Discussion Board

Topic: Mount Improbable vs. Epigenetics

From: Mat Taylor
Location: Wolverhampton, England
Date: 10/02/2011

Hi Greg,
I'm pleased to say that there's a few of your books I haven't read yet; very much looking forward to them!

I've read Dawkins, Wilson, Gould, and a few others, and I'm particularly baffled by Dawkins' attitude towards epigenetic theory and understanding. Does he believe that he already has the answers, and that Mount Improbable, given enough time, can contain all the vital juice of evolutionary theory? Epigenetics teaches so much about the interaction between phenotypic legacy and the environment, why does Dawkins ignore this? Is it based upon an empirical perspective, or hubris perhaps?

Many thanks,

Mat

Re: Mount Improbable vs. Epigenetics

From: Greg Bear
Date: 10/04/2011

The ramifications of epigenetics are simply jaw-dropping. If we regard the genome as a series of piano keys, when and how you play the keys--that is, express genes and their ancillary components--determines the tune, the phenotype, and not just the keys themselves.

Tickling the ivories, so to speak, is what epigenetics is all about. And that tune-smithing allows an organism, or a species, to be much more responsive to changes in the environment than varying sequence alone, though both obvious play huge roles.

In fact, even in DARWIN'S RADIO, though I discuss a "genetic tool kit" that can shuffle, create, and/or recreate various traits, I never mention epigenetics per se. So we're all playing a lot of catch-up here!

Re: Mount Improbable vs. Epigenetics

From: Mat Taylor
Location: Wolverhampton, England
Date: 10/06/2011

The music of life, perhaps?
Sorry if my question was out of the blue, I've just read Darwin's Children, which toys with Goulds notion of Punctuated Equilibrium - correct me if Im wrong - and Im intrigued about the possible mechanisms of the central idea. I could have sworn that you mentioned epigenetics directly - it seems an obvious compliment to the concept. Thats great sci-fi for you: gets your own imagination going!

Many thanks Greg!

Re: Mount Improbable vs. Epigenetics

From: Jonathan Williams
Location: Montgomery Village, MD
Date: 10/13/2011

Indeed, Greg, you have quite a few books to write :)

Re: Mount Improbable vs. Epigenetics

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/09/2011

Indirectly, no doubt--but the major epigenetics push came just after I published DARWIN'S RADIO. I was focused on viruses and transposons.

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