‘... Lacks only, alas! the spiritual band.’

Evolution in Four Dimensions - Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb. pub: MIT Press, Cambridge 2005. ISBN 0-262-10107-6. £22.95 (UK)
Elemente der Naturwissenschaft 85, 2006, P. 116-119 | DOI: 10.18756/edn.85.116


Eva Jablonka is Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. Marion J. Lamb was Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London before her retirement.

The editor of GM Watch (No. 150, www.gmwatch.org) commenting on the BBC TV Horizon programme about epigenetics in 2005 wrote: ‘It showed a bunch of geneticists catching up with what’s been obvious to most of us all along: that environmental factors cause heritable effects in humans’. In fact, epigenetic inheritance systems, i.e. systems for handing down biological changes apart from the genes seen as DNA sequences, first gained wider recognition amongst biologists in the 1970s. While the role of such systems in evolution is not yet universally accepted, Jablonka and Lamb argue a good case for epigenetics being the second dimension in evolution, genes being the first. They describe a number of processes outside the genome that pass on information such as altered expression of genes and particular states of cellular metabolism or structures. Ways in which it could occur at the molecular level include chromatin marking (DNA methylation), prions (proteins that can change shape and pass on the change to others) and interference RNA (gene silencing). [...]