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Ch.7: Epigenetic rules (Help!) 
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Post Ch.7: Epigenetic rules (Help!)
Shermer presents "epigenetic rules" as a given. I haven't studied evolutionary biology, and Shermer's discussion of it strikes me as awfully fuzzy - reminds me of Freudian theories, actually, which I did study.* Are "epigenetic rules" a biological fact which has been clearly and irrefutably proven, or a theory?

I keep stumbling over his black-box use of "epigenetic rules." You could replace "epigenetic rules" with "gift from God" and there'd be no effect on his argument. Isn't there a problem here, or is it just my lack of an up-to-date background in biology?

*The relationship between established facts and theory seems about the same. ;)




Tue May 04, 2004 4:54 pm


Post Re: Ch.7: Epigenetic rules (Help!)
The fundamentals of evolutionary theory were laid down by Darwin before anyone had even a clue as to what a physical gene was. The validity of the theory was established by the results: the relationships between creatures that were best explained by selection of random, small modifications.

Now we know what physical genes are, and in certain very specific cases we can link a specific physical gene to a specific result in the genotype. Knock out gene "a" and get a mouse that can't produce protein "b"; therefore, the purpose of "a" is to produce "b".

However, these interactions are rare. Most genetic effects are the result of many different genes, acting on each other in complex feedback loops. However, we can still make valid inferences about what must be going on "under the hood" long before we are able to link the details. For example, the concordance of monozygotic twins for autism is between 80 and 100%, depending on who's interpreting the results. Given these facts, we know for sure that autism has a major genetic component. We also know that a complex suite of behaviours is guided by many, many genes at many different levels. Therefore, we it is a valid conclusion that there is a real epigenetic rule at work.




Fri May 14, 2004 9:23 am


Post Re: Ch.7: Epigenetic rules (Help!)
Thanks, Jeremy. That makes sense!

How would you evaluate Shermer's use of epigenetic rules in his argument? :) He states in a later chapter that his is a scientific theory, and that calls for a scientific scrutiny. Do you think his argument here holds up?




Fri May 14, 2004 11:10 am


Post Re: Ch.7: Epigenetic rules (Help!)
I think it is valid to ask if spirituality, religiousity, etc. have a genetic component. I'm not sure anyone has proposed an effective experimental method yet.

---------------------------------
Miller's Law of Strange Behavior- To understand any apparently baffling behavior by another human, ask: what status game is this individual playing, to show off which heritable traits, in which mating market?




Sat May 15, 2004 8:57 pm
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