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Monday, February 16, 2009

Lamarck! Lamarck! Come back! All is forgiven. It's NOT all in our selfish genes!

According to Emily Singer at Technology Review, we are looking at "A Comeback for Lamarckian Evolution?: Two new studies show that the effects of a mother's early environment can be passed on to the next generation." (February 04, 2009):
The effects of an animal's environment during adolescence can be passed down to future offspring, according to two new studies. If applicable to humans, the research, done on rodents, suggests that the impact of both childhood education and early abuse could span generations. The findings provide support for a 200-year-old theory of evolution that has been largely dismissed: Lamarckian evolution, which states that acquired characteristics can be passed on to offspring.

"The results are extremely surprising and unexpected," says Li-Huei Tsai, a neuroscientist at MIT who was not involved in the research. Indeed, one of the studies found that a boost in the brain's ability to rewire itself and a corresponding improvement in memory could be passed on. "This study is probably the first study to show there are transgenerational effects not only on behavior but on brain plasticity."
Basically, the living conditions of mice and rats affected the apparent genetic inheritance of their offspring. Mice genetically engineered to have memory problems not only improved when their environment was enriched, but passed the improvement on to their offspring.

In the opposite direction, rats raised by stressed, abusive mothers showed modifications to their DNA, and grew up to be poor mothers. That might just be learned experience, of course, but
In the new study, researchers also had healthy mothers raise the offspring of stressed mothers, and found that the problems were only partially fixed. That suggests that the changes "were not due to their neonatal experience," says David Sweatt, a neuroscientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who oversaw the study. "It was something that was already there when they were born." The research was published online last month in Biological Psychiatry.

The results of both studies are likely to be controversial, perhaps resurrecting a centuries-old debate. "It's very provocative," says Lisa Monteggia, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas. "It goes back to two schools of thought: Lamarck versus Darwin."
Here's an interesting observation from Singer's article:
"If the findings can be conveyed to human, it means that girls' education is important not just to their generation but to the next one," says Moshe Szyf of McGill University, in Montreal, who was not involved in the research.
Well, cultures that don't believe in educating girls do correlate highly with a low quality of life ...

Considering the ridicule heaped by Darwinists on Lamarckian theory over the years, this is just another example of why Darwin's theory is in trouble in what is supposed to be its hour of big triumph. In reality, it is mainly a triumph in the pop media and out-of-touch religious denominations and museums.

See also this article by Sharon Begley, co-author of The Mind and the Brain.

Remember - one gene codes for one protein? Also. you ARE your genes? And all that? Uh ...

Darwin's odd musings on circumcision. Believe whatever you like. He certainly did.


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