From Michael Eisen:
Epigenetics is used as shorthand in the popular press for any of a loosely connected set of phenomenon purported to result in experience being imprinted in DNA and transmitted across time and generations. Its place in our lexicon has grown as biochemical discoveries have given ideas of extra-genetic inheritance an air of molecular plausibility.
Biologists now invoke epigenetics to explain all manner of observations that lie outside their current ken. Epigenetics pops up frequently among non-scientists in all manner of discussions about heredity. And all manner of crackpots slap “epigenetics” on their fringy ideas to give them a veneer of credibility. But epigenetics has achieved buzzword status far faster and to a far larger extent than current science justifies, earning the disdain of scientists (like me) who study how information is encoded, transferred and read out across cellular and organismal generations.
This simmering conflict came to a head last week around an article in The New Yorker, “Same but Different” by Siddhartha Mukherjee that juxtaposed a meditation on the differences between his mother and her identical twin with a discussion of the research of Rockefeller University’s David Allis on the biochemistry of DNA and the proteins that encapsulate it in cells, that he and others believe provides a second mechanism for the encoding and transmission of genetic information. More.
Yes, … Mukherjee… See Darwinists open fire on epigenetics
The skinny: A century of Darwinist suppression of epigenetics has led to a situation where the hard science is in there but only just beginning to emerge. Perhaps there is time to kill it, no?
Getting rid of the crackpots would be a good first step, but only for those who actually want the discipline to succeed.
Sociologically, it is a curious standoff. Cool Media like the New Yorker should be heart and soul for Darwin, including and especially evolutionary psychology. But they don’t like thinking of Darwin as a ring through their snouts, it seems.
It’ll be interesting to see how that unfolds. If the New Yorker is even talking about it, that’s because other people are. At this point, Cool Media could give up their right to pursue such questions in order to cater to Darwin’s boys, but it would be at the price of their own relevance. Which, in their case, is their stock in trade.
But people have been willing to pay that price. Check out the “aren’t I good?” girls.
See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
Royal Society rethinking evolution
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