Well President Obama and I now have something in common: we have both been accused of being racist against white people.
President Obama by Glenn "'President Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people' and 75 seconds later 'I'm not saying President Obama doesn't like white people'" Beck and me by neoprene nancy (not to be confused with Polythene Pam) in a comment on my recent post Another rich white guy sequences own genome about Stephen Quake sequencing his own genome. The entirety of her comment is "Another blogging guy inadvertently reveals racism." I truly find it a strange and discomforting thing that people so quickly and easily throw out accusations of racism. It is almost as though racists are adopting the approach taken by hip hop artists with the N-word: adopt the word's use to the point of overuse to diminish its derogatory connotation. Hopefully neoprene nancy was joking. In case she was not, let's take the accusation apart. Since she does not call me socialist or sexist and herself uses the term "guy", I assume she is only concerned with my reference to "white" and not "rich" or "guy". Perhaps, like Glenn Beck would have us believe about President Obama, I am a self loather and have a deep-seated hatred of white people (for those of you wondering, you can see a picture of me). Or perhaps my dissatisfaction with the selection of another healthy, white male for whole genome sequencing has to do with the fact that it will provide essentially no scientific value. This is likely why the sequence analysis was so cursory and why it got published as a letter in Nature Biotechnology rather than an article in a top-tier journal: it is essentially just a proof of concept for the Helicos platform. While knowing his sequence has provided some health insights for Stephen Quake (see Quake Traits), it does not advance our understanding of the relationship between genotype (DNA) and phenotype (traits). It does not add to our understanding of natural human variation beyond that provided by the 1000 Genomes Project. It does not help us to understand variants associated with cancer or other common diseases. It does not help us to interpret the biological role of conserved sequences in the genome that are not in genes. In short, it is a novelty and should be called out for what it is, another rich, white guy sequencing his own genome.