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Astonishing! Ultra-Darwinism explicitly ridiculed at Harvard

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It’s just not hot anymore. In a media release about a project in epigenetics:

Until just a decade ago, the idea of epigenetic inheritance would have made Greer an object of scientific ridicule.

The prevailing evolutionary dogma has been natural selection, as put forth by Darwin: Individuals that acquire a beneficial trait through a random change in their DNA are more likely to survive and reproduce, thereby passing the trait on to their progeny.

But before Darwin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck posited that individuals can purposefully acquire new traits—like giraffes’ necks lengthening to reach the highest leaves—and pass them down in their genetic code.

Scientists dismissed Lamarck’s views for close to two centuries, but recent evidence suggests that he was on to something.

A 2016 study, for example, found an increased risk of diabetes and hypertension in the children and even grandchildren of people who lived through extreme famine in China, well after the famine had passed.

Greer thinks this represents a metabolic adaptation to starvation and that inherited epigenetic information helps prepare subsequent generations for the possibility that sufficient food might not be available.

“It’s pretty accepted now that there is epigenetic inheritance,” he said. “The big unknown is how it happens and what is specifically transmitted.

“Those are the questions we are trying to tackle.”

Nancy Fliesler, “Beyond DNA” at Harvard Medical School News and Research

Game. Changed. “Scientific ridicule” ain’t what it used to be. Please, let evidence matter again.

See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!

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4 Replies to “Astonishing! Ultra-Darwinism explicitly ridiculed at Harvard

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    “How it happens” has a partial tentative answer. At least in nematodes, the nervous system of the mother has a direct connection to the ovaries, modulating epigenes in the developing egg.

    If this holds true in more complex critters with more complex adaptation needs, I’d expect to find a specific code-generating section in the brain.

  2. 2
    jawa says:

    The link here:

    Nancy Fliesler, “Beyond DNA” at Harvard Medical School News and Research

    doesn’t work for me.

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    That’s really odd it says that I’m “not allowed to edit this item”

    I would have no idea why I would get that message

    But I also can’t open that either

  4. 4
    Fasteddious says:

    The link at the top of the piece works. The link at the bottom is to a UD page for editing. Use the upper link.

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