"The potential is staggering," gushes Time Magazine (Jan 6, 2010) over the benefits epigenetics might bring humanity. "For decades, we have stumbled around massive Darwinian roadblocks. DNA, we thought, was an ironclad code that we and our children and their children had to live by. Now we can imagine a world in which we can tinker with DNA, bend it to our will."
Yes, they can imagine it, but as ought to be apparent to anyone grounded in reality, it won't work that way. Epigenetics will not be our salvation. However, it just might give insight into today's worsening conditions.
Who has not entertained the suspicion that today's folk just aren't made of the same stuff as previous generations...that those old-timers were just plain tougher than we are? Tom Oxgoad, the Bethelite, made that point with me once. "Those old-timers must marvel at how frail we are," he said. "In the old days...say...back in the 1950's or before, one Bethelite might counsel another: 'you've got a rotten attitude and you'd better straighten up!' And that fellow would straighten up, and he'd say 'thanks for the counsel!'" Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he'd decide "this is not the life for me," and leave. But either way, he wouldn't melt into a puddle of mush, his fragile self-esteem dissolving, as we can so easily picture happening today. Does the newly explored field of epigenetics offer an explanation?
The upshot of epigenetics is that heredity works not just through Darwin's mutation and natural selection...a painstakingly slow process. We also pass along traits acquired via environment factors; furthermore, these changes can be dramatic and quick, manifesting themselves in but a generation or two. Thus, Time says, a "long-standing deal" we've had with biology is now off the table, namely: "whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won't change our genes - our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean."
No longer applies. Choices we make do change our genes, and our kids do not start with a slate wiped clean. The very idea is heresy to Darwin True Believers, but scientists are now quite sure of it. To put it more accurately, our genes do not physically change from generation to generation, but whether they are expressed or not changes. The epigenome sits just outside the genome and switches the various genes "on" or "off." It does so by smothering – masking gene portions meant to be “off” and leaving visible gene portions meant to be “on.” The illustration now in vogue is that of hardware (the genome) being manipulated by software (the epigenome). Hardware alteration via the Darwin heredity, as we all learned about in school, comes about slowly. But the new-found software changes happen quickly.
Furthermore, life-style and environment factors…..such as stress, such as smoking, such as gluttony, alters the epigenome, which in turn alters the genome, which in turn inflicts adverse results upon one’s children and grandchildren. Dr Lars Bygren studied a rural population of two centuries past, a physically isolated population that literally vacillated between feast and famine, depending upon the harvest. When the harvest was bountiful, youngsters gorged themselves. Their grandchildren, Bygren discovered, had life expectancies reduced by as much as three decades!
In another study, published in 2006, Drs Bygren, Marcus Pembrey, and Jean Golding found the sons of those who began smoking before age 11 were at higher risk for obesity and various other health problems. Time Magazine summed it up: “you can change your epigenetics even when you make a dumb decision at 10 years old. If you start smoking then, you may have made not only a medical mistake but a catastrophic genetic mistake.” And to think I’ve been lectured before by atheists...capitalizing these very words....that, whereas I do what some god TELLS me to do based on a BELIEF, they act upon REASON based upon EVIDENCE. But in this case, as in so many others, you were far better off to quit smoking because God TOLD* you to, trusting he might be AWARE of EVIDENCE as yet UNDISCOVERED by humans.
*as inferred from 2 Cor 7:1
All this goes to show, BTW, that you need not lose your cookies when evolutionists rule creation absolutely out of the question. Nor should you feel you must wait for them to come on board. Opinions change fast. In 1996, Dr Pembrey, mentioned above, had a hard time getting published. Major scientific journals rejected his paper. Ten years later, it is “considered seminal in epigenetic theory.” Is that not a tidal change in scientific thought? For decades evolutionists carried on as if they knew all there was to be known - the essence of their subject was well-understood, and little remained but to mop up a few relatively insignificant details. With the discovery of epigenetics' role, if history is any guide, they will act as if now they know all there was to be known, save for a few odds and ends. Heaven help you if you choose a course of faith before it has been authorized by them. Yet the mapping of the human epigenome (already underway in Europe) will, when complete, "make the Human Genome project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus," says Time. How immodest to have made grandiose, dogmatic claims, based upon a supposed thorough understanding of the genome, which now turns out to be but the tip of a submerged iceberg.
Look, don't think I'm anti-science. I'm not. Whenever scientists say they have discovered this or that I tend to accept it, but I do so tentatively, always with the caveat that these guys are frequently full of themselves, bursting with pride at human accomplishment, and intolerant of any layman who would question their theories, until they themselves revise them. Or - I suspect, its not so much those front line empirical scientists who are the problem, but a second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types, who ram science down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. Me, I tend to side with that famous scientist and ex-Beatle John Lennon, who said "everything they told me as a kid has already been disproved by the same type of 'experts' who made them up in the first place." [quoted in interview with Playboy, so plainly I got this second-hand] As if to confirm Lennon's cynicism, Time writes of an upcoming epigenetics book by David Shenk: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong.
You know, the epigenome comes a lot closer to explaining Rom 5:12 than does any Darwinian explanation, since Adam’s sin is obviously an acquired characteristic:
"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned..."
Furthermore, back to the present, Time reports Dr. Pembrey speculating: what if the environmental pressures and social changes of the industrial age had become so powerful that evolution had begun to demand that our genes respond faster? What if our DNA now had to react not over many generations and millions of years but, as Pembrey wrote, within “a few, or moderate number, of generations”?
Extrapolating from his statement, could it be that epigenetics in our stressful times sheds light on the outworking of 2 Tim 3:1-5?
"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."
We all know in our heart of hearts that these ugly traits are on display today as never before. Yes, I know, I know....such is human nature and people have always been that way. But it’s a matter of degree; the unrestrained expression of these traits is what's new. After all, Paul's contemporaries might easily have labeled his ‘prophesy’ a yawner: "People will be ugly, Paul? So what's new?” But they didn't say that. They knew what he meant.
In seeking to understand these ugly, seemingly accelerated traits, Alan Greenspan's book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, offers insight with regard to the barbarous slaughter that began in 1914. He writes: "World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one?"
Could the barbarism unleashed in 1914, augmented by ever-increasing stressors of modern life, be triggering harmful genetic changes, as Dr Pembrey suggests can occur? The more one ponders the astounding woes that afflict persons today, the more plausible the idea sounds.
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