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Ursula Goodenough

Ed: Ah — epigenetics!  I didn’t realize that that was what Dr. Murakami was invoking. 


For sure the expression of a given gene is turned on and off on a regular basis. Protein transcription factors, microRNAs, and DNA methylation are the agents/mechanisms we best understand, but others will doubtless be discovered. Stress, disease, exercise, one’s inborn gene complement, and probably countless other factors are able to influence this phenomenon, which was first described at a molecular level in the 1950s by Jacob and Monod. 


Most epigenetics enthusiasts want it to be the case that these changes — notably methylation — are heritable, and that seems to be the case in a few studies for a few genes for one or two generations, but then it goes away. One issue is that to be inherited the methylation has to affect genes in eggs and sperm, which is pretty different from affecting genes in muscle cells as a result of exercise or stress-related genes in cortisol-producing cells as a result of meditation. 


Far more promising for transmitting our ideals to our children is that we do what we can to help construct a mindful global community, which is what DTJN has set out to promote.


As for your comment “Nice theory, Ursula. It’s what they taught me in school. But to promote such a story as fact is making a huge leap of faith, and falls into the realm of scientism.” I wasn’t promoting it as fact, nor as theory. The noun I used was scenario. I haven’t a clue how life originated, nor does anyone else. I was lifting up dynamics that were likely operant given our current understandings. Speaking for myself and I believe others in this conversation, it would be appreciated if the epithet “scientism” not be tossed about here. It is as insulting as is the term woo http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Woo to describe your perspectives. Let’s try to keep things classy.