“It is possible that the pet hobbyhorses of modern times, namely, gene, genetics, and heredity may belong to the above mythical group-entities that are logically absent, but whose illogic is strong enough to sustain research and publication world over. Gene, genetics and heredity have outlived their utility and must be replaced in near future by new concepts and terms.”
— Kothari, M., and Mehta, L. An epitaph for the gene. An obituary for genetics. An adieu for heredity. (1997)
- Chromosomes - Inside a cell from a plant or animal, the genetic material is enclosed in a spherical compartment, the nucleus. It is packaged into long compact structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is a very long molecule of DNA wound up and coiled around special proteins to form chromatin.
- DNA ("Genes") - The most viscous (the "slimiest") biological substances known is probably deoxyribonucleic acid, now known by the initials DNA and described by some over-enthusiastic professional biologists as "the living molecule."
- Genome - The totality of all the genetic material packaged into chromsomes is the genome.
- Mitochondria - The structure inside the cell in which energy is produced by respiration is called the mitochondria. The vitality of the mitochondria, their capacity for oxidative energy production, is influenced by nutrition and hormones.
One of the largest roadblocks I faced when writing HAIR LIKE A FOX was progressing the idea that baldness was not the result of a random genetic lottery. Many opposed this idea outright claiming that "the genes" controlled our destiny, and that dietary and lifestyle modifications were next to meaningless. In fact, even in the face of a suggestion from Dr. Hamilton—who originated the idea of "male-pattern baldness"—that hair loss was mostly an environmental problem, it still seemed that I was up against a wall from those suggesting that the cause was rooted in "bad genes."
The idea that genes are running the show, or "genetic determinism" courses through the veins of medical and diet culture. It has been slightly modified over the years with the emerging field of "epigenetics" (i.e., genes are "turned on or off" by environmental factors), but the message is still clear: We must conquer our inherited blueprints—"the genes"—if we wish to be problem free.
Cold War in Biology
“They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.”
— Richard Dawkins
The popular view of the organism as a "lumbering robot" can be explained by, and I'm not making this up, "the central dogma of molecular biology," which states that information flows from the DNA to RNA and the RNA to the protein—but not in reverse. This sets up a model of cell physiology wherein the DNA (i.e., "the genes") controls the cell.
If this theory is accurate, it is not unreasonable to view an individual as a spirit temporarily trapped in a meat popsicle marching towards an expiration date. While this model of cell physiology is convenient to sell drugs (i.e., to fix your inherited "defective genes"), the dynamic history of genetics seems less about a systematic search for rational explanations and more about choosing sides in a scientific atmosphere of confusion.
In Carl C. Lindengren's 1966 classic, Cold War in Biology, he describes the vast uncertainty among professional geneticists about the nature of the genes. The word "gene," which implies origin, or genesis, meant so many different things to different people that nailing down a definition proved difficult. For instance, Willhelm Johannsen, who coined the word, never even presented a formal definition. To make matters more confusing, the function of genes changed from one generation to the next. Some biologists believed that the genes simply contained information, while others believed that genes controlled the entire body
“The major actor in this great drama of evolution by natural selection has proved to be the gene, a particle too tiny to be seen under the microscope but immense by inorganic standards.... Although the genes form only a small part of the cell’s bulk, they control through their diverse products, primary, secondary, and more remote, the composition and the arrangement of most of all of the other materials in the cell and, therefore, in the entire body....”
— Hermann Joseph Muller
Mendelism: Inheritance Particles
The unknowing architect of genetic determinism was a math and physics teacher named Gregor Mendel. At the time, it was believed that a living organism consisted of a "whole"; and that its offspring, or "hybrids," were blended from the "individualities" of the parents. According to this view, one could suspect that the offspring of a tall man and a short woman would be of average height.
However, in a series of experiments with pea plants, Mendel discovered that crossing tall pea plants with short pea plants were not blended as one might expect, and instead were all tall. When he inbred the tall hybrids, he found that in the next generation the offspring were tall and short, and, most surprisingly, there were no intermediate types; tallness and shortness were mutually exclusive characters.
