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Epigenetics coverage increases in Ken Miller’s 2014 textbook

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More than in any other textbook adopted for use in Texas schools says a friend.

It’s not much, it amounts to putting in a definition for epigenetics, and cross-referencing it to the paragraph he had on page 409 in the new text.

That’s smart on Miller’s part. Epigenetics is discussed enough now in the science literature that the books that leave it out or damn it with faint praise are taking a risk

Epigenetic changes do not change a cell’s DNA, but they do change how the DNA functions. For example, recent rodent studies suggest that “an animal parent’s exposure to drugs, alcohol, and stress can alter brain development and behavior in their offspring.” It this holds up, it might rewrite public health strategies.

The onetime chief lobbyist for Darwin only in the schools had argued

It was almost a relief when an antievolutionist contended that the books should be rejected because they don’t include epigenetics. At least the epigenetics argument is relatively recent (perhaps only 5-8 years old). In creation-think, including epigenetics in biology textbooks will weaken evolution because epigenetics is evidence against evolution. Yeah, I know it isn’t, but to creationists, any process that isn’t natural selection weakens natural selection as an evolutionary mechanism, and if natural selection isn’t strong enough to produce evolution, that means that evolution didn’t take place, and…and…You get the picture. Never mind that epigenetics isn’t in the TEKS, the state science education standards, and generally isn’t a topic for beginning biology learners.

Note “the epigenetics argument,” as if the scientists who are studying epigenetics are  a pressure group. But heck, it’s the world she knows.

See also: Epigenetics: Three generations of mice affected by maternal starvation

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15 Replies to “Epigenetics coverage increases in Ken Miller’s 2014 textbook

  1. 1
    awstar says:

    At least the epigenetics argument is relatively recent (perhaps only 5-8 years old). In creation-think, including epigenetics in biology textbooks will weaken evolution because epigenetics is evidence against evolution. Yeah, I know it isn’t, but to creationists, any process that isn’t natural selection weakens natural selection as an evolutionary mechanism, and if natural selection isn’t strong enough to produce evolution, that means that evolution didn’t take place, and…and…You get the picture.

    When did natural selection get to be so powerful as an evolutionary mechanism? Isn’t natural selection simply the process of weeding out the most broken by death?

  2. 2
    Mark Frank says:

    In creation-think, including epigenetics in biology textbooks will weaken evolution because epigenetics is evidence against evolution. Yeah, I know it isn’t, but to creationists, any process that isn’t natural selection weakens natural selection as an evolutionary mechanism, and if natural selection isn’t strong enough to produce evolution, that means that evolution didn’t take place,

    This is the key point. Epigenetics is non-guided alternative to natural selection. As Miller says it is relatively new and the extent to which it accounts for evolution is uncertain so it doesn’t feature in basic text books.

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    Mark Frank:

    Epigenetics is non-guided

    That’s a laugh. Epigenetics is probably the clearest case of front loading since the finding that genes have a mechanism to repair random mutations. No species could survive without these preprogrammed capabilities.

  4. 4
    phoodoo says:

    Mapou,

    I agree, but I think we can also include every adaptation that organisms do to get more fit, such as building bigger muscles when you use them more, making bones stronger when they are subject to greater stress, getting suntans, the heart getting stronger the more you use it, the lungs improving with exercise, blood cells adapting to cold, the mind improving its connections the more you use it…all of these things are examples of how organisms strive to improve when it is required of them…and natural selection pretty much has no answer to how.

    These adaptations of which there are thousands, are all front loaded, and show just how much our bodies strive to survive, not accidentally get better.

  5. 5
    Mark Frank says:

    Mapou

    Maybe we are using different definitions of epigenetics?

    I am only aware of:

    relating to, being, or involving changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence

    which says nothing about being guided – it is just another mechanism for inheritance.

  6. 6
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    Epigenetics is non-guided alternative to natural selection.

    Natural selection is non-guided.

    As for weakening natural selection- LoL! Natural selection is as weak of a “process” as one can get.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    For Mark Frank – RE a specific ID testable hypothesis:

    Darwinism, Design and Public Education page 92:

    1. High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2. Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

    And then there are the specific hypotheses borne from “The Privileged Planet”

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    Epigenetics is non-guided alternative to natural selection.

