Genetics and Epigenetics
The Mind/Body Controversy
There are two subjects that are extremely controversial both as matters of science and philosophy. The controversy rages today, though the Trilogy favors points of view as I will explain below.
On Genetics and Epigenetics, I believe it’s fair to say that this field of research is rather new and that not all researchers agree on whether epigenetics exists, or, if it does, what the meaning and extent of it is. Genetics is what we are made of, the part of scientific study that has decoded the human genome. It is comprised of lots of “stuff” but primarily for our purposes, DNA and “junk” DNA. Junk DNA was thought to have no use at one time, but now is thought to have an affect on genetic outcomes, but perhaps not how or why.
A genotype is a quality we almost all have equally and in common. Eyes, ears, nose, and throat.
A phenotype is the individual expression of the genotype; tall, short, blue eyes, brown eyes, and many physical qualities, good and bad from a health perspective. I have a birth defect; my genetics are all normal, but the expression of one of them was not.
A new field of research or hypothesis (hypothesis versus theory) is that environment can lead to changes in the genome. Most researchers thought that evolutionary changes in genetics take long periods of time; perhaps most do. But those who study epigenetics believe that changes can also occur rapidly due to environmental impact.
This is different from things like basic adaptation to weather (cold, hot, temperate), but leads to permanent genetic changes, mutations that can be passed on from generation to future generations.
The novels treat epigenetics as settled fact rather than a hypothesis undergoing rigorous scientific study. This is a work of fiction, and liberties are taken. Moreover, the hypothesis is treated as theory but only applied to a fictional set of circumstances.
We hope no serious intellectual damage is done in this regard.
On the Mind Body Controversy. I studied this basic concept as a freshman in college in 1969. Briefly stated as applied to the novel, humans have sensory organs that feed information to the brain. Is the brain co-extensive with the mind, or are they different but connected? You may wish to read up a little on Dr. Rupert Sheldrakes written views of “fields”, which I admit have been persuasive for me. Persuasive at least to the extent that what we know today about mind/body is not the totality of academic study or reality.
I believe that sensory organs experience the world, the brain processes the data, but the mind is separate and decides matters and has capabilities we do not understand. Many scientists would say this is “junk” science and belongs in the world of fiction alone.
I believe that it is more akin to the difference between the “conscious mind” and the “unconscious mind”, “unconscious” replacing the more commonly used term “subconscious” in this regard.
Look at what we believed was settled scientific fact one hundred years ago, then fifty years ago and now today. How about fifty years into the future and so on, and so on.
I do not represent, or have permission to represent, the views of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. I have interpreted his writings to represent a point of view, the non-materialist point of view, of humans as well as the rest of contents of the cosmos. I believe everything that is organized in our universe has consciousness; not like human perhaps, but a rock knows how to be a rock and remain a rock. So too do bears and dogs and cats, though we deny soul and consciousness to all other living creatures not human. Arrogance? You bet. We homo sapiens can and have allowed our religious beliefs to subtly guide our science, but it still does not make these assertions true.
Someone will write in and say educated folk use the term “consciousness” in a well-defined, precise way that scuttles my assertion, but we all know that is nonsense. That is what I call the legal view. Ask anyone you meet if a rock is conscious.
I often wonder who is more arrogant and steadfast in their beliefs – religious folk or scientific folk?
To my way of thinking, truth exists independent of belief. There was a time when all, or almost all, of humanity thought that the world was flat, or that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Did not make it true.
A final note is I am a Deist (believe in God) and firmly believe in science, medicine, and the scientific method. I just believe each discipline deals with different subject matter and should not be at each others throat. The game is not zero sum.
I would not go to the world’s greatest dentist to perform triple by-pass heart surgery. I know where to draw the line.
“Give me one free miracle …”