The Epigenetic Effect


The epigenetic effect creates a “stably heritable phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence”. The concept explains heritable changes in gene function that cannot be explained by changes in DNA sequence.

For many years, everyday folk knew of the possibility of long-term, heritable alterations in physical attributes. This was described in various scientific and religious texts over the span of many thousands of years. More recently, with the Eurocentric and rather sectarian approach to medical science, it has become a highly controversial notion.

Around 1800, Lamarck developed the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance). In 1866 Mendel described the actions of invisible “factors” (genes) that could create traits of appearance in predictable ways.

Predictably, the concept that experience could alter heritability has created a storm in both the scientific and the political realms. Religion and other forces in society have been curiously unhelpful in examining the effect of one citizen on another – which does not bode well as we try to understand what to ward-off and what to welcome into our lives.