    And the evidence is?

    You have none, great. Standard evo-mat nonsense.

    Is natural selection guided?

  9. 9
    phoodoo says:

    Mark,

    You made a confused statement. You said that epigenetics is an alternative to natural selection. Since Natural selection is only a description of probabilities, did you mean to say that epigenetics is an alternative to random mutations? Because otherwise you would be saying it is an alternative to differing reproduction rates, and that doesn’t make sense.

    So, as an alternative to random mutations, we must explore what is random about epigenetics. So far the answer appears to be nothing-we have zero evidence that the emergence nor the ongoing mechanisms of epigentics are random. Why would anyone assume epigentics is random, and unguided?

    So epigentics is a contradiction of Darwinian evolution, not a compliment.

  10. 10
    Acartia_bogart says:

    “Isn’t natural selection simply the process of weeding out the most broken by death?”

    No. Death is not required, only reproductive success. Through man’s use of the selection process we now have hundreds of breeds of dog. This was done by restricting which dog another dog got to breed with, not by killing puppies.

    Wrt epigenetics, how exactly does this weaken natural selection. When Darwin proposed the theory, he didn’t know what the mechanism responsible for inheritance was. In fact, he never ruled out the inheritance of acquires traits. The source of the variation that selection could work on was not important, only that the traits themselves could be passed along.

    All epigenetics shows is that the expression of genes is affected by environment, something that we have known about for a very long time. The average hight of humans of European descent is taller than it was 400 years ago; nobody is suggesting that this is do to evolution. The science of epigenetics is simply fleshing out the molecular basis around what has been long known. Much like the discovery of genetics and DNA fleshed out the molecular basis for heredity.

    The only really new discovery is that these changes in genetic expression, in a few circumstances, may affect two or three generations. But there is no evidence that they affect long term heredity. At best, epigenetics may be a mechanism for adaptation to short term environmental changes.

  11. 11
    Mapou says:

    bogart:

    All epigenetics shows is that the expression of genes is affected by environment, something that we have known about for a very long time. The average hight of humans of European descent is taller than it was 400 years ago; nobody is suggesting that this is do to evolution. The science of epigenetics is simply fleshing out the molecular basis around what has been long known. Much like the discovery of genetics and DNA fleshed out the molecular basis for heredity.

    Why rewrite history, hoping that nobody will notice? This is chicken sh!t, man. Darwinists have been using examples of epigenetic adaptation as evidence for evolution for centuries. Darwin’s finches are a case in point. Epigenetics is a complex pre-programmed system that is controlled by the brain and works in response to environmental cues. It causes visible changes in the organism during its lifetime and the ensuing genetic modifications are inheritable.

    Both epigenetics and a mechanism to repair random gene mutations must be in place in order for an organism to survive. The idea that an organism can evolve something that must already be in place in order for it to survive is laughable on the face of it. It is not even wrong.

    Conclusion: Darwinism is not science. It is pure unmitigated voodoo nonsense, on a par with superstition.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Mayr said that natural selection is a process of elimination- see “What Evolution Is”- Natural selection- The process by which in every generation individuals of lower fitness are removed from the population.

    OTOH artificial selection- all those dog breeds- is more of a conscious selection process. The elimination occurs when the breeders don’t let the unwanted mate. No need to kill but again reproductive success is the key. That success is determined by some human(s) as opposed to being determined by some survivability quotient.

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    The process by which in every generation individuals of lower fitness are removed from the population.

    Mayr said this? Which page?

    What he probably meant to write:

    The process by which in every generation individuals of lower fitness are removed from the population. Or not.

  14. 14
    Mapou says:

    Joe:

    OTOH artificial selection- all those dog breeds- is more of a conscious selection process. The elimination occurs when the breeders don’t let the unwanted mate. No need to kill but again reproductive success is the key. That success is determined by some human(s) as opposed to being determined by some survivability quotient.

    Another important aspect of dog breeding is that random mutations are not involved in the process.

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    Mung- I believe that quote from Matr was either from the glossary section of the book or page 118.

    Mapou- random mutations could be involved, we just don’t know.

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