Epigenetics


Several years ago I initiated a discussion around evolution based on a book I had recently read, entitled “The case of the midwife toad”, by Arthur Koestler.

This book was a detective story based on the life and death of an Austrian scientist, Paul Kammerer, who discovered evidence that appeared to contradict Darwinism, around the end of the 19th century.  In agreement with the book, I suggested that evolution was too slow for some of the changes we see between generations. I suggested that there must be some mechanism by which we could “write back” to our genetic code our experiences in life, and that this write-back modification could be passed on to subsequent generations.

Despite a determined effort, I could not find this discussion (a warning to those who create too many discussion forums). The best I could find was this quote from Leon Louw – “Yep, that’s it, evolution applies to everything, hence me being more Darwinian than Darwin – it is simply science (specifically physics) at work. L”

At the time I was roundly derided for holding this discredited “Lamarckian” view of evolution. I have since discovered in a recent Time magazine article  (january 18, 2010) and in a Popular Mechanics article (November 2007) that a new field of biological science entitled “Epigenetics” has arisen, in which gene markers are turned off and on to provoke specific genetic changes, which are inheritable from one generation to the next.

I now wait to be proven right about the Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 coverup, the origin of AIDS, and the global warming hoax.

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  1. #1 by Allan Sztab on October 11, 2010 - 5:03 pm

    I think the mystery of the sudden large changes in our evolution can be explained by the fact that viruses are able to infect and become part of the human genome. In fact there are over 200 viral sequences that are known about in our genome. Our immune system functions the way it does because of our infection with a retrovirus somewhere way back in our evolutionary history. Our mitochondria are actually bacterial in origin.
    I find it totally fascinating to think that we are part bacterium part virus part everything. We are all one after all it seems.
    I don’t know too much about epigenetics but it sounds very exciting too. Is ‘the case of the midwife toad’ the best source of material on it?

    Warm regards
    Allan Sztab
    _____________

    • #2 by Trevor Watkins on October 11, 2010 - 5:06 pm

      The book is actually by Arthur Koestler, The Case of the Midwife Toad, London: Hutchinson, 1971, and is about Paul Kammerer. A useful link for more info is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Kammerer, where it is suggested that Kammerer may have been the first to discover Epigenetics.

      To quote from wikipedia-
      In 2009 Alexander Vargas, an evolutionary developmental biologist, suggested that the inheritance of acquired traits (Lamarckian inheritance) that Kammerer observed in the Midwife Toad could be real and could be explained by epigenetics.[5] Kammerer could be the true discoverer of non-Mendelian, epigenetic inheritance. The mechanism of epigenetic inheritance is a chemical modification of DNA (DNA methylation) that can be passed on to subsequent generations. Furthermore, the “parent of origin” effect which was confusing at the time, can be explained today because similar effects have been discovered in other organisms.

      Interestingly, Kammerer was interested in another subject of debate in libsa recently, namely, synchronicity. Again, I quote wikepedia –
      Kammerer’s other passion was collecting coincidences. He published a book with the title Das Gesetz der Serie (The Law of the Series; never translated into English) in which he recounted some 100 anecdotes of coincidences that had led him to formulate his theory of Seriality.
      He postulated that all events are connected by waves of seriality. These unknown forces would cause what we would perceive as just the peaks, or groupings and coincidences. Kammerer was known to, for example, make notes in public parks of what numbers of people were passing by, how many carried umbrellas etc. Albert Einstein called the idea of Seriality “interesting, and by no means absurd”, while Carl Jung drew upon Kammerer’s work in his essay Synchronicity. Koestler reported that, when researching for his biography about Kammerer, he himself was subjected to “a meteor shower” of coincidences – as if Kammerer’s ghost were grinning down at him saying, “I told you so!”

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