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Why Genetic Determinism Is a Bad Stock

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genetic determinism

In Zombie Science, biologist Jonathan Wells addresses the notion of DNA as the sole “secret of life,” a foundational myth of gene-obsessed neo-Darwinism on which theory depends. This particular shambling zombie takes another punch now with news about identical twins.

Science Daily reports:

An international group of researchers has discovered a new phenomenon that occurs in identical twins: independent of their identical genes, they share an additional level of molecular similarity that influences their biological characteristics. The researchers propose a mechanism to explain the extra level of similarity and show that it is associated with risk of cancer in adulthood. The results appear in the journal Genome Biology.

“The characteristics of an individual depend not only on genes inherited from the parents but also on epigenetics, which refers to molecular mechanisms that determine which genes will be turned on or off in different cell types. If we view one’s DNA as the computer hardware, epigenetics is the software that determines what the computer can do,” said senior author Dr. Robert A. Waterland, associate professor of pediatrics-nutrition at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center and Texas Children’s Hospital and of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Interesting. Twin studies focus on “heritability”: When done carefully they show what percentage of a person’s traits are probably inherited from their parents compared to what percentage are due to influences after birth.

But if “genetic” is taken to mean DNA sequences and how they are epigenetically regulated, then “genetic” is not the same as “heritable.” There is much more to heritability than gene sequences and their regulation — membrane patterns, for one, which are specified independently of DNA sequences.

For more, see “Membrane Patterns Carry Ontogenetic Information That Is Specified Independently of DNA,” by Dr. Wells, writing in the journal BIO-Complexity.

There is a large and growing literature on why DNA centrism does not fit the biological facts. See, for example, Jan Sapp’s Beyond the Gene, Evelyn Fox Keller’s Century of the Gene, Lenny Moss’s What Genes Can’t Do, and much of Denis Noble’s recent work. Genetic determinism is a bad stock, indeed.

Photo credit: pvandermaesen0, via Pixabay.

H/t: Denyse O’Leary/Uncommon Descent.