Home » Biology, Evolution, Genomics, Intelligent Design » The Foresighted Paradigm Shift

The Foresighted Paradigm Shift

I’ve heard geneticists say we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift, and that no one really understands what’s going on. I even read an article the other day showing how at least one creature DELETES portions of its own DNA during certain stages of development. Basically, the long-held ideas from even a couple years ago are being modified. Until scientists can look at an arbitrary line of code and say “this does this or that” I would not say any idea is “certain”.

Lamarck’s specific hypothesis had been rejected once Mendel found a mechanism for inheritance. Lamarckism was so obviously wrong. Darwin came up with something that was just the opposite. It was obviously true and easily understandable. It is easy and true within a certain scope, although it’s inadequate to explain certain biological features. Hence the modern synthesis and the current attempt to formulate a new synthesis of ideas, which may or may not succeed.

Engineers will often design functionality that goes unused unless particular stimuli causes a triggered event (a function that is generally unexpressed except under certain conditions triggered by other functions or changes in input/system). I believe that such observations could be an avenue for research: looking for foresighted mechanisms. And we know some do exist. E. Coli don’t just react to changes in their surroundings — they anticipate and prepare for them — when switching from aerobic (oxygen) to anaerobic (oxygen-less) respiration. There have been other discoveries discussed on UD, but they’ve mainly been pertinent to single-celled organisms.

But based upon epigenetics studies a new version–which is smaller in scale/effect–of Lamarck’s basic idea is making a comeback. I looked up what’s been reported more recently and I can’t say I’m too surprised:

MIT Tech Review

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.
Silencing DNA: Adding methyl groups to specific spots in the genome can alter the expression of marked genes. The process, known as DNA methylation, is one mechanism of epigenetic change, heritable change that does not alter the sequence of DNA itself.

“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.”

Science Daily

Cabbage looper caterpillars (Trichoplusia ni) are able to alter the expression of genes associated with metabolism, homeostasis and immunity in response to feeding on plants carrying bacteria. New research has shown that, as well as tailoring gene expression within their own digestive systems, the insects are able to pass this information along to their offspring.

I’m sure there are other examples, but I did not search any further. Please post links to other research along similar lines.

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10 Responses to The Foresighted Paradigm Shift

  1. Patrick,

    I don’t think it is correct to say that Darwin came up with the opposite of Lamark.

    The ToE is not anti-Lamark.

    Endo-symbiosis is an example of acquired traits being passed on.

    And yes epigenetics is also a form of Larmark’s ideas.

  2. BTW Dr Lee Spetner wrote about this “foresight” in “Not By Chance” in which he provides us with his “non-random evolutionary hypothesis” which basically states there are “built-in responses to environmental cues”, which fits in perfectly with epigenetics.

  3. 3

    Darwin believed in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. He thought, for instance, that foreskins would disappear in the religious communities that practiced circumcision. However, his disciples censored what they perceived as foibles of their prophet, so we do not hear of his Lamarckism.

    Now, if the epigenetic studies are reinforced, the disciples will drag all this stuff out and say Darwin anticipated it, but we of little faith did not believe him. They will tell us that this only goes to show how transcendent Darwin really was, and why we should worship him with even greater zeal. It’s only a matter of time before this happens.

  4. @ Patrick

    The only thing I can say is that you should really be posting more here. Great articles!

  5. Joseph,

    All I meant was that Darwin was not so obviously wrong, that his specific idea made more sense in that era (and, yes, I’m aware of Darwin supporting Lamarck’s ideas). Anyway, that was just the intro to the article.

    Personally, I feel that calling these discoveries “Lamarckian” is not entirely accurate. Specific biological functionality that is anticipatory, or foresighted, is different enough from Lamarck’s universal concept of acquired characteristics to be warranted its own sub-category.

    skynetx,

    Thank you. I try to hit upon topics that are rarely touched upon. Personally, I find treading the same ground and countering the same regurgitated charges to be tiresome. Not to say that I don’t wish those well who have the energy to do so!

  6. Patrick,
    This article was right on point. The fact that cells obtain a functional advantage when they delete portions of their unused genome poses a serious problem for darwinian theory and the new synthesis, and especially “junk” DNA-type hypotheses. This leaves no room for foresight. The only thing that can have foresight is mind or intelligence, not blind chance.
    Current findings in epigenetic inheritance patterns are bringing Lamarckian ideas back on the table. It will be interesting to see what will come of the new synthesis in the common months and years as theorists are forced to consider these recurring observations that point toward intelligence.
    Thanks for posting.

  7. Great post. In view of the above, would it be correct to say that almost all beneficial genetic changes are due to the following?

    1. Gene expression and supression.
    2. Gene mixing via sexual selection.
    3. Gene mixing via lateral transfer.

    If this is even partially correct, it seems obvious that a tremendous amount of foresight and anticipation went into the design of the genome. It makes sense because Darwinian evolution would be impossibly slow in a fast changing environment such as the earth. There is a need for rapid genetic adaptation within a single generation and possibly even within the organism before it dies.

    On a different tangent, my experience is that the best way to manage complex, interacting parallel entities is to organize them in a hierarchy. Since the genes function concurrently, should we not expect the genome to be organized as a tree as well? I think this could qualify as a possible ID prediction. Just a thought.

    As an aside, I believe that a tree architecture for both function and control will do wonders for future parallel application design.

  8. Mapou

    On a different tangent, my experience is that the best way to manage complex, interacting parallel entities is to organize them in a hierarchy. Since the genes function concurrently, should we not expect the genome to be organized as a tree as well? I think this could qualify as a possible ID prediction. Just a thought.

    As an aside, I believe that a tree architecture for both function and control will do wonders for future parallel application design.

    Interesting prediction, Mapou. Speaking of parallel application design, here’s a link to a recent article showing that bacteria can be programmed to act as a hugely powerful parallel computer:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/scie.....a-computer

  9. 9
    Vladimir Krondan

    Lamarckism was so obviously wrong. Darwin came up with something that was just the opposite.

    Darwin was more lamarckian than Lamarck.

  10. Mapou,

    “3. Gene mixing via lateral transfer.”

    At least one ID hypothesis has viruses functioning as a pro-active HGT system, but then components degenerated into simpler replicators focused on self-survival. It’s possible that some components of this system would survive, and thus it’s a prediction we’d eventually find them.

    Vladimir,

    In my original draft I elaborated more on Darwin’s Pangenesis and Lamarckism but I cut it out since I figured most people on UD knew the historical background. But I’m sure some readers are not aware. Thanks for pointing out that resource.

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