The Epigenetic Synthesis is the title for the above image I found on an academic institute’s website. The overview description of what epigenetics is, and how it impacts, profoundly, on everything on our planet and therefore, our evolution, can be found further on.
Anyway, the term Epigenetic Synthesis, in my humble, but educated opinion, is a million times better than the so-called Extended Synthesis term; a title that is being given to the research emerging from behind closed doors these days which was prompted by the serious problems arising within the old synthesis – I.e. the Neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 40s and 50s we have been living with; I believe, for far too long. In other words, by using the EXTENDED SYNTHESIS, they do not appear to be rejecting the old Darwinian mechanisms in its updated form, yet, that is exactly what is occurring, particularly in the light of much more recent studies – mainly as a result of investigating all those so-called junk genes/regions of the genome since the genome projects inception.
The term, (extended synthesis) is again in my educated opinion, a case of protecting themselves from being accused of Heresy; which is what happens when scientists disagree with the Darwinian doctrine of Natural Selection via randomly accumulating mutations that are passed on and conserved – thus making them survive and go on to produce much fitter types etc. l think, as I indicate in the title of this blog, that they are flogging a dead horse on this one and should adopt the epigenetic synthesis as a much more accurate explanation of the real complexity of evolution.
Although I haven’t given up hope as I think that the significance of epigenetic factors as a top player, if not profound mechanism, in evolution, will eventually trickle down to the geneticists, palaeontologists, population modellers and last but not least: the evolutionary biologists – especially those who still adhere, or should I say, who cling relentlessly, to the old Darwinian paradigm – AKA Dawkins, whom I will paraphrase here: the science is settled – you must be a fool, or worse, to question such a beautiful, utterly indisputable theory of everything that floats, swims, crawls, flies and walks on the planet! Below is an extract from the academic website:
“The external environment interacts with the internal environment to influence fetal development with both immediate and life-long consequences. Such environmentally-induced changes occur at all levels of biological organization, from the molecular to the organism’s behavior, and tend to be amplified in their consequences as they ascend through these levels. Ultimately, these influences may be epigenetic in nature, inducing mitotically heritable alterations in gene expression without changing the DNA. Changes can occur at the neural, physiological, and morphological levels (Molar Epigenetics) as well as modification of normal patterns of gene expression (Molecular Epigenetics). These alterations can bring about functional differences in behavior that result in changes in how the individual responds to conspecifics and their environment, bringing about changes at the population and higher levels of biological organization. Human society has changed the ecosystem in a manner that has had demonstrable impact on the health of humans and wildlife and, hence, changed the evolutionary trajectory”. http://f1000.com/prime/reports/b/4/18/fig-001