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Epigenetics and New Holistic View of Evolution

dna molecules

Academic explains how epigenetics provides missing link needed for holistic view of evolution that includes environmental factors

Dr. Andrew Wilson on holistic view
Dr. Andrew Wilson. Photo: HJI

Part 5 (final part) of “Evolutionary Creationism: A New Perspective on Purpose and Human Origins”, a presentation by Dr. Andrew Wilson, Professor of Scriptural Studies at HJ International Graduate School for Peace and Public Leadership (HJI), New York, USA, given on a special online program 23rd April 2024 hosted by HJI and the Higher Purpose Forum (HPF).

See part 1part 2part 3, part 4

Let’s look at one more aspect of this, and that is epigenetics.

This is also brand-new stuff. It’s only been coming out in the past few years.

Epigenetic mechanisms
Epigenetic mechanisms are affected by several factors and processes including development in utero and in childhood, environmental chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, aging, and diet.  Illustration: National Institutes of Health / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

Epigenetics states that we are not only the product of our genes. Genes have to be turned on and off. There are proteins called histones, that turn the genes on and off.

So our organism is not only defined by our genes, but just as important are the mechanisms that control when the genes are turned on and off. All of our DNA exists in a matrix of these proteins.

These proteins can either open the DNA for activity, or they can block the DNA from acting. And this protein activity can be impacted by environmental changes.

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829), French naturalist, biologist, and academic. Proposed theory that acquired traits can be inherited. Photo: From painting by Charles Thévenin (1764-1838) / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image. Cropped

Therefore, genetics can change through the environment. This takes us back to Lamarck, actually, who said that giraffes grew long necks because they could reach higher in trees for food.

There’s something of truth in that, because scientists are noting that if people have certain bad health habits, like smoking cigarettes or alcoholism, it persists through two or three generations.

Why does it persist through the generations? Epigenetic changes that take place because of that behavior in the first generation change gene expression in the succeeding generations, and this manifests in bad health habits in their lives as well.

Conversely, good health habits introduce healthy epigenetic changes in the gene expression in the next several generations, and therefore have lasting impact in a good way. Thus, epigenetics has come to be understood as the route for the transmission of heritable traits in terms of disease and fitness.

Epigenetic inheritance
A diagram showing the difference between Intergeneration and Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in females. “Intergenerational” is when the effect lasts through to the F2 generation (both F1/2 were potentially exposed in utero since a female’s eggs develop during the foetal stage). “Transgenerational” inheritance is then the effect lasts until at least the F3 generation (no direct exposure). Illustration (2023): Tobus / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int

What this means, is that both genetics and the environment determine who we are.

We are not just determined by our genes. We are also determined by the environment in which our parents grew up. And that environment in which our parents grew up introduced epigenetic modifications that change the way our genes express themselves.

And thus we, the phenotype – the phenomena manifesting in our lives – arise both from the genotype, i.e. our genes, and from the environment through epigenetics.

If you want to figure out a theological explanation for original sin, and the inheritance of fallen lineage, you can go to epigenetics to begin to understand how that could happen. Epigenetic modifications provide a mechanism for spiritual factors to influence evolution.

Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), Austrian-Czech biologist, mathematician, friar and abbot. Founder of science of genetics. Mendel’s experiments with pea plants from 1856 to 1863 established many of the principles of heredity, now alluded to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

This, to me, is the missing link that allows us to tie the material world to higher causes when it comes to evolution.

And thus Darwinism is out of date. Scientists are beginning to develop a new holistic conceptual framework for how evolution takes place.

Darwinism, and its modern synthesis Neo-Darwinism, only looked at the DNA. It looked at the genes and saw gene mutation and inheritance through Mendelian genetics as the only driver of inheritance.

And thus, if changes were to happen, they would have to arise by survival of the fittest.

But in the larger integrated synthesis that science is coming to understand, we also have epigenetic inheritance.

That means that the expression of genes is plastic and can accommodate different environments, and that the genome can evolve through environmental causes.

This creates a more holistic understanding of a human being and its ability to develop and evolve. I think it is going to be very powerful in terms of explaining a lot of phenomena in medicine and health.

So the conclusion – getting back to my main theme: evolutionary creationism:

Even our development as human beings can be explained in this way.

Thank you for listening to my presentation.

See part 1part 2part 3, part 4

Featured image above: DNA illustration by Epigenetics Vectors by Vecteezy

“Epigenetics and New Holistic View of Evolution” – text: Dr. Andrew Wilson

Related to holistic view of evolution: Evolution by Principle of Giving and Receiving

Also related to holistic view of evolution: New Insight on Evolution – a Feature of Creation

More, related to holistic view of evolution: Anthropic Principle – Universe Made for Us

Yet more, related to holistic view of evolution: Evolutionary Creationism – Fine-Tuned Universe

Still more, related to holistic view of evolution: Existence of God

Even more, related to holistic view of evolution: Arguments for God

And yet more, related to holistic view of evolution: Essence of God

And still more, related to holistic view of evolution: God and Human Beings

And even more, related to holistic view of evolution: Relationships of Giving and Receiving

And still more, related to holistic view of evolution: Religion and Science

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