Poll: Include Genealogical Ancestry (not Adam) in Schools?

Just out of curiosity and not a political effort at all. I have a poll.

In your personal view would it be good for schools to teach the differences between genetic and genealogical ancestry? This would not include the genealogical Adam (which is theology) but it would include the science that underlies it, presented neutrally in regards to religion.

  • Yes, at high school level and beyond, required.
  • Yes, at high school level and beyond, but only optionally.
  • Yes, at college level and beyond.
  • Yes, at graduate level biology and genetics.
  • No, absolutely not in public education.

0 voters

Please do not interpret this as a call to action or attempt to marshal political action behind an answer here, even my personal answer. I’m asking primarily to understand what people feel about it and what sorts of strong objections might arise.

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This is simply a feature of reality. Why it should be treated as some kind of sensitive subject is completely beyond me. Of course genealogical ancestry and its eventually limited role in explaining current genetic factors should be treated as an elucidating topic.


I think that they do this in schools when discussing genetics and dna.

They do not.

Well at my local high school they have students do their genealogy as part of a cultural exercise in social studies and then do their genome as part of biology class. How is that different from what you are proposing?

Unless you compare and contrast the findings of each, the lesson is lost.

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You would have to have the social studies teacher coordinate with the Biology teacher. You are right, will never happen.

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I’m saying that we should teach them about things like all of this together:

  1. Genetic ghosts, the meaning of genetic vs. genealogical ancestry.
  2. Recent universal common ancestry. Identical ancestor points.
  3. Pedigree collapse.
  4. The gap between genetic ancestry and genealogical ancestry.
  5. The myth of ethnic purity.
  6. Ancient DNA.

All that sort of stuff. This is not the stuff of social science.


Sure, kids today are smart. I think they can handle it.


Does anyone object?

I would think as long as it is about making a better science textbook, no one would have an objection. I do find that public understanding of genetics is not great. My own isn’t great, I had one genetics + evolution class in college but as I was a YEC at the time I’m not sure I soaked in as well as I should have. As someone who teaches a lot of 18 year olds just out of high school (from some of the best high schools in the country and some of the worst) I would say that the lack of statistical and scientific literacy is a very big problem. Students do not know how to handle the information they need to make good decisions politically, nutritionally, medically, and technologically. I think genetics vs genealogy could be a great way to bring relevance to some important science.


I don’t have any great objection, but I don’t see it as a priority. Given everything people don’t know about genetics, this doesn’t seem like what a person interested in improving science education should be pushing for.

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If done correctly, the contrast with genetics will increase understanding of genetics.

@pevaquark, @elle, @cwhenderson, or someone else, would one of you mind posting a link at BioLogos? I’m curious what some of their regulars might think.

This is what I found as an adjunct professor. The students have all the information at their fingertip but lack the critical thinking skills to separate fact from fiction, news from fake news, and most importantly to evaluate statistical significance. They all seem to find that one in a million statistically insignificant event.

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Story trumps numbers almost everytime, even among scientists. It is part of what it means to be human, for better and for worse.

Probably. But is it the most effective way to increase understanding of genetics? Or do you have a different goal in mind?

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It has been a pretty effective way of teaching the nuances of genetic inheritance, because with a comparison point the findings become more clear. Also, there is a lot of popular science that conflates the two, so it could be a pedagogical tool that empowers students to think critically about science journalism. I certainly thing it is important to teach students that we are far more connected to one another than meets the eye, and that race in many ways is a myth. So yes, I suppose I do have goals in addition to merely teaching genetics.

I’m unsure of what you want to teach about the difference between genetics and genealogy. Is it that as a genealogical ancestor becomes more distant in time it becomes increasingly unlikely that you inherited any portion of your genome from that ancestor? That inheritance works largely by sizable blocks of DNA? That different blocks coalesce to different ancestors?

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These posts have a lot of great content along the lines of what I am thinking: