Genes Do NOT Matter (much)

Discussion in 'Genes, Radiation' started by haidut, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. haidut

    haidut Member

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    Hi all,

    As you know Ray Peat is a very ardent critic of the current theory of evolution and its poster child the "modern theory of genetics". In his words - "nothing is set in stone, only a physiological state is passed on". I personally agree with Peat based on many years of experience living on a farm and observing how animals evolve in response to their environment. I was surprised to recently find an article in more or less mainstream magazine that not only fully backs up Peat's ideas but also gives many other valuable examples, explanations, clues for further research, and even a link to a book that ties the whole "epigenetics" view together with gene network dynamics and inheritance focused much more heavily on phenotypes determined by the environment than by the "selfish gene".

    http://aeon.co/magazine/nature-and-cosm ... e-to-rest/

    The article is a long read, but I strongly recommend it. One thing that immediately caught my eye is a section of the article that suggest that the switch in the SAME species from calm, efficient, healthy phenotype into aggressive, vicious, unhealthy phenotype is driven by serotonin. Here is the exact quote:

    "...In the most infamous species, Schistocerca gregaria, the desert locust of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, these phase changes (as this morphing process is called) occur when crowding spurs a temporary spike in serotonin levels, which causes changes in gene expression so widespread and powerful they alter not just the hopper’s behaviour but its appearance and form. Legs and wings shrink. Subtle camo colouring turns conspicuously garish."

    And here are some other notable quotes:
    "...This gene-centric view, as it is known, is the one you learnt in high school. It’s the one you hear or read of in almost every popular account of how genes create traits and drive evolution. It comes from Gregor Mendel and the work he did with peas in the 1860s. Since then, and especially over the past 50 years, this notion has assumed the weight, solidity, and rootedness of an immovable object. But a number of biologists argue that we need to replace this gene-centric view with one that more heavily emphasises the role of more fluid, environmentally dependent factors such as gene expression and intra-genome complexity — that we need to see the gene less as an architect and more as a member of a collaborative remodelling and maintenance crew."

    "...This raises a question: if merely reading a genome differently can change organisms so wildly, why bother rewriting the genome to evolve? How vital, really, are actual changes in the genetic code? Do we always need DNA changes to adapt to new environments? Are there other ways to get the job done? Is the importance of the gene as the driver of evolution being overplayed? You’ve probably noticed that these questions are not gracing the cover of Time or haunting Oprah, Letterman, or even TED talks. Yet for more than two decades they have been stirring a heated argument among geneticists and other evolutionary theorists. As evidence of the power of rapid gene expression and other complex genomic dynamics mounts, these questions might (or might not, for pesky reasons we’ll get to) begin to change not only mainstream evolutionary theory but our more everyday understanding of evolution."

    Finally, towards the end of the second third the article mentions that some of the lead researchers who work on these Peat-minded ideas have published books that describe the whole process and point likely future direction. I found one of the books (Developmental Plasticity) and have attached it to this post. Maybe someone who is in touch with Peat may want to alert him to this article above and these researchers. I am sure he can use the materials for one of his newsletters.
    So, enjoy and looking forward to comments!
     

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  2. charlie

    charlie The Law & Order Admin

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    Great find!
     
  3. OP
    haidut

    haidut Member

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    Like so may other articles from the popular press I have posted, it looks like the original article is gone for good. So, here is a copy of the one found in Google's cache.
     

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  4. NathanK

    NathanK Member

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    Thanks for bumping this old thread. That developmental plasticity pdf looks outstanding. Much of my work has been in plasticity and behavioral science. Peat's work puts a lot it into new perspective
     
  5. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    Original article link works perfectly fine for me


    This is absolutely not the case. It's just that small variations in genotype account for subjectively larger variations in phenotype. A tiny tiny % of the dna being associated with a certain trait does not mean that the differences in this trait among a population is down to environmental/epigenetic forces. And that last bit makes no sense because of what I just mentioned. The writing varying IS what accounts for the differences. Two sentences can share a high % of words but have an incredibly different meaning when read. You must also keep in mind that DNA contains A TON of data, A 1% difference over a gene set will be more than 100,000 differences in the genes.