From his experiments, Mendel inferred that—certain hereditary characteristics—were controlled by particles (later known as "the genes"), which are past down from parent to offspring. He did not, however, believe that he had solved "the problem of life" or that the hereditary factors were "the ultimate living particles."
Morgan-Mendelism: Sex-Linked Inheritance
Mendel's work sat in relative obscurity until 1909 when Thomas Hunt Morgan began breeding fruit flies in search of mutations that would change one species into another. In 1910, Morgan noticed that one of the male flies had mutant white eyes instead of the typical red.
After breeding a white-eyed male with a red-eyed female he discovered that the first-generation of offspring had only red-eyes, which led Morgan to believe that the "red-eye gene" was dominant.
- white male + red female = red offspring
When breeding a red-eyed male from the first batch offspring with a red-eyed female, Morgan found that three out of the four offspring had red eyes—all females—while a single male had white-eyes.
- red offspring + red female = 3 red females and 1 white male
This led Morgan to hypothesize that inheritance was in some way linked to the sex chromosomes, and reinvigorated the Mendelian view of inheritance.
The result of these experiments and others was the doctrine of Morgan-Mendelism, which holds that the nucleus that carries the chromosomes and contains the genes, carries the positive agents which control and direct all vital activity (e.g., metabolism, appearance, behavior, and nearly every other characteristic of the living organism). While an experiment in 1910 may not seem relevant more than a hundred years later, the doctrine of Morgan-Mendelism still serves as the foundation of genetics.
“Morgan’s inferences from this experiment are probably the most important drawn from any single biological experiment in the twentieth century; modern genetics is founded on the inferences drawn from this experiment.”
— Carl C. Lindengren
World Ice Theory
“Part of the problem, Lewontin points out, is the casual way in which general way in which geneticists speak. “This is seen even in the naming of genes,” he notes. “Geneticists speak casually of the ‘gene for white eyes’, but of course, there is no such gene. There is a variety of genes whose reading by the cell is proximally involved in the production of eye pigment and its deposition into the eye cells.” He points out that genes are said to be “self-replicating,” engaged in “gene action”, “make” proteins and are “turned on or off” by regulator DNA. “But none of this is true… DNA is among the most inert and non-reactive of organic molecules,” he writes.”
— S.W. Samuels, in Genes, Ethics & Environment!, and internet public journal. Vol.1, No.1 October, 2000
It seems that the doctrine of Morgan-Mendelism over-emphasized the importance of genes and the nucleus and minimized the importance of the cytoplasm in which the nucleus carrying the genes is embedded. The evidence that genes in the nucleus control certain hereditary characteristics led to the unwarranted inference that the cytoplasmic "jelly" does not control any hereditary characteristics—to the doctrine that the cytoplasm is less important than the nucleus, and, finally, to the view that "life" could be understood if one understood the gene.
When viewing nutrition, health, and life through a bioenergetic lens, however, "the genes" seem to play a subsidiary role to the energetic state of the cell.
DNA Damage and Respiratory Distress
In his book, The Living State: With Observations on Cancer, Albert Szent-Györgyi wrote that a cell needs energy for all of its functions, but also to maintain its framework, the "cytoskeleton," which was demonstrated in the early 20th century. As Phil and I have been discussing for the last few months, the cell's cytoskeleton (i.e., its structure)—which houses chromosomes that contain DNA—is influenced by respiratory distress.
For instance, a type of "growth" hormone, estrogen appears to suppress respiration and damage DNA.[4, 5] The integrity of the mitochondrial DNA also appears to correlate with its rate of oxidative metabolism. These examples seem to support Lamarck's theory of transformation arising from the organism's own experience of the environment.
