Epigenetics Intelligent Design

Epigenetics: “[n]ew ideas closely related to Lamarck’s eighteenth-century views have become central to our understanding of genetics”

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From Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff, in a discussion sparked by The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) at New York Review of Books:

When the molecular structure of DNA was discovered in 1953, it became dogma in the teaching of biology that DNA and its coded information could not be altered in any way by the environment or a person’s way of life. The environment, it was known, could stimulate the expression of a gene. Having a light shone in one’s eyes or suffering pain, for instance, stimulates the activity of neurons and in doing so changes the activity of genes those neurons contain, producing instructions for making proteins or other molecules that play a central part in our bodies.

The structure of the DNA neighboring the gene provides a list of instructions—a gene program—that determines under what circumstances the gene is expressed. And it was held that these instructions could not be altered by the environment. Only mutations, which are errors introduced at random, could change the instructions or the information encoded in the gene itself and drive evolution through natural selection. Scientists discredited any Lamarckian claims that the environment can make lasting, perhaps heritable alterations in gene structure or function.

But new ideas closely related to Lamarck’s eighteenth-century views have become central to our understanding of genetics. In the past fifteen years these ideas—which belong to a developing field of study called epigenetics—have been discussed in numerous articles and several books, including Nessa Carey’s 2012 study The Epigenetic Revolution2 and The Deepest Well, a recent work on childhood trauma by the physician Nadine Burke Harris. More.

Epigenetics is another nail in the coffin of traditional Darwinism because the just-so stories of natural selection acting on random mutations depend, among other things, on the assumption that the inherited genome is a sort of lockbox with no influences other than its own random mutations. If the genome is as plastic as it now appears, many non-random factors influence it in predictable ways. The market for Darwinian just-so stories about how and why changes occur is likely to tank as the new approach sinks in.

See also: Early life experiences influence DNA in adult brain

and

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

3 Replies to “Epigenetics: “[n]ew ideas closely related to Lamarck’s eighteenth-century views have become central to our understanding of genetics”

  1. 1
    Nonlin.org says:

    Both Lamarckism and Darwinian Evolution are only early thoughts that add nothing to current biological studies in the same way Democritus’s Atomic Hypothesis adds nothing to modern physics. Biology has progressed over the last 200 years without any need of Lamarck’s hypothesis and 150 years without a need for Darwin’s theory because these are “just so” stories, rather that useful concepts necessary for understanding life. Contrast this with Mendel’s genetics: his experiments can be repeated today and are actually helpful for novice students (but not so much to the more advanced ones).

    From the beginning, Darwin (like Lamarck and others before) was in search of an alternative explanation to divine creation (“inexplicable on the theory of creation”), making Evolution a Religious argument despite insistence that it is Science and not Belief.

  2. 2
    Allan Keith says:

    When the molecular structure of DNA was discovered in 1953, it became dogma in the teaching of biology that DNA and its coded information could not be altered in any way by the environment or a person’s way of life.

    But this dogma did not last very long. The affect of environment on phenotype was being taught in the early 70’s, if not earlier.

    Epigenetics is another nail in the coffin of traditional Darwinism

    Since traditional Darwinism did not preclude Lamarkism, this is not true. But ignoring this, Darwinism requires a source of variation for selection to act on. Epigenetics just provides a source of variation that selection can work on.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Natural selection does not act or work on anything.

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