    Moreover, behavior regarding adaptations to environment is itself genetic ( regulatory genes ), so gene-expression being wholly separate from one's DNA is a dubious conclusion. For example, how an organism responds to serotonin is GENETIC. This behavior is literally written in it's dna sequence, so the grasshopper example rings hollow for me.


    It's non-controversial that environment has a huge role in how an organism behaves but to say that environment affecting how genes are expressed somehow trashes the traditional view of genetics and evolution is incredibly irresponsible and fishing for page hits. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that epigenetic responses are not regulated by genetic code. Where else could it be? Genes matter. Environment matters. An organism is simply genes expressed in an environment after all.

    Saying genes do not matter or environment does not matter depends on context regarding the variability of a trait. If you take 10 random 40 y.o. americans, feed 5 of them 99% PUFA diets and the others something healthy for 30 years, almost all of the variation in mortality is going to down to environment ( extremely low heritability ). If you take 10 other random 40 y.o. americans, don't control their diet, and check for variations in mortality after 30 years, there will be a much larger genetic component ( moderate heritability ). So you can always make a trait less heritable with extreme circumstances but circumstances are generally not that extreme. Extreme environments don't make genes go away, they just get overpowered with regards to explaining variance among some data set.

    Now comes the part where people think, if I can make genes matter very little with extreme negative environments, then surely I can do so with extreme positive ones and I can probably overpower any genes regarding intelligence/attractiveness too, not just metabolism ( Indeed a lot of the improvements people notice w.r.t. are simply from reversing an extreme negative environment ). Unfortunately, that's wrong. You can always improve yourself with a better environment, but you are not unlimited in your potential and not every barrier trait is mutable to desirable levels during an organisms lifetime, especially in adulthood. In fact, it happens that people who don't give two thoughts about what they eat and eat poorly as a result, are functioning much better and are more attractive than the strictest peaters. Same goes for academic achievement. Reality is cruel and unfair but that's just how it is.

    Edit: And this isn't just for outliers, genes on average play a huge role in what you see in the adult human. Heritability by definition requires that.
     
  6. jaguar43

    jaguar43 Member

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    I think you make a lot of assumptions without much evidence. Have you read any of Ray Peats articles ?

    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/imprinting.shtml

    People express different symptoms/diseases to different conditions( excess serotonin, nutrition, etc) because prenatal and early imprinting. Nutrition is one of the many variables to can influence the developmental process.
     
  7. Parsifal

    Parsifal Member

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  8. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    Yes I have. These sorts of things happening does not make genes not matter. It is just another factor, and genes are still the major player. The article in the OP makes some basic and obvious mistakes and everything I said has a body of evidence behind it. Though I will say I think I underestimated the ability for improvement through nutrition after reading parsifals link, but the point still stands that genetics doesn't stop mattering more than just a little. I still need to finish reading it
     
  9. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    Ok I read it

    I don't know of anyone who is a genetic determinist actually. Could you give me one example of someone who is? All I ever see is people proposing genetics as having a huge influence, not that environment can't play a role. And it's not because they're ***holes and want people to be limited by genetics, it's because that's literally what the data shows ( twin studies, other heritability studies ). People in the peat world seem too ready to call everyone a cultist, as often as they are right about it.

    Ok, that's a thought. Increasing energy production and mediating? Great. I am totally on board with that, but all the claims he is making are just a theory with indirect but not direct evidence. I do think it's something worth digging into deeper, but let's not get ahead of ourselves ( same goes for all the talk about starchild skull ). This article was much better than the one in OP and was actually quite nice to read.
     
