About “All is Status”

I won’t bore you with any attempt at a succinct summary of what this blog-site is all about.  As you can see from “About Keith Hudson”, I’ve been a rolling stone as regards occupations throughout my life.

I have always had a sort of parallel life in addition to what’s described in my biography.  And this — from teenagerhood — has been to try and understand what we, as individuals, are all about and why we are as we are.  And this has been much the most important part of my life.

To this end, I’ve dipped intensively in all my leisure hours and travel hours, and sometimes deeply, into almost everything that I thought might have had a bearing — Freudian psychology, behavioural psychology, encounter groups, sociology, philosophy, the great novelists, politics, anthropology, evolutionary theory, economics and, latterly, neuroscience and the fascinating area of epigenetics, the new sub-division of biology that has exploded about us and started to be revealed in all its complexity and wonder since the first draft of human DNA was published by the Human Genome Project in 2003.

The findings of neuroscience and epigenetics are only recently seeping into wider public consciousness but they have astonishingly wide implications.  This includes the treatment of many diseases, accounts for the rigidities of cultures, the reason why our personalities are so uniquely different and many more.

However, please don’t think that neuroscience and epigenetics dominate my posts.  I hope they remain as scarcely visible threads that meander through the various topics that interest me and hit me between the eyes as I read about them in the daily newspapers (long may they remain!) and the Internet.

I am aware that I am read by readers who are more intelligent and perceptive than myself so my motivation in writing and hoping for feedback is as much to learn as it is to (hopefully) impart.  I hope you enjoy these blogs and welcome to you!  I hope that many constructive discussions will ensue.

8 thoughts on “About “All is Status”

    1. Epigenetics is just about the most complex branch of biology ever and most of it is very recent indeed (since the Human Genome Project in 2000/3). So far, there are no good populist books on the subject and no expert geneticist is going to ry one because the subject is too fast moving. But very briefly it has turned the “central dogma” of genetics (as first enunciated by Francis Crick) on its head. CD hass kit that information only proceeds from genes to the cell “factories” in our cells that make the proteins we need. Epigenetics is now telling us that information from the environment (outside the body) can proceed to the genes can adjust them (not change their functions, but change their stops and starts and their intensities). Each one of us picks up new epigenetic tweakings to our genes according to our individual environments and experiences. We inherit some from our parents, and in turn we can pass on our own tweakings also. They are definite chemical changes to the sheathings that wrap up our DNA and they can open up and unzip the DNA so that its genes can go into action whenever they’re needed. Epigenes are not as robust as genes themselves but can last for more than one generation especially when the idiosyncratic aspwects of the environment that cause d them in the first place are maintained. There are a few populist books on Amazon but, as already said, it is a fast developing subject. I hope this satisfies for now.

  1. You’ve got me very intrigued as someone who was at one time an expert in molecular genetics, working in scientific research. Because I moved into teaching over twenty years ago, I’m not that much in touch with the latest developments.

    What you are describing could be crudely described a ‘Lamarckism’, or at least has some features of Lamarckism, I’m not sure if you mean these epigenetic features can be inherited, or if they just represent a modulation of gene expression during the life of an individual.

    What would be really useful would be if you could give me, or direct me to the names of some of the research group leaders who have made recent discoveries in this area. Perhaps there is a page in this blog?

    1. The effects of epigenetics are superficially similar to Lamarckism. However, the latter implies that a new skill or a physiological adaptation to specific behaviours actually cause a new mutation which is then heritable, or potentially heritable anyway depending on the pot luck that goes on when a sperm exchanges chunks of chromosomes with the egg. Epigenetics doesn’t change a gene in any way, nor any of the alternative variations that may be present within the gene, just the stops and starts of its expression. But as all genes work in association with other genes then the ultimate new subtleties in proteins, then an epigenetic change in one gene can bring about a new susceptibility for a gene to act with different intensities than normally expressed. By far the most epigenetic research is concerned with changes brought about by attempts to accommodate to the modern diet but which then also brings about ‘unintended’ susceptibilities to attack by bacteria or viruses or the growth of cancerous mishaps. In short, epigenetic changes are attempts to palliate one problem that the body may be having (e.g. too much sugar in one’s diet) — perhaps more or less successfully — but having unintended consequences — creating new susceptible weaknesses — because of the way that that particular gene may have (and usually does have) associations with other genes which are not relevant to the original problem trying to be relieved.

      “Epigenetics Revolution” by Nessa Carey is not a bad introduction to the subject. The whole range of epigenetic research is so wide and specialised that it’s impossible to keep in touch with all of it, so another way is to get a good grounding in basic genetics and then to keep in touch with various websites such as Science, ScienceDaily, etc. I am not a professional biologist myself, being mainly interested in economics and cultures, and my main interest in epigenetics is the inheritance of emotional susceptibilities, particularly in social circumstances. It give me more understanding of why cultures are so difficult to change.

      As to the heritability of epigenetic changes some can be stripped away from the sperm and the egg at the junctures where the chromosomes divide into chunks when transferring across from one genome to the other, but others are transferred unchanged into one or the other of the two sets of chromosomes that result from fertilisation and that each of us then from then onwards. It then depends on whether the epigenetic change is attached (and thus becomes operational in the next generation) to the dominant gene or the recessive gene that’s chosen when a particular function is called for.

  2. I’ve found one good book on this that contains specifics: “Transgenerational Epigenetics” by Trygve Tollefsbol (University of Alabama, at Birmingham), Published by Academic Press (Elsevier), May 2014.

    I have to admit to being a little sceptical that this is going to be a major phenomenon, but It’s probably too early in the development of the subject to say.

    When I studied DNA methylation in depth for an undergraduate dissertation in 1982 the buzz word was ‘imprinting’. This rather forgotten word has now made a come back. People have been looking for it for decades, but could find nothing definite.

    The idea was that the same genes inherited from different parents might be expressed differently because of ‘imprinting’, and people speculated that DNA methylation might be the mechanism.

    Effects like the transgenerational effects of vinclozolin in rats are now thought to be mediated by DNA methylation causing paternal imprinting.

    I will look into things further, but I think the cases researchers have a handle on are few and far between. In an experimental science like biology having an experimental handle on something through a model system or technique is all important. Biologists are often in the position of the detective who thinks he knows ‘who dunnit’ but hasn’t got the proof.

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