Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

The problem with DNA today

Posted by Richard on January 4, 2017

The next time you hear that the police have DNA evidence connecting someone to a crime, remember Michelle Malkin’s latest column, Forensic Nightmare: The Perils of Touch DNA.

The problem with DNA today is that we’ve become too good at finding it. It’s now possible to detect and analyze incredibly small samples of “touch DNA” — the epithelial cells that our skin sheds all the time everywhere we go. And those cells can then get transferred to who knows whom or where. Six degrees of separation, anyone?

You go to an office to drop off a job application and shake hands with the manager. She meets her husband for lunch, and they hug. Later that day, as he’s making the night deposit from his business, someone assaults him from behind and steals the money. Guess what? The police find your DNA on the back of his jacket. His assailant wore a mask, and the only description he can give is a white guy of average height and medium build wearing dark clothes. Hey, that’s you, isn’t it?

The problem is analogous to the problem caused by our ability to measure smaller and smaller concentrations of contaminants or pollutants. First it was parts per million, then parts per billion, and now we’re measuring parts per trillion. We’re approaching the point where we can detect almost anything almost anywhere. “The lake contains organophosphates!” “Detectable levels of arsenic were found on the playground!”

While there are some substances (like lead, which accumulates in the body) for which it’s fair to say that there really aren’t any safe levels, for almost everything else Paracelcus’ adage that the dose makes the poison is true. But people don’t know or tend to forget that (which radical environmentalists exploit all the time).

Just as tiny bits of your DNA can end up in many places, so can tiny bits of a farmer’s glyphosphate (Roundup). While both facts are interesting, they shouldn’t be assumed to prove that you, or the farmer, or Monsanto are guilty of anything or have harmed anyone. They merely demonstrate how good we’ve gotten at detecting stuff in very small quantities.

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