Epigenetics Continued: Our Sacred Environment

If epigenetic theory is indeed true, and stress of different kinds—including emotional stress itself—create gene inhibitors and so on, and cause ‘genetic’ results in future generations, one can only shake their head in wonder at this diversely inconceivable journey. The interconnectedness of everything, including our thoughts, is rapturously mind-blowing.

In the film Ghosts in Your Genes (mentioned yesterday), less nurtured baby rats, unsurprisingly, showed themselves to be more anxious adults etc, etc. But this is where epigenetics step in. If I understood correctly, certain ‘markers’ that allow a given gene to express itself ‘normally’ were not there. The film then showed that, through the use of some kind of drug, restoring the body to its healthy marker state also restored more normal behaviour, at least in rats.

One can almost see Big Pharma CEOs salivating. But as exciting as that may be for certain conditions, one can only wonder if using a pharmaceutical band-aid and ‘curing’ a condition that is caused by something that still remains—say a lack of nurturing or environmental toxins etc—is the way to look at the picture.

This brings to mind an interview I read the other day with Seyyed Hossein Nasr (who I don’t think I’ve read before, although I’ve read his son Vali Nasr), whose answer about modernism was thought-provoking. The title of the piece, in something called Today’s Zaman, was: ‘You cannot be fighting against God while trying to have peace on earth’:

TODAY’S ZAMAN: The 20th century saw dramatic scientific, philosophical and cultural changes. What is different about the modernity of the 21st century as compared to the modernity of the 20th century?

NASR: In a sense, nothing…That is, modernism contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. And we see this in postmodernism. But that doesn’t mean that this whole phenomenon is gone by any means.

[I]n the 19th century, when people talked about modernism, they talked about its social implications. People [in the 19th century] were not aware that modernism leads to the death and destruction of the natural environment in which we live. Even now people don’t want to accept that; they want to evade this. They say, “Oh this or that is due to bad engineering [my point about epigenetic breakthroughs and re-engineering the 'problem' through pharmaceuticals, while ignoring the problem altogether], bad planning,” but it’s really due to a worldview that negates the fact that nature is, by itself, sacred and has its own rights, and that goes against tens of thousands of years of human experience and human perception in relation to nature.

So this is, yes, something that has changed, but not in the nature of modernism itself, as it continues to be a philosophy that tries to see reality independent of divine reality, which posits the independence of man from any other agency in the universe and makes the powers of thinking and of doing independent of both the spiritual element within man and religion and revelation. That has continued very much unabated.

TODAY’S ZAMAN: Recently there has been a trend in Europe and America among certain writers, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, of very direct criticism—and even hostility—toward religion. What do you see as the significance of this trend?

NASR: Many think this is the swan song of Western atheism. That is, now with religion becoming stronger, these secularists never imagined that.

Everyone was taught at school that the flow of history is away from religion and toward secularism, and the secularists believed that they had already won the day. But then you have this tremendous revival of interest in religion in the second half of the 20th century…

So these people come along, who are usually very haughty people and they’re not really that intelligent [I wouldn't go that far—they're smarter than I am!], but what they’re attacking is the simple faith of people that is coming back, what they call fundamentalism [I would call their intelligence—by design, like all of ours—fractured]. Therefore, they posit their own intelligence against a sort of “simpleton faith,” considering their opponents to be stupid—with themselves being the “brights,” which is what Dawkins calls himself.

I think it’s an unfortunate phenomenon. I don’t think that it’s going to be very long lasting, but it will have a role in polarizing more and more the landscape of Western thought.

Interesting. If you read the rest of the article, his thoughts on peace and the intrinsic nature of life being one of violence simply in terms of how every species and individual survives (and the miraculous beauty therein); about Gaza; about Islam etc; are also instructive.

The rest of the article is here, and somehow able to be read as an individual piece in this wildly interdependent world. Oh, I guess it’s not so individual when one considers the physical, historical and even the environmental factors that allow any moment to unfold. Damn, I thought for a moment I was free. It turns out I’m only free to remember…

Lots of love to you,



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