Friday, December 6, 2013

The Death of Neo-Darwinism

"Biologists have suspected for years that some kind of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the cellular level" - Michael Forrester

When I first learned about evolution, as a young teen, it didn't make much sense to me. It seemed to be more rationalization than anything else, and far too simple of an explanation. Even then, I had this intuition the current paradigm would be overthrown.

So imagine my lack of surprise when it was found that experiences can modify genes. Originally this was known as Lamarckism, was created by a Frenchman and was popular in Communist Russia many decades ago. Since at that time there was no proof for it was mocked, ridiculed and dismissed.

Now it turns out there is some proof for it, and this just might be as big of a discovery as that of DNA.

There have been studies done on mice, in which anxiety and phobias taught to one generation changed some sections of the DNA in sperm, so it was passed on to the next generation.

I've had this intuition for years that something like this could happen - that bad experiences of one generation can change genetics so that it was passed onto the next generation.

I do know it's been found when the mother is under intense stress, more homosexuals are born. I remember reading a study that had been done in East Germany, and they found during and after WWII many more homosexuals were born. Scientists theorized the many stress hormones released by the mother's body when the baby is in utero affected the development of the fetus.

It's also been found that the mother's diet during pregnancy alters the baby's DNA. These days this is known as epigenetics, or more informally, as fetal programming.

After all, if enough alcohol at the wrong time can produce Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (think Jesse Jackson) then I think it's obvious the right nutrition can have some very good effects.

Then we have dogs. Jerry Pournelle believes that those who domesticated dogs gained a decisive superiority over those who did not.

When I first read about Pournelle's hypothesis I got this flash that those who had domesticated dogs were able to use dogs to help in the hunt, to eliminate vermin, to guard, to defend. Which would free humans to develop other talents.

In other words, we could not be what we are without dogs, and we owe them much more than owe us for letting them park themselves on our couches and getting fed for doing no work except acting goofy.

Currently, I have been mystified at the number of masculine young women I see - ones whose shoulders are broader than their hips. I've heard various explanations for it - chemicals in food and water, for example. There is probably truth to it.

But I also wonder if letting women into the workforce has masculinized them, changed their genetics, and if somehow that has been passed on to their daughters (and to their sons, which feminizes them). After all, none of this started until the second generation of feminists.

If that's true we're going go see more and more masculine women (who aren't going to reproduce) so the problem with these monsters will right itself.

I've also wondered why we no longer have any polymaths. Something went wrong, and apparently has for a long time. I wonder if the anxiety and stress and boredom that children feel in, say, public schools alters not only their brains but their genes? Which is then passed on to their kids?

These are merely hypotheses of mine. They may be right and they may be wrong. Only time and study will tell.

And I'll add that if one is not willing to entertain what appears to be bizarre ideas, and judge with them an open mind, then there's not going to be more advancement.

"There are always two parties, the party of the Past and the party of the Future: the Establishment and the Movement. At times the resistance is reanimated, the schism runs under the world and appears in Literature, Philosophy, Church, State and social customs." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Bellita said...

Re: fetal programming

What you have been writing reminds me of what Martin Lindstrom wrote in his book Brandwashed.

From an online summary: "An Asian shopping mall chain theorized that pregnant women spend a lot of time shopping. Lindstrom writes that it deliberately introduced smells and sounds that would entice pregnant women to return to the stores. 'It sprayed Johnson & Johnson baby powder in every area of the mall where clothing was sold,' he writes. 'Then it infused the fragrance of cherry across areas of the mall where one could buy food and beverages. Then it started playing soothing music from the era when these women were born.' Sales to pregnant women rose significantly, as hoped for. But the mall chain later learned a surprising fact, Lindstrom reports: Babies of those pregnant women would be calmer and more content whenever they entered the mall. This suggests that even in the womb, you can be reached by marketing."


Unknown said...

"Babies of those pregnant women would be calmer and more content whenever they entered the mall."

Good God. Aldous Huxley was right!