When "Genetic Diseases" Aren't Genetic
Perhaps the most obvious strike against genetic determinism is the long list of conditions that were once believed to be the result of "defective genes," and are now known originate from the organism's interaction with the environment. The largest example—cancer—seems to be the result of what Otto Warburg called a "respiratory defect," or damaged mitochondria, rather than 'rogue-alien-genes' that need to removed by "heroic" processes of cutting, burning, or poisoning. Sometimes it is said that mitochondrial damage occurs as the result of defective genes, however, this appears to be incorrect.
In Dr. Peat's 2005 newsletter, Contexts for asthma, he noted that it is often said that "elite" athletes have "excellent genes," however they tend to have an extremely high rate of asthma—roughly three times higher than the general population. Asthma, a condition I suffered from severely as a child, seems to be related to the stress substances, such as estrogen and serotonin. In one study, premenstrual asthma was dampened with the administration of progesterone, which seems to be working in the opposite direction of estrogen.[15,16]
Environmental Change Triggers Inborn Capacity for Adaptation
“Being an organism is a problem whose solution may require inventive use of internal and external resources; chromosomes are internal resources, not clusters of traits.”
— Ray Peat, PhD
Further supporting the Lamarckian (non-genetic) view of life was a recent article on Science Daily that discussed the rapid evolution of the Astyanax mexicanus, a fish indigenous to northeastern Mexico. According to the article, many thousands of years ago, the species was swept from its hospitable river home into underwater caves. In order to adapt to the dramatically different environment, the fish went through many physiological changes.
For example, they did away with their pigmentation in order to adapt to the darkness, developed heightened sensory systems to detect changes in water pressure, and perhaps most strikingly, lost their eyes. Although counterintuitive, the loss of eyes is thought to be an beneficial trait, as the maintenance of a complex but now useless organ would come at a high metabolic cost. These "adaptive" changes took place in a relatively small time table, and conflict with the "classical view of evolution."
“In the classical view of evolution, species experience spontaneous genetic mutations that produce various novel traits—some helpful, some detrimental. Nature then selects for those most beneficial, passing them along to subsequent generations. It’s an elegant model. It’s also an extremely time-consuming process likely to fail organisms needing to cope with sudden, potentially life-threatening changes in their environments.”
— Science Daily (December 12, 2013)
The mechanism for the inborn capacity for adaptation is believed to be in part due to the role of heat shock proteins, which are proteins that, among their many roles, help us resist stress (Protective inhibition, energy generation, and the neuroprotective effects of ATP, by Andrew Kim). In, The Significance of The Responses to The Genome to Challenge,Barbara McClintock explains the unique role of the heat shock proteins in adaptation:
“...Examples are the “heat shock” responses in eukaryotic organisms, and the “SOS” responses in bacteria. Each of these initiates a highly programmed sequence of events within the cell that serves to cushion the effects of the shock. Some sensing mechanism must be present in these instances to alert the cell to imminent danger, and to set in motion the orderly sequence of events that will mitigate this danger. The responses of genomes to unanticipated challenges are not so precisely programmed. Nevertheless, these are sensed, and the genome responds in a descernible but initially unforeseen manner.”
— Nobel laureate, Barbara McClintock
Visible Bioenergetic Signals
“When a frog embryo is just developing, before it gets a face, a pattern for that face lights up on the surface of the embryo. ”
— Dany S. Adams, PhD
I'll be exploring this topic more in the future, so hopefully this serves as some kind of primer. I'll leave you with a video that I stole from Phil's article, Generative Energy: Viktor Schauberger, Ray Peat, Biomagnetic oxidative metabolism, implosion and evolution. I think it is a beautiful example of the forgotten realm of electrobiology and its function in shaping the organism.
Cold War in Biology, 1966 by Carl C. Lindengren
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16. Pasqualini, J.R., et al. The anti-aromatase effect of progesterone and of its natural metabolites 20alpha- and 5alpha-dihydroprogesterone in the MCF-7aro breast cancer cell line. Anticancer Res. 2008 Jul-Aug;28(4B):2129-33.