Op-Ed

A company called 23andme.com launched last week and got wads of media attention for being the first user-friendly Web site devoted to home genomics tests and analysis. For just $1,000, the company will take a swab of your cheek, sequence your genome, and tell you a bunch of things about how you fit into the Family of Humanity. They'll also allegedly give you nifty details about yourself, such as whether you have athletic abilities or a propensity for disease.

And 23andme is just the beginning. Another company called DeCode offers a similar service called DeCodeMe, and more are sure to follow. People are desperate to understand themselves, and so they turn to genetics as if it were a self-help manual instead of a still poorly understood science. While there are many theories about how genetic expression works on our personalities and health, there are few solid facts. Some tests, such as those for various kinds of developmental disabilities, have provable results. But many genetic tests, like those 23andme claim can reveal "athletic ability" are the biotech version of snake oil....