ‘norms’ in immigration policy: England has begun to deport the Windrush generation of African immigrants and Hungary has deported refugees with legal status. These by themselves are obviously deplorable, but not as yet the greatest threat at hand. So where does Warren fit in this narrative?

She performed the same operation — for completely different political reasons — that the Nazis’ did when they began classifying Jews as such with skull measurements and purity tests. When biogenetics begins to have political meaning — when they are deemed ways to prove one’s political and social legitimacy — the horrific possibilities that await are not far behind.

Even a ‘progressive’ biogenetics program will be subsumed under identity politics’ lure: one can easily imagine an Olympics of diversity and those who are most ‘diverse’ are allowed to serve in office. Senator Warren’s pathetic spectacle must be disavowed for the promotion of eugenicist logic that it is.

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Elizabeth Warren’s folly