  10. Parsifal

    Parsifal Member

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    Well, first of all I do agree with you that there might be some kind of exagerations here or there in the Peat community regarding different things (even from me, we are all humans after all) but to say that there is no genetic determinism in this society is really being blind about a lot of things.
    You want examples? Most people if somebody fails at something will tell you: "Well, that is because I/he don't/doesn't have good genes. I'm not an alpha." Have you ever read Aldous Huxley or watched the movie "Welcome to Gattaca?"
    There is still this view of the sellfish gene that controls everything, that is inherited and imprinted in rock and you can't do anything about it, this is fate/karma (despite more and more evidence out there of metagenetics and epigenetics debunking these myths, people like Robert Becker growing an amputated limb from a rat with electricity by studying the regenerative abilities of salamanders, scientists growing new teeth with lasers (infrared I guess), Ray already wrote that any cell can turn itself into a stem cell for example, and don't forget the Russian scientists that are unknown but Peat really love their stuff because they didn't fall into dogmas and didn't lost their creativity).
    There are a lot of ideologies/dogmas/myths in science and popular belief like Darwinism, Social Darwinism, Eugenism and most paradigms about the human body (against more balanced theories like Lamarckism). But I guess there is a lot of hidding as well and ostracization of works of great scientists that could make Big Pharma and huge lobbies/industries collapse because they are based on dogmas. Just imagine if everyone started to really study what is biology/life and how to deal with it...
    Doctors will tell you that most diseases are just genetics and that we can't do anything about it (maybe reduce them a bit or delay them with lifestyle but not cure them), just treat it with patented molecules until your death. And there are a lot of other examples. If this is not a proof that some people out there are genetic determinists then I wonder why I'm writting this. And they just think about nutrition but they don't have a clue about bioenergetics/biophysics...

    What is the problem if something is quite theoric?
    Most things we see in biology and medicine nowadays and in studies is not the truth despite being "evidence based" (and double blind studies never show the difference between causation and correlation). Well, at least if someone is not in some kind of fanatism but stay open-minded I don't see any dangers.

    http://www.dannyroddy.com/weblog/geneticdeterminism
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv9HX00i81k&safe=active
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/ge ... tion.shtml
     
  11. Such_Saturation

    Such_Saturation Member

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    Do elucidate on how the data shows that our genes are literally selfish.
     
  12. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    It's simply that, genes that further their own survival are more likely to keep occurring. Every organism is selfish in this way. You must also remember the relevant unit to consider in evolution is the genes not the entire organism, so altruism towards other humans is largely based off shared genes ( i.e. selfish ). Right? Because altruism by definition is sacrificing something of your own to the benefit of others, and if the net result is more shared genes survive then that is selected for ( bad for the organism, good for the genes ). The most extreme examples are in insects where they literally die for the sake of the colony all the time.

    Same sort of selfishness goes for humans being kind to animals, not so much because of shared genes obviously but because it is in your best interest to have them as companions.
     
  13. jaguar43

    jaguar43 Member

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    Quick question, what are the genes sacrificing when they become "selfish"? The health of the human , or other possible fundamental needs ?
     
  14. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    I think in many instances you can think of sacrifice/altruism as a fundamental need for mental health. Would a mother be happy if she maximized everything specifically for herself and left her children in the street? Of course not and you can see how that's paradoxical because to think of her child's needs are something separate from her own is a huge misunderstanding of how genetics works. Same thing goes to a lesser extent for friends and so on.

    Also. in modern times, the general health is not necessarily a consideration because sustenance is rather easy to come by. Managing stress is the biggest concern but it can be done well imo.
     
  15. OP
    haidut

    haidut Member

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    The altruism as disguised selfishness has been debunked several times. Here is one recent example. The rats and mice used in the study were NOT in any way relative. Well, maybe 100 generations ago when they were all started form the same group of lab rats. But for all intents and purposes the rats and mice used in this study were as related to each other as two random people on the street.
    http://www.nature.com/news/rats-free-ea ... ges-1.9603
    "...Following a two-week introduction period, pairs of rats were put inside an arena. One was trapped inside a central restrainer, while the other roamed free in the larger space. By day six or seven, on average, the roaming rat learned to free the trapped rat. The free rats seldom opened empty containers or those containing a toy rat.When chocolate was introduced to the mix, there was no difference in the time taken to free the trapped cage-mate, despite pitting freeing the trapped cage-mate against getting a tasty treat. Furthermore, the helper rats did not eat all the chocolate chips. Instead, they often allowed the trapped rats to eat some."
    So, two main points here. First, one rat liberated the second rat without any stimulus to do so. Why would it do so if it was selfish? A second free rat means a potential competitor for both food and females. Second, the rat liberated its cage-mate even when given the choice between food and liberation task. Not only that, but after liberating the second rat, the first rat SHARED with it the chocolate that was used to try (and failed) to tempt it to behave selfishly. I would like to see the test extended to tempting the male rat with an estrous female, but I suspect the liberating will continue.
    So, I think we are a bit beyond establishing that altruism between non-relatives exists. The more important question is to what degree and under what circumstances.
     
