MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: Could Learned Genetic Memory be possible?

Date: Tue Apr 25 05:03:34 2000
Posted By: Steve Marvell, Independant Researcher
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 956424565.Ev

Well, here are my thoughts:

For there to be some change to the DNA of the sperm/egg cells of people, 
be it by chemical or some other effect, we as an organism must have some 
prior knowledge of our own DNA coding.

Let's say that the latter end of gene 14231 can be tweaked such that the 
offspring has a predisposition towards sportyness. Imagine now a sporty 
person who is going to be a parent. In order to alter the DNA in their 
sperm, say, they, as an organism, must know that gene 14231 was 
responsible for their "condition".

Unfortunately, given the way that embryos develop, this just can't happen.

However, there is hope!

Given that the a parent has a sporty gene, there is a chance it will be 
passed to their children. This would be a neater way of explaining why the 
son of a racing driver is more likely to have the physical characteristics 
of a racing driver.

Another thing worth looking into is the Baldwin effect. This is a term 
used to describe the process of genetic memory in the context of learning. 
Be it brain type learing or the immune system, etc. It is concerned with 
the evolution of instinct.

An example, I think, ...

Let us say that there is an organism which is subject to a pretty nasty 
disease in the wild. The immune system of this organism will "learn" to 
cope with disease in time, but at the expense of being sick for a while.

Let us imagine a genetic mutation which affects the immune system of this 
organism in such a way that it starts off one stage closer to being immune 
to this nasty disease. This means that the organism takes less time to 
become immune as it already has a head start.

This mutation is clearly a good thing, and would eventually, through 
natural selection, become part of the organism's descendant's genetic make 

So, that's the possible genetic reasons for the effect which you see, but 
let's try and look at this from a different angle.

Is it not possible that there are some social reasons why children would 
be inclined to do the same thing as their parents? Maybe they have been 
influenced in some way. I wonder if Daemon Hill was given racing cars as 
toys when he was a child?

But that's another question ...

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