Epigenetic theory is an emergent concept that includes the influence of both genetic behavior and its direct contact with environmental forces in the gene expression of a phenotype. It focuses mainly on the dynamic interaction between these two influences during development. Simply put, the Epigenetic theory considers evolution as a complex process of development brought about by external factors affecting ontogeny transformation. In addition, Epigenetics offers an explanation about the stable alterations in gene expression potential brought about by some random change or any environmental influence.
With the introduction of Epigenetics in the world of Science, many of its fields are now subject to misconceptions. Possible reasons for these misunderstandings are due to errors or bias media reporting. Aside from that, science continues to progress at a very fast pace. Proliferation of articles and reports from anonymous sources makes the idea more vague and difficult to understand. Thus, more people are quite hesitant to accept, if not always aware to these new developments. To make things clear about Epigenetics and its related components, here are examples of a few misconceptions that need correction.
Myth #1: “Everything you learned about evolution is wrong.”
Evolution is not as constant as what might we thought it was. It even progresses faster that it already has due to environmental factors, which is difficult to comprehend from an evolutionary standpoint. Since Epigenetics is still a theory, it merely provides a scientific explanation to an empirical phenomenon in relation to genetics and modern sciences. Thus, in a theoretical perspective, Epigenetics need not to be 100% correct but at least consistently correct most of the time. The same goes for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which also has its exceptions. While views about evolution may change over time just like how Epigenetics slightly negate Darwin’s theory, it does not mean everything about it is false. In truth, his theory is base on both facts and inferences that makes falsifiable and testable predictions.
Myth #2: “Epigenetics dislodges the idea of natural selection in gene expression.”
Epigenetics does not replace the theory of natural selection. It is just adding more information and corrections to the already established principles and ideas in the process of gene expression. It is still a fact that eye color, hairlines, height and such are immutable results of DNA. However, the way these genes manifest is what Epigenetics is actually talking about. For instance, a man is already predetermined to be tall due to its genetic makeup. However, he may suffer from malnutrition and lack of physical exercise that may hinder him to achieve his predetermined potential stature. Thus, genetic and environmental factors significantly influence the gene expression embedded in the human’s biological system. It cannot replace the fact that natural selection still takes place in the processing of DNA but controlling how it manifests is still possible.
Myth #3: “Genes account for absolutely everything.”
This is indeed a clear misunderstanding even long before. The idea of genes are everything to human life and cannot do anything about it is very wrong. It is a fact that genes are unchangeable but it can be controlled. It simply implies that inheriting a particular gene may be inevitable but the outcome depends upon the expression of the gene. In the process of gene expression, physical modifications to DNA may happen due to some external factors. As such, the genes adapt to its environment turning “on” or “off” particular traits to surface. That is why, it is a wrong notion that when you parents may manifest some hereditary diseases then you are to experience the same. If you take care of your health and manage your lifestyle very well, prevention of occurrence of these kinds of diseases is still achievable.
In conclusion, it is a fact that evolution is more complicated than we already know at any given point in time. Epigenetics is not entirely wrong nor entirely correct at all times. To put it positively, it just adds some more complexity to the already elaborate evolution and development. With its breakthrough, it will also give to light some unexplained phenomena on various underlying diseases, as well as, pave the way to new development of cures and treatments.
This Article is written by Lena Butler, contributor of Test Country Articles.