I am not surprised at what information-source pops up when I am pondering a question of deep interest to me. Years ago, in a small library which I had never used, when I was researching an issue for one of my books, I happened to turn mistakenly into the aisle next to the one I needed. Just then, incredibly, a book ‘pushed itself’ out in front of me. (This is a statement of complete truth.) It was just the book I needed. How does something like that happen? Has anyone explained satisfactorily the phenomenon known as synchronicity?
This week, while pondering Lamarck’s theory of “organic evolution by inheritable modifications produced in the individual by habit, etc.” (refer Concise Oxford Dictionary), I received the ‘Monash Magazine’ for October 2013. There I found an article by Dr. Gio Braidotti on ‘cell reprogramming’ and ‘epigenetics.’ Cell programming refers to “learning how to switch the identity and function of cells obtained from the human body. … This amounts to the ability to take human cells such as skin cells and, for example, turn them into light-sensitive nerve cells like those in the eye’s retina … “ Isn’t this skill absolutely fantastic? Does my experience also demonstrate that we are somehow enabled to learn that which we want/need to know about?
According to the article, “epigenetics is not an actual entity. Rather, it is a way to organise ‘entities’ – genes, DNA, chromosomes and genomes – in response to biological and environmental cues.” Could this mechanism explain how something learnt through many generations may be subsequently reflected in the structure (eg. the knee pads on camels) or behaviour (monkeys avoiding snakes) of successive generations, apparently without genetic structures being altered, but possibly involved?
Could this mechanism for inter-generational transmission (or inheritance) of acquired characteristics (such as learnt behaviour) now replace an assumed inbuilt purpose? Or, do they work together?