After not receiving an email from the professor of genetics I mentioned in the last post in over 24 hours, I decided to forward mine and my friend’s inquiry about the mixed-race birth on to a few more professors in the Genetics Department of our University’s Med School late last night. (Like 2 AM late.)
One professor, Dr. Russ Altman, had a response waiting in my inbox before I even woke up.
OK DEAR READER. PAUSE HERE. MAKE YOUR PREDICTION.
Predicted? Yes? Good?
Now let’s see what the pro has to say.
First, Professor Altman defines what we called “black genes” as “genes derived from folks whose ancestors 15,000 years ago were all in Africa.” He also defines our “white genes” as “genes derived from ancestors 15,000 years ago in Europe.”
“First of all, I agree with you that there are really no “white” genes and “black” genes, but it does make sense to talk about the origin of genes. All human genes eventually trace back to Africa about 150,000 years ago, and so ultimately you are right about no black/white genes. However, the initial migration of humans around the globe from Africa was completed about 10-15K years ago, and so we can somewhat arbitrarily define African genes as genes derived from folks whose ancestors 15K years ago were all in Africa. Similarly, we can define European genes (I prefer African-descent/European-desent to black/white) as genes derived from ancestors 15K years ago in Europe.“
Then, he leads me on like every cute boy ever in the 7th grade…
“When the daughter and son get together to have a child, each of the 23 chromosomes on that child will mandatorily be made out of European and African descent genes, and so that child will be “50%” African and “50%” European and every chromosome will have a mixture of African/European descent genes. So in that case, there is no possibility of an all African-descent genome arising.”
…and then, in perfect accordance with the middle school analogy, crushes all my hopes and dreams by choosing my friend over me.
He concludes: “It is conceivable that the recombination of the genetic material … would result in chromosomes that are 100% of African origin [according to our definition of the term].”
“HOWEVER, if that child meets another child (after appropriately growing up!) who is 50/50 African/European, it is conceivable (and now I am talking only conceivable–no pun intended–and nothing about likelihood, since the probability is roughly 0.0) that the recombination of the genetic material from the parents to create the DNA in the egg/sperm would result in chromosomes that are 100% of African origin (as defined by DNA sitting in Africa 15K years ago) for all 23 chromosomes that would then be passed to a child who would then have 100% African-origin DNA.”
Professor Altman, being the total G that he is, even included this scanned sketch for further explanation:
|Such a Ggggg|
Additionally, here is a screenshot of the entire email.
- If you have an academic question, email a few professors studying the field to which your question pertains. They love to talk about their life’s work, unsurprisingly.
- While it might not be correct to call them “black genes” and “white genes,” there are such things as genes deriving from African descent and genes deriving from European descent.
- If I have a baby with a half-white, half-asian man, I could have a child that looks like this