Monday, May 1, 2017

Epigenetics: Lamarckianism for SJWs?

Somewhere in biology classes you learned about Lamarck, a predecessor to Darwin in evolutionary thought.  Lamarck explained the long necks of giraffes as the result of their distant ancestors stretching their necks for the tops of trees, and passing those long necks to their offspring.  Obviously impossible because those are acquired traits after the DNA has set.

So imagine my surprise to find out that the trauma of the Holocaust causes survivors to have genetic predisposition to stress and nightmares.
Some children of Holocaust survivors have terrible nightmares in which they are chased, persecuted, tortured or annihilated, as if they were re-living the Second World War over and over again. At these times, they suffer from debilitating anxiety and depression which reduce their ability to cope with stress and adversely impact their occupational and social function. It seems that these individuals, who are now adults, somehow have absorbed the repressed and insufficiently worked-through Holocaust trauma of their parents, as if they have actually inherited the unconscious minds of their parents.
Now it can't be that their parents have told them of their trauma or exposure to films and literature about the Holocaust, can it?  This modern Lamarckianism is explicitly acknowledged by the author:
More than two centuries ago, the founder of evolution, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, suggested that acquired characteristics may be transmitted from one generation to another. Ever since, evolutionary developmental biology has continued to study this assumption. Recent advances in the field of epigenetics are now revealing a molecular basis for how heritable information other than DNA sequence can influence gene function...
Epigenetics is typically defined as the study of heritable changes in gene expression that are not due to changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Such heritable changes in gene expression often occur as a result of environmental stress or major emotional trauma and would then leave certain marks on the chemical coating, or methylation, of the chromosomes (13). The coating becomes a sort of “memory” of the cell and since all cells in our body carry this kind of memory, it becomes a constant physical reminder of past events, our own and those of our parents, grandparents and beyond. “The body keeps the score” (14), not only in the first generation of trauma survivors, but possibly also in subsequent ones. Because of their neurobiological susceptibility to stress, children of Holocaust survivors may thus easily imagine the physical suffering of their parents and almost “remember” the hunger, the frozen limbs, the smell of burned bodies and the sounds that made them scared.
 Now, it should be obvious that this isn't about the Jews, but about how slavery (150 years later) is still the cause of the problems in black ghetto culture today, not the devastating effects of the Great Society in destroying incentives for family stability.  This 4/30/17 Haaretz  article acnowledges:
Children of Holocaust survivors may suffer depression and anxiety: but its source cannot be ascertained. In theory, hearing horrific stories in childhood could influence the development of anxiety and depression in adulthood. How do we know if horrific stories or epigenetics caused the anxiety or depression? There is no way to tease out the influence of either.
Indeed, some leading researchers in the field of epigenetics have grave reservations about Yehuda’s interpretation of her data. Foremost among them is John Greally, professor of genetics and pediatrics at the Center for Epigenomics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. In a blog post published a few days after the Guardian story, Greally termed Yehuda’s research the “over-interpreted epigenetics study of the week.”
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