Monday, April 14, 2008

Free will or Determinism?

The current understanding of genetics is undergoing a paradigm shift and looking away from DNA as the sole determinant of heredity. After examining complex relationships among genes, environment, disease and phenotype scientists have realised how restrictive the ‘DNA as destiny’ paradigm is and is moving towards the newly emerged field of epigenetics. The epigenome can turn genes on and off and is like the body’s chemical switchboard. The epigenome is highly susceptible to its environment. The food, the air, the water you drink and the stress or happiness you feel can change your genetic make- up, not by changing the DNA sequence but by changing what genes are expressed through the epigenome. Many cancers are not hereditary in origin but are epigenetic. It has become apparent that epigenetic changes are just as significant as genetic mutations in the formations of cancers. Epigenetic changes like genetic changes can be passed down through generations. A gene can’t be un-mutated but it is potentially possible to reverse an epigenetic effect. According to this research free will can have as much sway over health and actions as genetic determinism can.

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