Say Brian Boutwell and J.C. Barnes at Nautilus:
That’s right, the most compelling evidence for transgenerational epigenetics is in rodents, not humans. We are fans of animal research, but as Pinker noted, the strengths of it (fast reproductive cycles allowing for the study of numerous generations in a short window of time) may also curtail its applicability to humans in this particular case. Additionally, scientists can randomly manipulate a rodent pup’s exposure to different parenting/rearing strategies. But doing this with human babies would never fly with a university ethics committee.
When you can’t do experiments, you have to be very careful about something called confounding. Confounding is a pernicious problem that can make one thing look like it’s causing something else when, in actuality, it’s not. Epigenetics research, like all scientific areas, has to guard closely against confounding. Experiments deal nicely with this problem. Associational studies in humans, though, are much more vulnerable to it.
We’ve witnessed the incursion of epigenetic-hype into our own field of criminology and criminal justice. Recently, we debated scholars in the top criminology journal who argued we should scrap basic behavioral genetics research in no small part because epigenetics was forcing us to “rethink biology” and how genes influence behavior. More.
Curious how little time it took for epigenetics to go from endangered to dangerously fashionable. The field is definitely in the market for new answers.
No doubt there will be a lot of nonsense to contend with, but anyone who has waded through evolutionary psychology will have gained experience with that on the job.
Note: The name Brian Boutwell rings a bell, and sure enough, from the files:
At Quillette, Brian Boutwell defends the concept of “race”:
So this brings us back to the notion that race represents academia’s true Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps never has the topic of genetic ancestry been so important, yet despite its relevance, bright scholars continue to stay away from it in droves. Who can blame them, really? As John McWhorter has pointed out, screaming “racist” at every one who dives off into this topic has become a religious rite, of sorts. It will not matter how noble you think your motives are, if you factor in race as a variable, your actions are subject to impeachment, and your reputation may be sacrificed as a burnt offering to our new religion
No wonder epigenetics seems dangerous to him.
See also: Epigenetics part of new normal in plant studies People can argue till Niagara falls about whether we are rethinking evolution, but non-Darwinian evolution is simply becoming a part of the conventional landscape.
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
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