  16. frankfranks

    frankfranks Member

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    Historically, two random people on the street have been related to some extent. It's only in quite modern megalopolises that's not the case. Indeed, Robert Putnam has documented that the more ethnically diverse an area is the lower are levels of trust and altruism. It squares up with the idea that there are genetic influences under the surface. Group evolutionary strategies are real.
     
  17. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    100 generations is really not that much and even if it were say 100,000 generations you would still expect it to be a possibility that if they detected a high amount of shared genes in that individual that it's worth helping them.

    There is a simple formula to describe whether an altruistic behavior would be selected for.

    If the cost to the altruistic organism's ability to reproduce is less than the sum of the ability of the recipient(s) to reproduce times the proportion of shared genes then that is a behavior that would be evolutionarily advantageous. Important to note that it is a bit more complex than this and likely related to certain key gene clusters rather than just a percentage of the genome, nor is it linear. You won't ever find anyone sacrificing a family member for a million plants ( assuming no food shortage ).

    In addition to the above, there is some level of altruistic behavior not related to shared genes but rather on finding mutually beneficial partnerships ( still selfish ) and possibly just some level of niceness for no major reason ( not selfish ), although the latter is the minority of cases and there is usually a better explanation(s) for when people think this is occurring as the main force of altruism. It simply doesn't make sense that it would be the case otherwise.
     
  18. OP
    haidut

    haidut Member

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    Yeah, I know this formula fro Dawkins' books. It is actually from Hamilton/Price and is quite simplistic to say the least, not to mention that it has been invalidated many times. Even Dawkins now says that the "selfishness calculator" is an ideal case abstraction. One of the famous disproval cases compared the level of altruism in families with biological and adopted children. Biologically related siblings were just as altruistic with each other as they were with their adopted siblings, and vice versa.
    The bigger problem is that given the relatedness of species, the selfishness hypothesis without any bounds is impossible to disprove. Any two humans on the planet share a large amount of genes (and a single female ancestor) and can be considered genetic "relatives". Same for many other species. You and I are 80% cows. So, we either have to draw the line on relatedness somewhere or the selfishness hypothesis becomes untestable fable. I brought up the rat relatedness to illustrate precisely that point - i.e. there is a limit to relatedness for practical purposes. The people that did the study are quite aware of the "selfish gene" hypothesis and specifically selected rats that are NOT relatives to the best they could verify. I just sent an email to one of them to clarify that point but if you read the full study you will see that they are quite convinced true empathy from a non-related group/pack member is driving this behavior.
    "...The presence of empathy in nonhuman animals is gaining support in the scientific community (20–26), although skeptics remain (27). In the current study, the free rat was not simply empathically sensitive to another rat’s distress but acted intentionally to liberate a trapped conspecific. The ability to understand and actively respond to the affective state of a conspecific is crucial for an animal’s successful navigation in the social arena (4) and ultimately benefits group survival."
     
  19. michael94

    michael94 Member

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    How were they measuring altruism? I don't really thinks that disproves genetic altruism, just that it's multi-factored ( not sure if that's the right word ) .

    More importantly, there is very robust finding that genetic influences increase with age ( genes become more expressed relative to environment ), which interestingly enough is the opposite one would expect if how a person ended up was mostly due to their environment.

    source: https://books.google.com/books?id=IWYdB ... es&f=false



    I mentioned that genetic altruism is non-linear and probably related to certain key gene clusters. The above poster frankfranks mentioned the concept of a group evolutionary strategy which makes a lot of sense. This other tribe shares very very high % of dna with you but it doesnt make sense your survival strategy would include them because organization is not at that scale during periods where most evolution occured. So you are specifically altruistic towards certain gene clusters that are of higher frequency in your group. That's how I best understand it at least.
     
  20. jaguar43

    jaguar43 Member

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    The author of that book is associated with the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund has been criticized for being a white nationalist group and has ties with eugenics.

    Interestingly it seems as though those people who promote genetic differences in intelligence and behavior seem to be funded by groups like the Pioneer Fund.

    Also the Pioneer Fund has been also funding FAIR. An anti-immigrant group that help draft the legislature of the Arizona immigration laws.
     
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